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Monday, 25 October 2010

Budget Greece Tour - Page 3

Written by Stephanie Hiltz
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When traveling the mainland of Greece, it’s imperative to see the city of Delphi, the location of the ancient, all-knowing Oracle. The sanctuary of the god, Apollo, extends over a series of terraces in the foothills of Mount Parnassos. The area was originally inhabited during the Mycenaean times (14th – 11th century BC), when “Ge,” or “Earth,” was the main deity worshipped. From the 9th century BC to the 2nd century

AD, this settlement began worshiping the god


Apollo, whereby stone temples were built and people from across the lands, including other countries, would visit to get answers from the Oracle.

Some worshippers, like peasant women, would ask the Oracle, “Am I having a boy or a girl?” While Kings of nations might ask, “Should I go to war?” The answer would come in time depending on the wealth of the asker: The wealthier you were the longer your answer took. Payment would come in the form of animal sacrifice, jewels, food, gold, bronze and silver statutes, and each day, worshippers would take their offerings to the god of Apollo. But it was worth it because the Oracle was always right. Priests and their helpers would listen carefully to the worshippers and answer in such a way that they were never wrong. For example, to answer a woman’s question about her pregnancy, the Oracle could answer “Boy not Girl,” and it depended on where the listener placed the comma that decided the outcome. Many decisions and initiatives were made because of the Oracle’s answers.

Article MeteoraOur last stop before returning to Athens was the city of Kalambaka, where the majestic rock formations of Meteora are. Geologists say this area was completely underwater seven million years ago, forming an array of grey rising rocks full of caves, which are now topped with monastic buildings. This area is also a well-known site for rock climbers to test their skill and take in the scenery, which to me truly resembled “a land before time.”

The buildings house monks, priests and nuns who live a simple life above the land. Anyone who wants to shed their past lives are allowed to live amongst the monks in exchange for helping their new community with whatever skills they have to offer for however long they choose to stay there. And if living with the monks is not enough solitude, visitors can go one step further and live as a hermit in one of the many caves, six of which were occupied when I was there.

We visited St. Stephen’s Monastery, which included two churches: one old and one restored with amazing accuracy and beauty. The older church was last used just before World War II when, during the war, the paintings in the church were defaced and left that way.

Before heading home, there was one last thing to do: tipping your tour director and driver is an added expense to remember. From my research anywhere from two to four euro a day for your driver and three to five euro a day for your tour director is considered fair.

When taking a tour, it’s important to take into account the importance of schedule. Tours often include early mornings and only pockets of free time. This tour of Greece did allow for more free time than other tours by giving a great balance of excursions versus down-time, but each day started with a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call. And similar to being on a cruise ship, many excursions cost extra. It’s important to find out which museums, excursions and meals are included in your original tour price to get true understanding of cost.

Article Athens Acropolis

An educational tour becomes a perfect way to see it all and get more value for your money. And at the end, I realized that Greece really is much more than just the Greek Islands and the ruins of a distant culture.

©Stephanie Hiltz

Stephanie Hiltz, food and travel writer;

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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