Sunday, October 10, 2010

South Central Greece (Delfi, Thiva, Fili, Pili)

Catching the bus from near Meteora to Delfi was mentally challenging. I did it to get back on schedule, but it meant letting go of biking as much as I could. I have had this mental battle twice already, but it still sucks. I had taken a couple buses and have not regretted it, but it still wasn't easy. I rolled through the Greek countryside, up over the mountains, down to the coast, and then back up some more mountains. On the way, I wondered if I had not made a mistake. Yes, the mountains were huge and my legs were tired, but they were gorgeous, even at night, when I could barely see them. I was really bummed not to be biking them. Such is life. I had already extended my trip a couple times and I need to keep a date at some point.

A treasury at the site of ancient Delfi.

On the bus, I met a couple who had spent a lot of time in Amsterdam. I got a quick dissertation about the biking there. The thing I was most interested in is how they give each other rides on their bicycles. Whenever I have done this in the states, the passenger feels uncomfortable on the rack and gets on while we are stopped. They said that they always get on when the bike is moving and that women usually ride side saddle, but their feet hang instead of resting on the bike. I've tried having someone ride side saddle since then and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. We didn't dare have them get on while the bike was moving. We'll save that for next time.

The stadium at the top of the Delfi.

I was dropped in Delfi at 10pm at night. There seemed to be two main streets in town. One went east. One went west. They were filled with tourist shops. I almost grabbed a hostel, but pushed on to at least look for a campsite. It was really hard to find one, but I eventually found a spot that would work. It was dark enough that I could not really tell where I was or what I had been passing. When I woke up in the morning, I was in for a treat.

The ruins of the Temple of Apollo, home of the Oracle of Delfi.

I had inadvertently camped at the base of Mount Parnassus, the cliff that towers over the ancient site of Delfi. The entrance to the site was just a half kilometer up the road. The secondary site was just two hundred meters below me. When I woke up, I wanted to get to the site early to avoid the crowds. While I was waiting for the sight to open, the first tour arrived. I am not quite sure why, but I was let into the sight first. I had been the first one there, but even after I went in the tour goup had to wait. I spent the first thirty minutes almost completely alone. It was amazing. The morning light was perfect and there was enough ruins to let my imagination build up what it must have been like to live there.

An extreme version of the sexy pose trend.

The Tholos Temple, Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia.

According to legend, Delphi is the center of the world. Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the Earth and they met in Delphi. Unfortunately, modern scientific knowledge says we could do this experiment and get those eagles to meet at any spot of our choosing. Details. Delphi is most famous for its Oracle at the Temple of Apollo. This Oracle was consulted on important matters by many different people To respond, she would go into a trance like state, possibly convulse, and eventually the words of Apollo would be channeled through her to be interpreted by those who heard them.

A town in the Greek mountains.

A distant look at the same town.

After spending a few hours at Delfi, it was time to move on to Thiva (which I could not stop calling by its ancient name, Thebes). The ride there was tough. My legs were tuckered and the mountains were huge. It reinforced my decision to take the bus the day before. These mountains were still amazing. Unfortunately, while I was near the coast, I never actually got to see the sea. There was always another mountain in the way. I was following a eurovelo route, which I slowly changed according to what different locals told me. I was swayed by the words flatter, shorter, and more beautiful. I suspect that since my legs were so tired the first two words would have been enough as long as I was not on a busy highway.

Greek mountains.

A big Greek mountain.

When I finally arrived at Thiva, I was disappointed. There just wasn't much there for me to see. I think the name just got stuck in my head from when I studied Greek history. It really isn't on the tourist trail, but one restaurant does make a fabulous white chocolate banana crepe. After Thiva, I pressed onward to the countryside. I rolled through the flat farmland slowly getting closer to the last set of mountains I would cross before descending to Athens. At the base of those mountains, I settled in for a great sunset and sleep.

Another road side attraction (these mini churches were all over Greece).

A war memorial.

My ride the next morning into Athens was tough because there weren't many road signs at crossroads. I just guessed, doubled back to look for signs for the traffic going the other way, and waited until someone drove by. Eventually, I found my way and was descending into the madness that is Athens. I have heard that Greek drivers are the worst, but I didn't have any trouble until Athens. It was mayhe. When I finally found the tourist area that my hostel was at, I had to get off and walk because it was so busy. There were not many cars, but there were a ton of people. It made all the biking I have done in New York City seem easy.

Greek farmland.

Sunset from my last campsite before reaching Athens.

Parnitha national park near Athens, Greece.

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