Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tell Me, Oracle of Delphi, What Next?


Mural mosaic in the town of Delphi.

I am just moments away from consulting the oracle at Delphi and I must say, I’m nervous as hell.  I feel like this entire journey has been leading up to this critical moment:  that is, the discovery, finally, of what lies ahead.

Part of me doesn’t even want to know what the oracle has to say.  What if it’s bad?  That might ruin the few remaining days of my trip, not to mention, possibly, the rest of my life.

It was not easy getting to Delphi.  Yesterday morning I had to abort my first attempt.  I was given bad information concerning from which bus terminal the bus to Delphi leaves.  I was told Terminal A; in fact, it was Terminal B, way the hell across town. 

I tried to figure how to get over the B in time to catch the 10:30 a.m. bus.  Delphi is close to a three-hour ride north from Athens, so 10:30 would be the latest I could go and still have it make any sense.

Unfortunately, at Terminal A’s information counter, I encountered the one person in Greece who does not understand that her country is on the verge of bankruptcy and that my foreign-tourist dollars are helping to keep it on life support.  I will never understand why someone whose sole job is to provide information to tourists acts completely put-off and bothered when a tourist approaches to solicit said information.  Between talking to her friend on the phone and freshening her makeup, this little you-know-what was of no help in pointing me the right way.  I wanted to wring her skinny little neck.

I tried others, including police officers, a man behind a snack kiosk, and employees in a nearby auto body shop, to no avail.  In fact, in each instance, I was given contradictory directions as to how to get to Terminal B. 

Frig this, I thought.  I gave up and changed plans.  I decided to do all the things I had on my agenda for the next day, and then start anew on the right road to Delphi the following morning.  Now, I realize, not only have I become more reasonable; I’ve also become more flexible.  I’m telling you, long-term travel can work wonders for personality defects.

Random guy at Starbucks.

The National Library was closed...

...so I sat and wrote on the steps.  (That's my laptop).

Shopping on Ermou Street.

The Greek sushi splurge.

This morning I got up before the cock crowed to get my ass down to Terminal B and on the first bus Delphi.  It’s my last day in Greece, and I’d be damned if I was going to miss my audience with the Delphic oracle.  Again, I was on the street hopping different buses and following strangers’ directions.  This time, the universe—and more particularly, some friendly and knowledgeable Greeks—conspired to help me.  I made the 7:30 a.m. bus with advance time to buy bus-snacks and a cappuccino.

On the bus ride, a couple from New Jersey graciously allowed me to read the Delphi section in their Rick Steves guidebook.  Rick Steves is my all-time favorite guidebook writer; I daresay I worship him.  I first consulted his Europe Through The Back Door guidebook on a whirlwind trip around western Europe in 2001.  To this day I continue to carry his “Back Door Bag”—the now-famous backpack that’s been to 60-plus countries over seven continents, and still looks like new.

With the guidebook, I refreshed myself on details surrounding the Delphic oracle.  I knew that it was an important oracle in the classical Greek world—in fact, one that both Socrates and Alexander the Great consulted for advice and guidance.  What I didn’t know was that the oracle woman dispensing important prophecies was also purportedly getting high on burnt laurel leaves.  I read that, and thought:  I definitely don’t want my future hanging on the words of a strung-out, laurel-leaf junkie. 

In reality, there is no more oracle here.   She’s long been retired.  Now there’s just a bunch of ruins concentrated in and around the old Sanctuary of Apollo, which is probably now surrounded by people hawking stress beads, Delphi t-shirts, and olive-oil soap carved in the shape of the Parthenon.  I imagine it’s going to cost me upwards of 10 € to get in, too.

If the ancient oracle has been feeling any itch to emerge from retirement, I pray today is the day.  There is no modern-day visitor with more burning questions about her future than this one.  I thought I’d have come up with some precise plans after all these months of travel and self-reflection.   But alas, I got nuthin’ beyond vague notions. 

I take that back.  I do know one thing that lies in my future.  I have a hair appointment scheduled for the day after I return to America; next Friday.  I’m going in for a cut and highlight, and then I will go with out my hairdresser—who’s also my good friend—for a welcome-home dinner.  It’s been ages since I had a good steak, so I’m thinking Outback.  Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. 

Okay, I’m off to consult this thing.