Tuesday we are bound for Delphi. Our evening at the Hotel Metropolis is a Goldilocks type of experience. The bed is too hard and I’m far too tall for both bed and shower. Don’t get me started on showers in Europe…
We buy another map and buy breakfast at another bakery (are you following the theme here?). The cashier gives us a slice of Easter bread to try and tucks an olive loaf into our bag for free. We buy a sesame ring with cream cheese and it is the first semblance of a bagel I’ve had since September. It only seems fair that we take a box of cookies for the road.
Over cappucino freddos we review a local spa menu and lament our aching bones. The hotelier is happy to call the spa and speak some Greek for us so we can book an appointment for Thursday. Sitting in Athens traffic once again, this small fact makes us smile and roll our sore shoulders in anticipation.
We spend most of the drive in shock over our surroundings as they include soaring mountains with snow capped peaks and deep valleys full of olive trees. More than once I catch my breath when we take a sharp turn and the landscape leaps out into view in our windshield. We stop at more than one parking site to take photos and stretch our legs. It becomes impossible to photograph all of these views and we continue to wind our way westward.
En route to Delphi is the tiny ski town of Arahova. We find a parking spot on a small side street and settle into a taverna with a beautiful view. The menu is full of some of our favorites but we try several new dishes, all traditional Greek. The most interesting is Tarahanes (sp) soup made of milk and semolina, served warm. My eyes glaze over after I taste a pumpkin, feta and gruyere pie and I contemplate proposing marriage to the chef, sight unseen. There are filled potatoes that pack a punch with garlic and spices, and baked leg of lamb with lemon. We are fit to bursting when the waitress trots out a complimentary dish of Greek yogurt. In a beautiful terra cotta pot and hidden under a layer of the thickest honey I have ever tasted, who can refuse? All this for just 28€. The only sour note is the indoor smoking which has plagued us at nearly every restaurant. Even though I repeatedly open and slam the window shut, the girl continues to puff away in our small terrace enclosure.
Back into the fresh air we explore this quaint and beautiful town, scaling huge staircases and admiring expansive gardens. The view from the courtyard at the top cannot be beat, and we stand with our faces to the sun taking it in. Even the birds are singing loudly and who can blame them? The air smells like chimney smoke and our attention is drawn to the occasional doorway bearing ashes in the shape of the cross. Two small boys slowly pass a soccer ball back and forth, mimicking their grandfathers walking with their hands clasped behind their backs. At another overlook, the wind picks up and the temperature drops among the pine trees. It has been cold and windy here but we are blissfully without rain.
We counted a whopping 124 roadside shrines (kalakynades) from the Ochomenos exit to Delphi. Later google uncovers an article about the nature of these miniature churches, claiming they are placed at the sites of lost lives. They remind me of travelers shrines that appear along the paths of pilgrimage like Tibetan prayer flag or othe markers. Lost life or otherwise, someone thought enough to put them along the route and we point them out at each curve.
Delphi is adorable. We drive up and then circle back down to find Hotel Hermes. Room with a view is an understatement! Standing outside on our balcony I see a tiny Greek lady tending a shrine, our #125, just below. It is a relief from the rowdy underage school groups parading through the streets with beer bottles in hand. We find pashminas with the Greek key design and skip dinner in favor of two cups of hot chocolate. Tomorrow, its an ascent to the navel of the world and the site of the oracle.