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Walking through the ancient Delphi olive grove

They say that hiking in has many beneficial effects on body and mind. But what happens when it's your profession? You set higher goals, you crave stronger emotions and more impressive stimuli. You start seeking the unexpected, the unpredictable.

On the ancient trail from Delphi to Kirra, we experienced exactly that. Thoughts and emotions, created and guided by the Delphic landscape, flooded our minds, the unexpected came uninvited to change our day, our life, our way of thinking. The gravity of the "Earth's navel" (as ancient Greeks called Delphi) almost made us forget the reason of our visit: mapping Parnassus, Kirra, and the broader region of Delphi and Distomo. Speed and effectivity were sacrificed on the altar of sensations.

Through the densely populated settlement of Delphi, old but well-placed signs led us to the starting point of the trail. Until the first steps outside the village, nothing indicated what would follow. Smooth trail turns brought us to a plateau overlooking the Pleistos River and the hills on the other side, behind which the historic villages of Desfina and Distomo lie well hidden. Olive trees, a few orchard trees, cypress, and pine trees establish a picture that blends perfectly with the blue of the sea in Itea and Galaxidi. Right at that spot the transformation began. The ancient path revealed itself. Bricks laid with mastery, turns designed to facilitate smooth ascent and descent, path width that undoubtedly allowed the passage of horses and ancient carriages. Descending, we came across the channel of Mornos river: a pharaonic aqueduct almost 200 km long, continuously supplying millions of gallons of water from the lake of Mornos to meet the water needs of Greece's capital city. A thirst that never quenches, as recently more water has been diverted to the needs of Attica through a conduit from the Lake of Evinos (located even further west) to the lake of Mornos. After indulging in glimpses of blue in the frail October sun, we continued the path to the village of Chrisso. Unfortunately, the broad stone-paved road does not last for long, but the effort of locals caring for the trail, highlights the route until millions of olive trees in the Delphic plains swallow it forever, leading the route to the seafront of Kirra.

On the hill with the chapel of St. George, overlooking the entire surrounding area—Delphi, Amfissa, Gkiona, the sea—we wondered: How much time did it take for the ancient inhabitants of the area to build a 10km path? How did they choose its course? What is the essential difference between an ancient and a modern traveler standing at the edge of the hill, contemplating?

This last question might have an answer. The differences, if they exist, are superficial. The same existential matters tormented them. The same concerns of daily survival and, probably, the same doubts about where their society was heading. Because the landscape certainly hasn't changed. Except for the urban web, the endings of Parnassus above the Earth's navel, the height and volume of mount Gkiona, and the waters of the Corinthian Gulf that sparkle under the enldess sunlight must have triggered in their psyche exactly what happened in ours on that day.


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