Why was Delphi, which is located in Greece, stuck on my mind I really do not know? But I have been a reader and book lover as far back as I can remember and somewhere I had read about the ‘Oracle of Delphi’. Being a romantic and imaginative person I would imagine Greek Priestesses reading out oracles which came true. It is believed that one of the oracles of Delphi even predicted the Trojan War!

As luck would have it my spouse was selected to serve in the UN Mission at Kosovo for a year. Pristina being the capital, we were based there. As I was working with a newspaper then I could manage only four months of leave. We had planned our trips all over Europe within those four months. Just before my return to India my spouse surprised me with a trip to Greece. Jumping with joy I ticked one more destination off my bucket list. And I made him promise that we’ll do the day trip to Delphi from Athens.

From Pristina we went to the capital of city of Macedonia known as Skopje from there we took a train to Athens. It was one of the most picturesque train journeys I’ve ever experienced.

From Pristina we went to the capital of city of Macedonia known as Skopje from there we took a train to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, here we changed trains and boarded one for Athens. It was one of the most picturesque train journeys I’ve ever experienced; we chugged along the Mediterranean coast. Once in Athens I wanted to stay at a place from where the Acropolis was always visible. And lo and behold the Acropolis was clearly seen from our hotel room balcony. The setting was mesmerising, while sipping wine on our balcony we saw the magnificent Acropolis all lit up especially in the evenings. A memory that never fades!

Third day of our Greece trip, we decided on a day trip to Delphi. We took a bus that directly took us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Delphi lies 180 kilometres northwest of Athens and is connected by a regular bus service. The bus journey was fascinating while we crossed mountain and valleys listening to general chatter of passengers mostly tourists but some Greek locals too.

Above: The Tholos, located just near the Temple of Athena; Below: The board behind me says ‘Navel of the Earth’

Delphi is located in upper central Greece, on multiple plateau along the slope of Mount Parnassus, and includes the Sanctuary of Apollo (the god of light, knowledge and harmony), the site of the ancient Oracle.

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Surprisingly it was not crowded like other tourist spots in Greece. We walked up through the ‘The Sacred Way’ the main route to the Sanctuary of Apollo, leading from the gateway uphill 200 meters to the Temple of Apollo. The serenity and calmness here I realised can only be found at ancient sites like these.

Greek God of Thunder Zeus once dispatched two eagles flying in opposite directions across the sky to find out the centre of the Universe. Where their paths crossed would be the centre of the world. Legend says that the birds met over Delphi.

Navel of the earth

While speaking with one of the guides I came to know that Delphi was known as the navel or centre of the earth. I was further told that Greek God of Thunder Zeus once dispatched two eagles flying in opposite directions across the sky to find out the centre of the Universe. Where their paths crossed would be the centre of the world. Legend says that the birds met over Delphi.

Why was it famous for its oracles?

I had come all the way to Delphi to know the secret of this magical place, so I enquired further and the guide told me that Apollo made Delphi his seat after slaying Python, a serpent, who was guarding Delphi and its oracle and was placed there by Gaea, mother goddess of the earth. The priestesses who served Apollo there were called “Pythia.” Throughout ancient Greece it was believed that these priestesses channeled prophecies from Apollo himself. The cult of Apollo thrived during the eighth century B.C. But about two centuries later also, leaders from all over Greece came here to consult the oracle on major issues of the day like waging war, founding colonies, and religious rituals. We Indians are familiar with such rituals, aren’t we? Did the Greek magic work on me? Yes, it did.

Clockwise from above: Ancient theatre at Delphi; Delphi in the mountains; Temple of Apollo behind us

Other things to see

Temple of Apollo is undoubtedly the most important building not just because of the structure but it is here, in the inner shrine that the Pythia would sit and utter the words of the oracle, sent to her supposedly by Apollo which was then interpreted by the priests.

Temple of Apollo is undoubtedly the most important building not just because of the structure but it is here, in the inner shrine that the Pythia would sit and utter the words of the oracle, sent to her supposedly by Apollo which was then interpreted by the priests.

When Delphi was declared the centre of the universe it rose in prominence. Athenians, Spartans, Macedonians, and Romans all poured their wealth so that Delphi reflects their glory. Delphi also hosted athletic, poetry, and music competitions. It was the venue for the Pythian Games, held every four years, second only to the ones held in Olympia. So, I made it a point to see the sites of a Theatre, dating to the fourth century BC, which could accommodate 5,000 spectators, and the Stadion, which was built in the fifth century BC to host the Pythian Games. But I was most fascinated by the Tholos, located just near the Temple of Athena (goddess associated with wisdom, handicraft, and warfare). This masterpiece which still stands was built on a circular plan with columns.

After spending the day at Delphi it was time for us to head back to Athens our bus was ready for the trip back. Just before leaving this magical place I gave one last glance and I thought I heard a priestess read out an oracle for me saying “You’ll be back.” How I hope this oracle comes true.

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Smita Singh is an editor with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are her own.

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