Day 7: SHOWTIME AT THE APOLLO
At 6:30am, I woke up. For once I had myself an early start because I wanted to at least see the Acropolis from the rooftop of our hotel in the early morning.
Maybe I might get lucky with pinkish or orangish soft sunlight as the sun just barely breaks the horizon. So with my hair standing up and my eyes probably full of morning, I took the elevator up to the roof garden.
Well it turned out that I was a little too late for the early sunrise, but the lighting was still soft enough to cast a warm glow on the Acropolis. Much of the city in the foreground was still in shadow so it wasn’t easy to manage the light and dark zones in the same shot. Nonetheless, I took a little over a dozen shots and proceeded to head back down to our room where we had to get packed up and ready to go.
It wasn’t until around 8am when we finally got ourselves the same familiar breakfast. Afterwards, we checked out and proceeded to walk to the bustling Syntagma Square arriving at 8:40am.
At first, we headed down the stairs and into the real busy metro station. Julie wasn’t sure which buttons to push on the machines to get the proper ticket for the airport. Some stranger was telling her which buttons to push and then he wanted some Euros for his advice. In any case, Julie didn’t have change so she didn’t buy the tickets.
When we went to the ticket booth to get change, she then came to me to follow her over to the machines. And upon looking at the prices one last time, we saw that they were charging 6 Euros for a single ticket to the airport and 10 Euros for two people.
Given the number of people in the metro system and the luggage we have to lug around contrasted with the bus ticket price of 3.2 Euros per person, we opted to go back above ground and take the X95 express bus back to the airport.
We managed to catch the bus just in time at 9am.
The 50 minute bus ride was more or less uneventful except that we were facing the back of the bus, and this made Julie real nauseous. We were worried that she might hurl during the bus ride, but she toughed it out, and with about 10 or 15 minutes left on the ride, she managed to secure a front-facing seat.
Back at the familiar airport, we finally picked up our rental car at 10:20am. It turned out that we paid an additional 114 Euro for 5 days of car insurance plus another 117 Euros for the one-way dropoff at Thessaloniki. This combo of extra charges eclipsed the basic rate that we were charged for the 5-day rental itself. Ouch!
Anyways, we wanted to be safe rather than sorry. So off we went at 10:35am.
The drive was mostly uneventful as it took us until 1pm to finally make it to Delphi. We had trouble getting the destination into the GPS because it recognized the Greek phonetic spelling and not the way we were used to. So it wasn’t until Julie put in “Delfoi” (some 30 minutes later) could we finally trust the GPS.
After finding a parking spot, we endured the fairly hot midday sun as we climbed up the many steps (quite a few spots on the surface were worn smooth and slippery like the top of the Acropolis) and spent some time strolling amongst some Treasury House, the columns of the Temple of Apollo, and a theater.
The higher we went amidst the archaeological ruins, the more dramatic the views looking down towards the valley. This kind of reminded me of the feeling we got visiting Macchu Picchu on a much smaller scale. In any case, the appeal of Delphi was a bit more subtle than say the Acropolis.
Continuing higher still, there was a theater (this must’ve been like the 3rd or 4th one we’d seen on this trip; I guess Ancient Greeks loved entertainment) and we could see the path continued climbing even higher. But Julie and I figured we had seen enough and were contented with our Macchu Picchu-like vistas looking back down towards the Temple of Apollo.
Next, we walked into the museum and welcomed the relatively cool air from its air-conditioned confines. And like the museums we had seen previously (we’d seen at least 4 or 5 at this point including the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum), this visit consisted of a few stops for photographing statues and skimming through other exhibits and signage.
At 2:35pm, we returned to the car where we proceeded to drive a short distance east towards the Temple of Athena (admission was free since it’s not part of the overall complex of the Ancient Delphi). Unfortunately after parking the car at a rather long and empty pullout, we realized after the fact that we still had to walk roughly another 1/4-mile or so before even getting to the proper entrance to the Temple of Athena. Plus, to rub insult into injury, there were even more pullouts closer to the entrance.
Nonetheless, we walked our tired bodies towards the switchbacks leading down to the ruins surrounding the three still-standing pillars that were once part of the Temple of Athena. I believe the still-standing pillars were restorations.
There was a rather large group of American youngsters about college-looking age apparently part of some class or program. They basically stood right in front of the three columns for a long time listening to the instructor give the history and features of the architecture. I guess the students were eventually supposed to sketch the Temple of Athena.
Julie and I basically took what shots we could but didn’t really have a whole lot of time waiting for the students to completely disperse out.
By 3:15pm, we were back in the car and proceeded to drive into town. Five minutes later, we ate at this gyros and souvakis place right across the street from the Hotel Leto.
The food was pretty cheap and hit the spot. It was quite a late lunch, but we weren’t going to skip lunch and hold out for dinner in another three or four hours drive in the Meteora area.
The proprietor there was very nice to us and allowed us to eat at the restaurant even though we intended it as a takeaway. So that let us take a little bit of a break before continuing on with the road trip.
At 4:05pm, we left the Delphi town and proceeded with the long drive. It wasn’t until about 7:15pm that we finally made it to Kalampaka town. The drive was mostly uneventful though it did involve passing and being passed quite a few times. Though it still amazes me that most drivers exercised road etiquette by driving into the shoulders to facilitate allowing faster traffic to pass them. There was even a truck that used his blinkers to indicate when we should pass him. Again, Julie and I couldn’t imagine something like that happening back at home.
We also tried our hand at perhaps getting gas at about 1.45 Euros per liter. We had typically been filling up at upwards of 1.56 to 1.61 Euros per liter. But I’d eventually learn that the cheaper stations were cash only. And given our tightness with our cash supply (since we still have Croatia and Switzerland to visit later), we had to decline on those places.
Once we were in town, we could see the impressive cliffs of Meteora. I even noticed a monastery sitting atop one of those cliff pillars from the Shell station that I filled up at (which did take credit cards though at a price of 1.55 euros per liter).
At 7:35pm, we finally arrived at the House of Arsos where we saw the late afternoon sun make the cliffs right in front of us glow. And after getting our stuff out while locking up our car (something I had trouble with as well as with the reverse because of the Fiat Panda’s non-intuitive interface) and then putting our stuff in our room, we walked into town for dinner at the Taverna To Paramithi, which was recommended by both the proprietor at the House of Arsos as well as LP.
There, we had ourselves a reasonably priced dinner consisting of 2 mains and an appetizer. But at least we didn’t overstuff ourselves with food as we had just the right proportions. The co-owner was getting a kick out of our LP book because it mentioned both him and his wife in a positive light.
During the dinner, we also engaged in a pleasant conversation with a Canadian couple from Ottawa. They happened to be staying where we were staying and so we talked about all sorts of things regarding travel and even travel with children (something that had always been on our minds).
Since we both had a full day to explore the monasteries of Meteora, getting a late night sleep and looking forward to sleeping in was what was on both of our minds as we contemplated tomorrow under the full moon.