When Zeus sent two eagles to find the center of the Earth, the birds met over Delphi, thus marking the site as the omphalos, or ‘navel’ of the world. It was here, amidst the precipitous cliffs and plunging gorges between Mt Parnassus and the Gulf of Itea, that the cult of Apollo was established, with devotees arriving from far and wide to seek the advice of the oracle of Delphi. At the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia is one of the great masterpieces of ancient architecture, the circular Tholos temple, dating from the 4th century BC. As you walk up the sacred way to the great Temple of Apollo, it is easy to imagine the proverbs once inscribed upon it, including `know thyself and ‘nothing in excess’, and the countless devotional statues that once stood here. Admire the reconstructed Treasury of the Athenians nearby, and continue up the hillside to the impressive stadium and theatre. Highlights of Delphi’s Archaeological Museum include the extraordinary bronze charioteer, the enigmatic ‘Column of the Dancers’, carvings from the Siphnian Treasury, and the sculpture of the youth Antinoos.
Your next destination is the enchanting seaside town of Galaxidi, only half an hour away. Along the steep, zig-zag road you’ll pass through the largest olive plantation in Greece. Sheltered in the Bay of Krisa, with lovely views of snowy Mt Parnassus, the town is full of beautiful 19th-century neoclassical buildings. The Maritime Museum documents the community’s glory days after the War of Independence, in which the Galaxidiotes made a significant contribution in the form of their formidable naval power. There is a splendid collection of paintings of Galaxidis ships from the 19th and 20th centuries, along with wooden figureheads, nautical equipment, and local antiquities. The transition from sail to steam signaled the end of Galaxidi’s fortunes, and the town subsequently slid into economic decline.
A leisurely stroll along the harbor front will acquaint you with the local scene. Begin at Cafe Themistoklis, which dates back to the 1860s and is now run by fourth-generation proprietor Thanasis Kamvysis, and welcomes you with an atmosphere redolent with the salty tales of sea captains who once swapped adventures by the fire. You can choose to dine between two neighboring eateries, the humble fish taverna Tassos, with its delicious langoustines, or the more upmarket Maritsa, Galaxidi’s version of Lloyds of London, where shipbuilders, owners, and captains would congregate to conduct business and socialize. For 20 years Maritsa has been serving up her specialty chicken and courgette pies, and shrimp with orzo baked in clay, together with her signature mussels with rice. Further along, diners can stop in for a drink at Ydrohos, or continue to the second port where Liotrivi, a former olive press has been converted into a cafe and gallery exhibiting artist-owner Minas’s paintings of the local landscape. Visit goldsmith Cosmas Dimitriadis’s jewelry shop for designs passed down from his father and grandfather, as well as daughter Arianna’s more contemporary pieces. Under Dimitriadis’s tenure as president of the town’s cultural foundation, the last windmill visible on the hill overlooking Galaxidi has been restored and converted into a museum on the history of breadmaking.
Chrisoula and Kostas Papalexi are the gracious proprietors of Hotel Ganimede, a nine-room budget pension occupying a newly renovated 19thcentury house that in its former life belonged to a sea captain. The cozy rooms are furnished with wrought-iron beds and topped with high wooden ceilings. Sumptuous breakfasts of fresh juice, home-made jam, cake, chutney, and anything else your heart might desire are served in the garden. Those undefeated by the Ganimede breakfast experience should head for nearby Nikotakis and its decadent local pastries.
Take a Tour to Delphi, learn more about the Delphic Oracle and choose among the Hotels in Delphi to spend the night.
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