The Sacrifices We Make

5 09 2015

I must have done something to anger the Greek Gods.

That’s the only explanation I can think of to explain the fact that not only did I fall once, but TWICE, on our trip.

Both Athena and Apollo demanded a blood sacrifice from me when we visited Greece. First Athena, Goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, mathematics, strength, war strategy, the arts, crafts and skill, got me just as we were about to call it a day at The Parthenon, a temple specifically dedicated to Athena. After this first fall, I chalked it up to being clumsy, not giving walking my full attention, wearing the wrong footwear and ultimately I brushed my scraped knee, sighed at my chipped toe nail polish and asked about the camera, which got a beating on the rocks when I fell to my left knee. Turns out, I also sacrificed a polarized filter to Athena (to which the guy at the camera store said, ‘better the filter than the lens’ – so true).

We left Athens to take a bus tour through the mountains and olive groves to upper Central Greece, to the site of Delphi.

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Delphi is a place that is believed to be determined by Zeus when he sought to find the centre of his ‘Grandmother Earth’. He sent two eagles flying from the East and the West and the eagles crossed paths over Delphi – the navel of the World.

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The Omphalos Stone: The Navel of the World

Delphi may be best known for the Oracle at the sanctuary that was dedicated to Apollo.  Apollo spoke through his oracle: the Sibyl or Priestess of the oracle who was chosen from the village.  She was kept in solitude and would sit above an opening in the earth and wait to be ‘possessed’ by Apollo.    During our tour, our guide said that there have been studies completed that suggest that a gas high in ethylene was emitted from the opening, which may have caused the oracle’s trance and raving state.

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Rock of the Sibyl

But regardless of whether or not this woman, Sibyl, was high, people would travel for miles to seek answers to their questions.  Treasuries were built to house the offerings made to Apollo.  And according to our tour guide, if someone didn’t want to bring an offering on their pilgrimage to Delphi, it was no problem, because there was the equivalent of a gift shop available to purchase offerings deemed worthy of Apollo.

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Treasury of the Athenians

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Temple of Apollo

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Temple of Apollo with a Laurel Tree (the eternal form of the nymph Daphne, pursued by Apollo until she called out to her father, the River God, for help to flee him. She was transformed into the Laurel Tree, and Apollo vowed that he would claim her has his tree and her leaves would crown the heads of leaders and champions.)

It was hot. Really HOT. We were climbing up sun-baked steps around 1PM and I felt a little reminiscent of our hot dusty accent from the bottom of the Grand Canyon from a few years back – which was not pretty. After our official tour ended at the Temple of Apollo, we were encouraged to continue walking up to see the Theatre and the Stadium, but keep an eye on the time, because we needed to be back on that bus in 45 minutes!

Up and up we walked. I kind of took in the scenery, but Nathan made a smart point that we should just get to the top first and then we knew how much time we had to take photos when we came back down – we COULD NOT miss that bus!

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Ancient Theatre of Delphi

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We made it to the top! And although the Stadium was interesting to see, I couldn’t really appreciate it, I was just too hot.

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As we turned to head back down, Nathan suggested we walk off the trail in the shade, which sounded like a great idea!  I took one or two steps down the slope of loose rock and WHAM! Down I go. Leaning hard to the left as I landed on my left knee (again) and scraped the side of my leg. It hurt.  And it was embarrassing.  I could hear other tour people saying, ‘well there’s always someone who falls…’

Apollo did not just want a drop or two, he wanted a blood sacrifice worthy of the God of music, light, healing and medicine.  But at least he didn’t require a full sacrifice of my new polarized filter – just a couple surface scratches.  And I don’t know if it’s a good thing that I fell the same way, apparently I favour my left side, because I tore up the knee that was healing from my fall at the Parthenon, but at least I wasn’t going to scar up both knees.  How convenient that I had asked Nathan if I should pack some bandaids in my bag before we left that morning (Nathan’s reply: ‘you should always have bandaids with you‘).  And so, with the help of some hand sanitizer, tissues and bandaids I did a little triage first aid, steps away from the mountain-top stadium and proceeded down the steps to catch the bus.  Only this time, as I descended from the mountain, I also descended into a little pity party.

I could not believe I had fallen…again.  What was I going to do for the second day of our tour.  And what about our trip to the islands with the many many many stairs…how was I going to survive?  I just didn’t trust myself anymore and I may have looked up at the view twice as we walked down the stairs.  I had my eyes glued to my feet, and my fingers clutched around a handrail when there was one available.  And by the time we made it down the mountain to wait for the bus, my neck was hurting from staring at my feet, my ankle was swelling up, I was bleeding through my bandaid, and I was so friggin’ hot!

Thank goodness we were going to sit down for lunch and then finish up our day on an air conditioned bus.

Perhaps I spoke too soon.  I silently patted myself on the back for packing baby powder, but baby powder was no match for a bus that had A/C issues.  So as we wound our way through mountain roads, basically cooking ourselves, I was lulled into a comatose state, too nauseous to open my eyes and look out the window and too hot to do more than rest the side of my face against the seat and take small breaths.  In our 4 hour bus ride I think I talked to Nathan once, and only to check and see if he was still alive.

So you can imagine my feeling of exhilaration and relief and a feeling that made me catch my breath, when I came across this gem at a rest stop!

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Oh my god, I have never felt so happy to have cold air blowing in my face.  I think I may have pushed a small child out of the way.  I get mean when I’m hot, apparently.

And so, after a ten hour day, seven of which was spent on a bus, I thanked Nathan for not complaining and rubbing it in my face that perhaps we are not bus tour people.  And I also may have said, that perhaps, despite our 10 year age difference, I may not outlive him after all…

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