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Delphi - Fokida - Central Greece - Greece


Delphi is one of the most important historic sites of ancient Greece . Located 178 kilometres north west of Athens this was the home of the sanctuary and oracle of the god of light Apollo. The ancient Greeks believed this to be the "navel of the earth" - a revered place where Apollo lived for nine months of each year. When you stand among the ruins of Apollo's temple and marvel at the truly spectacular mountain scenery it makes you realise why a god would want to set up home here.

The site is less than two hours drive from the Greek capital so try to fit in a visit, either by hired car or by booking yourself onto one of the many organised coach trips that run daily from Athens . Even without the fascination of the ancient ruins and the story of the Delphic Oracle, the location of the town itself is enough to make your journey worthwhile. Tourists are well catered for with numerous hotels, tavernas, gift shops and ATMs. Try to get a hotel room with a mountain view and if you're lucky enough to witness one of this area's dramatic electrical storms, the sight will convince you that Zeus and his cronies are still around, venting their wrath on lesser mortals.

According to legend it was the all-powerful Zeus who declared Delphi to be the centre of the world after he released two eagles from different ends of the earth and they met on the spot where the Temple of Apollo was subsequently built.

The original temple was built in the 7th century BC but was destroyed by fire in 548 BC and had to be rebuilt with the aid of contributions from all the major Greek cities. This was the most sacred of places and men came from all over the then-known world to hear the prophesies of the wise priestess who pronounced her oracles whilst seated on a tripod at the entrance to a cavern. Kings, generals and ordinary mortals made the journey to Delphi , cleansed themselves in the waters of the nearby Kastalia Spring, paid a tax and sacrificed an animal on the altar of Apollo before consulting the priestess.

The priestess chewed bay leaves and inhaled fumes which sent her into a trance before she uttered her highly ambiguous oracles on behalf of Apollo - cleverly, these utterances were always sufficiently vague to ensure that she could never be accused of being wrong!

The cavern has never been found but you can wander through the ruins of the Temple of Apollo and the nearby Temple of Athena which is in an equally beautiful location 10 minutes walk down the mountainside. Above the northwest side of Apollo's Temple is the well-preserved 4th century theatre with seating capacity for 5,000 spectators. Higher up you'll find the stadium, with tiers of stone seats still in good condition, where athletic contests and musical events used to be held. The Festivals of Music and Ancient Drama are held here during July and August.

A visit to the Archaeological Museum is a must as it houses one of the finest collections in the whole of Greece . The star attraction is the larger than life bronze charioteer from the 5th century BC - an extraordinarily well preserved figure which was part of a group that included a four-horse chariot. The museum's 13 galleries are a fabulous treasure trove of sculptures, art work and priceless gifts offered to the sanctuary by wealthy devotees of the Greek gods.


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