Before Lisa and I arrived on Samothraki, we visited several other archaeological sites. Although I have been to Greece 3 times before this, I had not been to any place other than Athens, Alexandroupolis, and Samothraki. So having a car and being able to drive and see other sites was a real treat.

On our first day in Greece we drove to the charming town of Arahova (all a’s are short, the accent is on the second syllable). Arahova sits on the side of Mt. Parnassus. I don’t have a good picture of the town – the views from it were good, but the views of it not so much.

The next day we continued around the side of Mt. Parnassus to Delfi, site of the Sanctuary of Apollo, where the ancients would come to seek the wisdom of the Oracle. Mt. Parnassus is place where the Greek gods partied, and Delfi was considered to be the “navel of the earth”. Here is a picture looking up into the Sanctuary of Apollo:

Looking up into the Sanctuary of Apollo

and here is a picture of Mt. Parnassus:

Mt. Parnassus

This sanctuary was the home of the cult of Apollo, who was the god of  prophecy. When a supplicant asked something of the oracle, he entered the temple. The Oracle was in there, sniffing fumes that came up through a fissure in the earth. She (the Oracle) supposedly got high on these fumes, she would be presented a question, she would respond in gibberish, and a priest would translate her response. Here is a view of the temple:

The Temple in the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delfi

Another interesting feature of the site is the Omphalos:

The Omphalos at Delfi

According to ancient myth, Cronus (then king of the gods) was swallowing his children as his wife Rhea gave birth, since he had learned that his son would grow to overthrow him, as he had overthrown his own father. When her 6th child, Zeus, was born, Rhea handed to Cronus a stone (the Omphalos), all in swaddling clothes, instead of the baby, and Cronus swallowed the stone without looking.

We left Arahova the next day, and drove south toward Eleusis, the site of yet another mystery cult and the Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone, Demeter being the goddess of agriculture and Persephone her daughter. Persephone was abducted Hades, the king of the underworld. There is an elaborate myth about this abduction and the cycle of  her descent and subsequent return.  The cave (below), called the Plutonion, was thought to be the entrance to the underworld.

Plutonion at Eleusis

From Eleusis we drove to Thessaloniki for our overnight stay. Thessaloniki is a coastal city, and it seems to be predominated by students.

The next day we went to Pella, which was the capital of Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great.  It is also where King Phillip II, Alexander’s father, was murdered.

There is a wonderful new museum associated with the site:

Archaeological Museum of Pella

The site itself is vast, and this picture only gives you a small view of it:

Pella

It is a fascinating site, and I could have stayed for hours. Instead we stayed for about an hour, then drove to Alexandroupolis. On this leg of the trip we managed not to get lost!

More tomorrow.

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