October 18, 2012

I woke up in the middle of the night with a sore throat, a stuffy nose, and tremendously itchy ears. Iíve seen people sneezing and sniffling all across Europe, but I was just starting to think that I might avoid the autumn head cold. Alas.

There is a general strike today to protest the governmentís actions during the ďCrisis,Ē as everybody calls it here. Everything is closed ó subways, buses, trains, businesses, storesÖ Luckily the tour I booked to visit Delphi and Meteora was still on, so I walked the two miles from Eleniís apartment to the center of the city to meet up with the bus. I hadnít slept much from the night before, so I fell asleep on the bus right away, dozing for about an hour before waking up to truly beautiful sites. Outside Athens, Greece is mountainous and rugged, with 80% of the country dominated by the Pindus Mountains, the backbone of the country. When I woke up, our little bus was driving through a wide and flat valley, ringed by enormous green peaks under a bright blue sky. We drove up and up and up and then through a mountain pass as the guide told everyone about the birth of the gods. We passed Thebes and the crossroads where Oedipus killed his father, and it was once again amazing to see stories come alive. Ahead, Mount Parnassus rose majestically from the other peaks, eight thousand feet above sea level, cirrus clouds passing slowly over its apex. Around the next bend, Arachova, a small village clinging dramatically to the side of a mountain, overlooking a valley of millions of olive trees. Many tavernas with their requisite and sweatered old men, many of steep and stepped alley streets.

Delphi is the center of the world, or so says Zeus, who sent two eagles across the world and marked where their paths crossed. Delphi houses the ruins of an ancient mountain stadium, where the precursor to the Olympics Games was held, as well as a large theatre, used primarily for music. What I was most interested in seeing, however, was the Temple of Apollo, home of the Oracle. This was where I spent most of my time on my visit, as the energy of the area was so palpable as to be utterly arresting. Iím not usually one for superstition, but I can honestly say that there is something about the Temple of Apollo that charges it with magic.

Later, Thermopylae, site of the epic battle between the Greeks and the Persians, a quick stop in Lamia, and then an overnight in Kalambaka, the closest village to the monasteries of Meteora, which we will visit tomorrow.

Iím all stuffy with this head cold, so Iíll cut this short, though Iíll leave you with a poem penned this afternoon:

At Delphi

the asking is felt all around
birdsong and blue
a deep yearn an answer the answer
the cyprus the olive the laurel
visible air of the valley

I am an ask opening to Apollo
breath hitch and heart broke
the ask the ask the ask of
no words just opening
suffering spilling over

air from the valley springs cool
you take it he says
you take it and walk with it
it is yours and a part of you

but that opening
that breath hitch broke heart open
a listening and asking open
that is your answer

you stay open