March 5th, 2010



This was supposed to be the "We're in Delphi!" entry, but alas, we are not in Delphi. Instead we are in Bus Terminal B, or the Lissiou KTEL Station as it is known in Greek, leading me to wonder why the guidebooks insist on giving it a name sure to baffle taxi drivers.

We were to take the 5:30 bus, but it appears that protests have started up again, and thus our local bus TO the station never arrived. We eventually hailed a taxi, but he had to detour around the protests outside Athens University (extremely anemic --a couple dozen people milling around with one sign among the lot of them!), and thus we pulled up at the station just as our bus to Delphi left. The next one's in 2.5 hours, so overall, not a disaster. Justin said he's mostly annoyed that we don't have a cooler story for why we missed it, so I promised to tell you we ran over some protesters.

We had a great last morning in Athens before the bus debacle. We walked around the Temple of Zeus, then up to the Theater of Dionysus (where Sophocles et al's plays would have premiered) and then down the Areopagus Hill (where Paul preached the cool sermon about the temple to the unknown god) to the Agora. The Agora was definitely my favorite thing in Athens. It's basically a park that's full of awesome archaeological detritus amidst nice paths through trees. You can pretty much wander around at will, except for a couple specific areas (like the temple of Hephaestus, the most complete Doric temple remaining). When I got to the stoa where Socrates is said to have hung out a lot, I just jumped over the stone wall and wandered around the stoa, peeking down wells and investigating nooks and crannies. It was pretty much everything you'd hope an archaeological site would be.

We got so carried away with our morning itinerary that we never made it to the archaeological museum. Oops. The one downside of coming in the off season is that most sites close at 3, so there's really only so much you can see in a day.

We WERE in Delphi!

I think Delphi was the highlight of our trip to Greece, so it's just as well we went on our last day. We finally arrived at 11 last night, spent the night at a nice little hotel, and then spent almost all day today wandering around the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, where the Oracle used to hang out telling passers by that they'd kill their fathers or conquer the known world or what have you.

Anyway, lovely site. The ruins are all covered in wildflowers right now, which is probably terrible for the stone but looks lovely! And ruins aside, it's a gorgeous landscape: towering mountains and vast olive-covered valleys sweeping down to the sea. And it was spitting rain much of the morning, leading to very dramatic clouds between us and the mountains. What a beautiful location! If the world were to have an omphalos, I think the Greeks weren't far wrong in declaring that Delphi to be it.

In other news, Greece is outraged today over newly announced austerity meaures -- largely higher sales taxes, it sounded like. Our extremely affable hotel owner chatted to us about it over breakfast, in between casting aspersions on his least favorite tourist nationalities and blaming Germany for everything wrong in Greece. It always surprises me how okay it is in Europe to open up conversation with complete strangers on a topic like how bothersome the Italians are. Not that Americans don't have prejudice, of course, but I think we're more reticent about them. :-p

In the afternoon we took the long-distance bus back to Athens and then attempted to catch a local bus back to the hostel -- the same one that failed us in the other direction. It was only after waiting 20 minutes that it dawned on us we'd seen no buses in either direction, despite the fact that 11 lines pass by that stop. Sure enough, the bus system had shut down again -- along with the metro and lightrail, and generally most public systems including state hospitals. I'm a bit baffled by Greek workers' use of the strike. It's not like the bus drivers are having disagreements with management or asking for higher pay or anything; they're just generally voicing displeasure with the government. However, I suspect the lawmakers are a lot less affected by a shutdown of mass transit (not to mention the state hospital system!) than most Athenians, so unless their goal is to irritate all those commuters into an unstoppable Communist uprising, I'm not totally sure what their game plan is.

Apparently the airport itself shut down for 4 hours too, so if the strike continues tomorrow, we're in trouble. Hmm, perhaps that WAS the plan behind the strike -- to keep us from leaving. I'm pretty sure that my daily crepe expenditure could keep the Greek economy afloat indefinitely.

At any rate, if we're lucky we'll be heading to the airport in the morning, and my next post will be from Qatar.