Oracles and Odysseus

A Week in Greece

This past week in Greece has been jammed full of adventure.  I couldn’t pick just one thing to write about, so I’ll touch on as much of it as I can in one post [of reasonable length].  So I last left you at Mount Olympus, where friends and I summited the Mountain of the Gods.  One of those friends, Brooke, decided to continue traveling with me to Delphi—lucky me!


The town of Delphi was a complete surprise for both of us.  It’s cute, scenic, affordable, and filled with friendly cats, including this orange guy who kept me company for an hour after licking my yogurt container clean (ah, Greece, where all yogurt is Greek yogurt).

Cats abound in Greece

Cats abound in Greece

My plan to consult the Oracle of Delphi was ridiculous and it required three people.  Incredible luck resulted in Brooke’s friend Kyle joining us in Delphi the next day.

“Hi Kyle, I’m Sarah.  I know we just met, but can I get you drunk and ask you questions about my future?”

Happily, his answer was yes.  Off to the ruins we went.  We climbed through the picturesque columns and piles of stone up to the Temple of Apollo and began the ceremony, sticking to tradition as much as we were able.

That wasn’t very much.

Pillars of Delphi

Pillars of Delphi

We were supposed to have the following: a spring-cleansed pilgrim carrying a rich gift for Apollo, intoxicating noxious gases emanating from a crevasse, a female oracle to inhale those fumes and channel Apollo, and a male priest to interpret her prophesies.  Instead we had me, a decidedly uncleansed post-hiking pilgrim bearing a sprig of laurel from Mount Olympus to offer Apollo, a substantial amount of vodka and ouzo, a male oracle to consume them, and a female priestess with a laptop to record the prophesies.  How very modern.

Once he was all settled in, I asked the Oracle if I would encounter any hardships on my journey, to which he responded, “The answer relies on your definition of hardship.  You will be challenged in ways of will.  However, it is not to be thought of as dangerous. Instead, consider it a challenge of the power of your mind.”


The Oracle relaying his prophesies to the Priestess

The Oracle relaying his prophesies to the Priestess

I had follow-up questions (“Can I do anything to avoid these hardships?” and, “Will I ever be recognized as a writer?”), but you’ll have to wait for the book to hear those answers!

After consulting the Oracle, we descended to the Castalian Spring, where, despite it being closed to visitors, two of us “pulled a Richard” and jumped the fence to recreate the Castellan Spring picture.  I must admit, it was a cool experience standing in the exact place Richard Halliburton had stood nearly a century ago, and especially cool not having to share it with hordes of tourists.  Check out the photo recreation in the gallery.


The next day I said goodbye to my friends and hit to road to Ithaca.  Like Odysseus, I was delayed en route, he by major gods like Poseidon and Zeus, and me by the equally vexing Gods of Public Transportation.  But at last I made landfall on the fabled isle and set myself up in a rather swanky hotel in the Bay of Vathy.

Ithaca is a gorgeous little island sparsely populated with absolutely wonderful people.  It’s the kind of place where you don’t even get a chance to put your thumb out before someone stops to offer you a ride.  And, for some unfathomable reason, it’s not really on the tourist radar, so my visit was refreshingly peaceful.

Reading the Odyssey in the Cave of Nymphs, Itahca

Reading the Odyssey in the Cave of Nymphs, Itahca

I hiked up to the Cave of Nymphs, where Odysseus supposedly stashed his newly acquired treasure when he landed on his home island after twenty long years away.  The cave was nothing like what’s described in the Odyssey, but it sure was cool.  A narrow gap leads to a small, pale cave.  A gaping hole in the floor leads…somewhere.  I tossed in a pebble:  click….click……………………………………  Yikes.

Seated in the cave I picked up where I’d left off in the Odyssey, right when Odysseus lands on the island and stashes his goods—what perfect timing!  With that chapter under my belt, I hiked to the main road and hitchhiked on the back of a sweet scooter to the other side of the island.  There I hiked up and down and all around trying to find the vantage point from where Richard took his picture of the Bay of Polis.  Private homes and olive orchards kept me from the exact right place, but I got close enough.  You can check out the photo recreation here.

Looking down at the Bay of Polis--lovely!

Looking down at the Bay of Polis–lovely!

Something Richard failed to mention when writing about the Bay of Polis—it’s really beautiful.  I suddenly understood why Odysseus wanted to get home so badly.  I relaxed on the beach awhile before heading home, properly tired for the first time in a few days.


The next day my luck took a temporary turn for the worse.  I woke up with an incredible pain in my right knee.  It has been touch-and-go for years, and at the moment it was gone.  But it was a long-ferry-followed-by-long-bus-ride travel day, so I was able to keep the swollen, achy joint elevated, rested and wrapped almost the entire day, and by the time I arrived in Athens I was almost normally mobile again.


Richard in Athens, 1930’s, and me in Athens, 2014

Ah, Athens!  Richard arrived determined to dislike it (“Modern Athens is dead to me” is, I believe, the phrase he used), but was soon converted, so much so that he spent a number of months in the city and eventually used it as the topic for an article about his favorite place in the world.  And it really is lovely.  It’s all fine dining cozied up with millennia-old ruins of buildings, and cafes in the shade of ancient marble pedestals.  And, of course, shining above it all like a jewel, is the Acropolis.

Which I shall soon explore, after knocking a couple other adventures off my to-do list.  Next up is a visit to Marathon.  Alas, because of my bum knee, I won’t be doing any running, wine-fueled or otherwise.

Oh, who am I kidding—I was never going to run!  I’ll swim from Europe to Asia but I draw the line at running.

Until next time,


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  1. My dear Miss Sarah:

    You are bringing a lot of light and laughter to my life right now . . . and I thank you so very much for it! You are planning on publishing a book on your travels, right?

    • Why yes, I am! I’m trying to develop readership right now while keeping many stories private. Now I just have to be up to the challenge of writing it! Thanks for your support :-)

  2. Vexing G_DS of Transportation! (My students used this spelling in a blog post the other day; thought I’d try it out) They’ve certainly caused me more than one night’s poor sleep on a train station bench. If you’re in the mood for some more light reading, check out Aristophanes’ play, Lysistrata. It was performed in Athens in 411 BC. Talk about a battle of the sexes… the women in this story go on a sex strike to bring an end to the Peloponnesian War :)

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