Exploring Ancient & Modern Delphi

Exploring Ancient Delphi

Me at Ancient Delphi

The ancient site of Delphi was supposedly created when Zeus sent out two eagles from both sides of the earth. The eagles supposedly met above Delphi. The Greeks built a temple for the god, Apollo, and for his oracle here. In the past, people from all over Greece, and many other countries, came to Delphi to seek information or advice from the Oracle.

The Oracle of Delphi was a woman and was only available to offer advice for nine days of each year. She sat on a tripod-like stool inside the Temple of Apollo above a fissure in the ground. Gases came up through the fissure and the Oracle would breath these in. Supposedly she was receiving messages from the god Apollo. She was really just hallucinating and saying crazy things. The priests at Delphi interrupted what she said and then passed this information on to the person who asked the question.

Theatre at Delphi

Theatre at Delphi

Stadium at Ancient Delphi

Stadium at Delphi

During the nine days when people were waiting to see the Oracle, there were shows in the theatre. There were also sporting events held at the stadium that were supposedly better than the ancient Olympic games.

At ancient Delphi today, one of the grandest monuments is a sculpture of three bronze snakes wrapped around each other. Only part of this column of snakes can be seen today. The snakeheads and the golden tripod that was on the top are missing. This monument at Delphi is a replica because the original was stolen and taken to Istanbul. I saw the original in the Hippodrome when we were in Istanbul.

Replica Snake Column at Delphi

Replica Snake Column at Delphi

Snake Column In Istanbul

Snake Column In Istanbul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Modern Delphi

Delphi from Above

Delphi from Above

My family and I were in the town of Delphi, Greece for five days during Orthodox Easter. Easter is one of the most important holidays in Greece. On Good Friday after dark, the whole town walked through the streets with many candles and a giant cross with Jesus Christ on it. A marching band, followed by a priest, led the people through the streets. We watched from the sidewalk.

On Easter Sunday in early May, my family and I hiked from the centre of Delphi to the top of the mountain that Delphi is located on. The paths zigzagged up the mountain and it took us about 2½ hours to get to the top. Near the top, my dad, my sister and I climbed out on to a big rock that dropped off about 300 meters. My mother did not come because she was scared of falling off. Thousands of years ago, non-believers of Christianity were thrown off this rock to their deaths.

Locals Roasting Lamb

Locals Roasting Lamb

On Easter Sunday, before and after the hike the townspeople were roasting whole lambs on spits in the streets. Alex thought this looked gross and I thought it looked creepy. In the evening, there was dancing to celebrate Easter in front of the church that we got to watch with the locals. The teenagers were setting off fireworks and firecrackers all night, which was annoying because I could not sleep. Overall, I really enjoyed staying in Delphi and visiting the ancient site.

 

 

Dad, Alex & Me - Throwing Rock

Dad, Alex & Me – Throwing Rock

Ancient Delphi

Ancient Delphi

Temple of Apollo Close Up

Temple of Apollo Close Up

Locals Dancing on Easter

Locals Dancing on Easter

Exploring Ruins of Ancient Greece: Mycenae

View of Mycenae

View of Mycenae

Mycenae, the civilization that followed the Minoans but essentially founded Greece. Accredited with creation of the Greek language, influence future myths and production of magnificent structures, some of which can still be seen today. In a mere 400 years, from 1600 BCE to 1100 BCE, the Mycenaean civilization thrived and conquered most of modern Greece. We were lucky enough to visit the archeological site of Mycenae.

 

 

Remains of the old town and view

Remains of the old town and view

This site houses the most popular set of ancient Mycenaean ruins in Greece, receiving 1000s of tourists every day. We left for our adventure through these 3500 year old ruins early in the morning on a free shuttle. As there was no local bus running to the site and it happened that there was a half marathon on the day we visited, there were free shuttles leaving Argos to transport runners to the starting line. We happily hopped on one, pretending, horribly I might add, that we were actually planning to run the race. I was surprised that we weren’t turfed from the bus instantly, as our acting skills are terrible.

 

The Lion Gate

The Lion Gate

We arrived at the Mycenaean site by 8:15 – only a few minutes after it had opened, and because it was early we were some of the first visitors. We were able to enjoy the most impressive parts alone, whereas my mom, who had visited the year before, had said that there were thousands of other tourists at that time.

All that can bee seen today are the remains of a fortress, the ruins of a small town and many tombs of the Mycenaeans. The main entrance to the ruins has been nicknamed the Lion Gate. Probably the most recognizable part of the entire site, this famous gate is known for the depiction of two lionesses standing in a heraldic pose, just above the lintel. It was amazing to take pictures of this gate with no one else in the background, unlike all of my mom’s photos from last year. The first area along the path after the gate was Grave Circle A, where Heinrich Schliemann found the supposed “Death Mask of Agamemnon”, which is now housed in the National Museum of Greece. It has recently been proven unlikely that this mask actually belonged to this particular King of Mycenae, as Agamemnon was supposedly alive 300 years earlier then the mask dates, and is now also thought that he was probably no more then a myth.

Tholos dome

Tholos Dome

After exploring the graves, we continued to wander through the fortress, seeing the remains of the castle, the cistern and the artisan’s workshops. We had the chance to see some half-worked chips of ivory, gold, semi-precious and precious stones from about 1300 BCE that had been used by the artists in these workshops. Our last stops in Mycenae were the tholos tombs. Shaped like beehives on the inside, these grand burial sites for royalty rivaled the Egyptian pyramids. The builders used stones with an average weight of 10 tones, whereas the pyramids stones are a maximum of 5 tones. The doors alone were about 8m x 5m x 1m, with lintels of over 125 tones – in other words – ginormous! As the space was shaped like a cone, the acoustics in these tombs were amazing. Even by stepping on the ground a sound would be created that was incredibly loud, and echo for a long time.

A fortress of the ages, Mycenae was one of my favourite places in Greece, along with Olympia. Stay tuned for my exploration of the place where the first Olympic games were held.

Pieces of gold jewelry found in Grave Circle A

Pieces of gold jewelry found in Grave Circle A

Grave Circle A

Grave Circle A

Grave Circle A - Close Up

Grave Circle A – Close Up

"The Death Mask of Agamemnon", found in Grave Circle A

“The Death Mask of Agamemnon”, found in Grave Circle A – National Museum of Greece

Golden Bull found in Grave Circle A

Golden Bull found in Grave Circle A

Entrance to Tholos Tomb

Entrance to Tholos Tomb

 

 

 

 

Amazing Physical Geography and Fascinating Geology of Turkey

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Chimney in Cappadocia

Cave Church Paintings - 10th C.

Cave Church Paintings – 10th C.

We visited several sites in Turkey where the physical geography and geology was unlike any other place I’d visited before. Cappadocia and Pamukkale are both sites where I was stunned by the amazing feats that Mother Nature could pull off – I mean creating a landscape of fluted rocks sticking up from an arid plain, and placing a huge mountain of calcite in the middle of nowhere is very impressive!

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House dug out of a chimney

Three volcanoes erupting frequently created the chimneys of Cappadocia. Lava flow formed a type of rock called tuff – a light porous rock formed by the hardening of volcanic ash. Wind and rain cut this rock into valleys of steep cliff faces with pointy and unusual chimneys sticking straight up out of the ground. At different times between the 3rd century C.E. and the 12th century C.E., the people of Cappadocia lived inside these rock formations, carving multi-level houses out of the soft stone. These Cappadocians were Christian; therefore, they also carved tombs, churches, nunneries, and chapels out of the chimneys. They would paint images of Jesus, Mary, various saints and disciples on the walls, some polychromatic and others monochromatic. The region of Cappadocia was amazing, I could go for a short walk through the middle of what felt like a desert and be able to visit these old cave houses and churches without restrictions. The feeling of exploration was exhilarating, and I imagined that my family and I were explorers finding these historic places for the first time.

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Some calcite pools on the side of the mountain

The physical geography and geology of Turkey continued to amaze me as we carried on to the small town of Pamukkale and its fascinating calcite mountain. This calcite mountain was created by a series of earthquakes. These quakes opened up numerous hot springs in this area. The water inside the springs has a high content of minerals, especially calcite. When the hot water evaporates and loses its warmth, the calcite that did not evaporate solidifies leaving white residue on any object that the water flowed over.

 

 

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Walking up the side of the mountain

The water from these hot springs flows over the mountainside and descends over one kilometer to the bottom. This creates a mountain that appears to be covered in snow from afar. In Turkish, Pamukkale means “Cotton Castle”, and after seeing this mountain of white from a distance, surrounded by cotton fields, I couldn’t agree more with its name. It definitely looked like a glacier in the middle of other green lush mountains. Though, given that it was over 30 degrees Celsius outside, a glacier would have been impossible!

 

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Walking up the side of the mountain

To protect the calcite deposits and to keep these clean and white, we had to remove ours shoes before entering the site and stepping on the calcite deposits. The water is continually flowing and these deposits form a hard-ridged pattern, similar to the ridges in sand on a beach caused by the waves. We entered the site from the base of the mountain and had to walk up the side of it. As we ascended, the water became increasingly warmer and pools appeared where we enjoyed wading in the warm turquoise water.

 

 

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Ruins in Heliopolis

At the top of Pamukkale rests the ancient city of Hieropolis. Once considered the city of the gods, anyone who was in need of healing came to the calcite springs to be cured. The people believed that the waters were magical. How else could such huge and amazing formations be created? They came from many far away places to be cured of their illnesses. Unfortunately, the water had virtually no healing powers. Because the diseased and injured people came from many different regions of Turkey, there are many different types of mausoleums, tombs, sarcophagi, and coffins located here. Today, the Necropolis of Hieropolis is one of the biggest and most diverse burial grounds in the world. Also located in Heliopolis are greatly preserved Greek ruins including massive columns, the remains of countless temples, old aqueducts, a huge amphitheater and much more!

Our experience at Hieropolis was similar to our time exploring the ancient houses and churches of Cappadocia. We could run around and explore almost the entire site with no rules or restrictions. It was astonishing that we were allowed to walk freely through such old and precious ruins. In most other countries that we have been in, guards were constantly telling us that we weren’t allowed walk too close to various ruins, never mind actually walking on them!

Exploring the physical geography and geology of Turkey was an amazing and fascinating experience that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Mom, Matt & I in Goreme, Cappadocia

Mom, Matt & I in Goreme, Cappadocia

We Slept in a Cave Hotel!

We Slept in a Cave Hotel!

Goreme, Capadoccia

Goreme, Capadoccia

Paintings in the cave churches, circa 10th century

Paintings in the cave churches, circa 10th century

 

Ampitheatre in Heliopolis, Turkey

Amphitheatre in Heliopolis, Turkey

Ruins at Heliopolis, Turkey

Ruins at Heliopolis, Turkey

Volubilis – The Furtherest Roman Outpost!

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The Forum at Volubilis

My family and I visited the archeological site of Volubilis on the 28th of October, as part of a day trip from Fes.

The Forum Volubilis

The Forum at Volubilis

Volubilis is an ancient town that was first inhabited about 5 000 years ago by the Berbers. It had been invaded and conquered by many groups throughout history, including the Roman Empire during the 1st century C.E. Volubilis became the farthest outpost of the Romans until 285 when it fell back to local control. By the 8th century C.E., the Idriss family took the town and declared it as the royal city. Two hundred years later, in approximately 1000 C.E., the city was abandoned, and the royal city was moved to Fes. The ruins were devastated in 1700 by a tremendous earthquake, and were later rediscovered and uncovered during the early 1900s.

Volubilis is located about 85 kilometers from Fes or 35 kilometers from the city of Meknes. This area has very fertile soil, allowing for a lot of olive trees and grains to grow. Volubilis was also strategically protected by the two mountain ranges on either side, making the city hard to invade. The mountains also gave the city water through its natural springs. These are some of the main reasons that people settled in this location.

As the town had so many resources, it flourished. At one point, during Roman rule Volubilis housed more then 20,000 people! As Volubilis had become such a large Roman town, it contained a basilica, multiple temples, triumphal arch, and a forum, all of which we saw. There are many coloured tile mosaics that were the floors of the larger villas that are in pristine condition that are still outside exposed to the elements. Most of the mosaics represented an idea or told a story, such as the Zodiac, the Four Seasons, and one of Bacchus and wife Adriane, with Eros.

Overall, I really enjoyed visiting Volubilis because I found it very interesting to see the layout of a Roman town, not just read about it (PJO/HOO anybody?), and it was amazing to see buildings that had survived since the 1st century C.E.! I also really loved how you could touch the ruins. The only objects that you couldn’t touch were the beautifully preserved mosaics in the historic villas. If you are ever in Morocco, I highly recommend visiting Volubilis.

Ruins at Volubilis

Ruins at Volubilis

Triumphal Arch

Triumphal Arch

Mosaics at Volubilis

Mosaics at Volubilis

Ruins at Volubilis

Ruins at Volubilis