almost at Trikala (having not been able to stop at Delphi), Greece
Delphi may not be remembered by us so much as the centre of the ancient world, but as the place we received a hand-delivered letter from The Commander, Tourist Police of Delphi. Marching orders, to be precise. Greek law 2160/93 forbids free camping anywhere, and, as the commander pointed out to us, especially “in an area very sensitive historically, archaeologically and culturally”. So we finished the dishes and moved on, thankful that we managed 132 days without being hustled along in the middle of the night, and thankful that this first hustle was at sunset – although by the time we had found a semi-suitable stopping spot (a block from the police station in another town!), the stars had long been shining.
But more on Delphi.
Before we even got back in to town after our night nearby, we spied a couple working by the roadside. Ever keen for real-life photos, I screeched to a stop (nah, no screeching – we were plodding uphill), jumped out and requested permission to take a picture. I came away with photos, a camera-bag full of almonds and smiles to send us on our way.
Delphi was already buzzing when we arrived. Due to a recent landslide, the theatre and Temple of Apollo (yes, another one) were closed, but there were still plenty of rocks and used-to-be columns lying around, and some still standing. In such a stunning setting, you can’t help but be awed. And we were, but we wished for a British Heritage audio-tour to bring the dead stones to life….or even a few posterboards with some diagrams, text and illustrations. Our personal guide (Rob) made a valiant effort, remembering a phenomenal amount of googled information and we all looked for evidence of the facts he cited…..a black altar, inscriptions of songs and freed slaves’ stories on walls, Corinthian columns made from a single piece of marble, a fossilised shell…..
Our hours concluded with eating grotty-looking oranges that turned out to be the most delicious flavour-filled ones we have ever eaten. Just as we were finishing lunch, the Delphi land train, parked right next to us, prepared to depart and we popped the kids on it, promising the driver we would pick them up in town as he was not to return to the archaeological site. They took one walkie-talkie, I took the other and followed the train closely and we all managed to lose Rob in The Bear Cave. In a town of only half a dozen streets, a third of them One Way Only, you’d think this would be difficult – but we saw him driving well down the hill beneath us, and by the time we got to where we thought he was going, there was no sign of him….eventually we caught sight of him on the same street, but he didn’t see us and we got stuck behind a bus obscuring our view of where he went at the crossroads! Around and around town we went, and then, perhaps subconsciously deciding to consult the oracle, both vans returned to her spot, where we met! Not sure if the kids enjoyed the train or the ensuing chase more! So much free adventure in Delphi (no charge for the site today, due to the closure of most of it – no charge for the almonds, no charge for the chase, no charge for the police drama either).
Not wanting to risk another night near the Tourist Police, we decide to make use of the daylight hours to drive.
“It’s just like a slotcar set,” someone calls out. And it is.
Through billowing oceans of olive groves with branches stretching out to caress the vans, past cypress sentries standing at attention, forming a straight guard of honour along the roadside, past flaming orange berries and tinder-dry brown grasses forcing their way out of rugged red rock rising up high before us we drive. Up over the rocks we go. The rocks are actually mountains. Down the other side to an open expansive agricultural plain, another patchwork of fields. Expecting a long drive across the plain, we are surprised when it is only a short time before we are climbing again. Up and over another mountain range, name unknown, terrain unfamiliar to us, a town with icecreams on the other side. Immediately up again. Steeper, higher, ever curving upwards. And down again to an even bigger plain. Amazing the way these enormous plains sprout mountains in the middle of them!
Trucks – big trucks, the sort that transport excess dirt from building sites – chug up the hill. Only they’re not carrying dirt. They are full of bright red ripe tomatoes. A few tractors with equally enormous high-sided trailers pass by too. Tomatoes and grapes are their cargo. Children surmise the gigantic vats we pass must be full of olive oil, wine or tomato sauce.
As the sun drops towards the horizon we notice a mall, the first we have seen in Greece. It’s even titled in English and has a Village Cinema centre attached! Remembering our successful sojourn beside the movie theatres in Athens, we find a way off the highway and in to the carpark in the middle of nowhere. Still a little nervous about the police’s promise of arrest, fines and imprisonment, we decide to ask security for permission to stop. We are asked to move….until they find out we are not German, but from New Zealand. Seems those who come from the other side of the earth to near the navel are more popular than closer neighbours.