We've been in Greece now for three (I think) days, which have been bustling with activity and travel. We began with a drive to Mykines (Mycenae) from the Athens port of Pireas. What we'd expected to be a very long drive was, in fact, quite short--good, because we'd gotten little sleep on a very rocky sea the night before. The ruins at Mycenae are excellent, particularly the bee hive tombs at the ancient city, as well as at the Treasury of Atreus. Built in circles, all attention is drawn upward, possibly in spirals, if one is inclined to think mythically. The air inside is cooler than outside, and the space seems less ruinous than the city. Perhaps the most spectacular part of Mycenae, however, is that it sits between two mountains--a local told part of our group that the two mountains are the closest points to the sun and the moon, to Apollo and Artemis, which rise over one and set over the other.
From Mykines, we drove to Olympia. The last time I drove through the Pelopennese Mountains, it was dark, so I missed most of the beauty of the drive and remembered only that it was very twisty, and that what looked like bushes at the sides of the road were actually the tops of very tall trees. In the day, however, it's delightful, if still dangerously twisty. It would be far more fun in a small car than in a rather large van, but regardless, I'll have fonder memories of the drive this time around. Olympia, which we visited this morning, has as distinguishing features a hill which was once dedicated to Gaia, but was then named the Hill of Kronos. Whether this is due to the connection between earth and sky evoked by that pair, or whether this is the masculine replacing the feminine, I don't know--but it's interesting to note that Hera was the first temple at Olympia, while the temple of Zeus became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The temple to Rhea became re-dedicated to the Emperors of Rome. One thought is that, like Gaia and Kronos, perhaps Rhea was meant to be thought of as the mother to the Emperors, solidifying their claim to divine lineage.
Most of the men in our group took part in a 50, 100, and 150/200 meter foot race while on the site as well. I would have joined in, perhaps, but served as a marker instead, as my bad knee has once again been acting up. (This makes driving *very* interesting.) At the moment, I'm limping about the city of Delphi, which is a larger town than Myines, but smaller than Olympia, which makes it just about perfect from my point of view. The town is filled with tourists--one group of French speakers, another group that I didn't identify a language but I suspect is an elder hostel tour, a group of young teenagers from the UK, and several American groups. It makes me wonder if the town is perpetually filled with tourists, or whether this is a particularly touristy time. Either way, the site itself seems very close to heaven--as we drove up the mountain, sun poured through a glorious cloud-scape opposite a valley from us, as though the rays were a gift from Apollo himself, blessing our travel. It was fantastic.