Mainland Greece: Metsovo, Nafpakto & Delphi

On our way to Nafpakto, which would serve as our 2-day home base, we stopped in the little mountain village of Metsovo. Metsovo is known for its cheese and its location in the Pinus mountains. It's quite a stark change from the arid topography of Meteora. It felt a bit like the small villages of the Alps with its gorgeous little chalet-like homes and hotels. We parked on the main road (and got a ticket - find proper parking here!) and walked down to the village square for lunch at Galaxy Restaurant. We sat outside just above the square and tried the local cheeses with Kokoretsi (roasted sweetbreads wrapped in lamb intestines). The shops are filled with pine and olive wood crafts so I picked up a few kitchen accessories. On the square I noted that many of the roofs of the town are made of stone shingles. As a violent storm approached, we headed back to the car and continued our journey down to Nafpakto. 

Nafpakto or Nafpaktos is a larger city on the Gulf of Corinth. We stopped in to see one of Dino's childhood friends at the beautiful jewelry shop she owns with her husband.  We stayed at an unassuming little hotel on the beachfront and napped before heading out with Maria and her husband to a little seaside seafood restaurant for huge prawns, grilled fish, fried zucchini, salad and new-to-me phykos, a local seaweed sautéed in garlic and olive oil and served with lemon. 

Exhausted after our day of driving, we went to bed early and slept late the next morning. We enjoyed a coffee on the beach and then decided to go to Delphi for the day.

I have always been fascinated with ancient civilizations, so much that I chose it as my minor at university. Delphi has always been high on my list of places to go and I'm so happy we went! 

What I didn't remember about Delphi was how important it was in ancient Greek culture. It wasn't merely a temple famous for its prophetic oracle or Pythia. Great monuments, donated by city-states across the Greek world, some vying for favor and good fortune and some showing thanks for win in battle, once covered this mountainside. The museum houses some of the best preserved of these monuments. My favorite, the Dancers of Delphi, once supported a tripod and features 3 dancing girls on a gorgeous pillar of marble intersected with acanthus leaves. It's believed to date back to around 335 BC and though it is not known who donated the pillar, some believe it has Athenian origins and that the three girls may represent the three daughters of Cecrops I. 

Dancers of Delphi

Dancers of Delphi

The museum is definitely worth a look but the real marvel is what still stands outside. We snaked steadily uphill passing columns and foundations of the once infamous Temple of Apollo. The most well-preserved structure, The Athenian Treasury, is dazzling and benefitted from a recent restoration. The theater, a famously photographed featured of Delphi, was originally built in the 4th century and could seat as many as 4,500 spectators!

At the very top of the sanctuary is the stadium where, every 4 years, athletes would compete in the Pythian Games, precursors of the Olympic games dating back to the 5th century BC.

If you're like us and you love animals, you might want to bring leftovers from your meals on your trip to Delphi. We fed 2 feral cats and 2 wild dogs that make their home here. One was right on the steps of the Athenian Treasury just below the Temple of Apollo. He was quite vocal about his pressing need for the cheese we had in our bag. The attendants at the site don't seem to mind. They even have bowls of water out for them.

The views of the Phocis Valley below are breathtaking. From this site on Mount Parnassus you can see where the river travels through a plain of olive trees and all the way out to the distant ocean. The town itself is also quite charming though we didn't do much exploring after the ancient site and traveled back to Nafpaktos. 

That night we had a quick drink on the Venetian port of the city. The port was abuzz with activity. It seemed the whole city was congregated here for drinks and coffee. 

The next day we headed back to Athens and said our goodbyes to lovely Greece! It's a great country for a road trip though it certainly helps to have someone with you who speaks the language!