Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Journey to the centre of the earth: a hymn to Delphi, ancient and modern

Photo: Chucknado, Flickr
I am in Delphi, the centre of the world for ancient Greeks, where the god Apollo slew the Python as she guarded the earth's navel.

This is the land of the gods, Greek heroes, the famed oracle, Homeric poetry, athletes partaking in the Pythian Games, philosophers, Plutarch, Nero. There are columns from all the classical orders, inscriptions on marble slabs and, in the museum, friezes showing scenes from the Trojan War. There is the world's first written musical melody, a huge statue of the all-seeing, all-knowing Delphic sphinx, three graceful dancing girls at the top of a column decorated with acanthus leaves carved out of stone, the fixed gaze of a charioteer, intricate votive offerings and the remnants of a silver bull.

In ancient times, this was the most important place in the whole world. The centre of civilisation.

Down at our hotel in modern Delphi, Mr Grigg is in deep conversation with the proprietor, Nick, as the latter flicks languidly through the television channels in the lobby. He hovers on the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Paul Newman and Robert Redford are about to jump into the river.

'All the politicans are corrupt. They steal money. The Greeks, the English. The politicians, they are all the same,' he tells Mr Grigg, as he flicks to an inane game show with a hostess wearing a skirt no longer than a charioteer's loin cloth.

And then he plunges in the knife and twists it. 'Your Queen, she steal money,' Nick says, jabbing his finger into Mr Grigg's shoulder.

Mr Grigg, that defender of the British monarchy, protests. (One day, his devotion to the Royal family will earn him a knighthood. Me, I make a point of not standing up for God Save the Queen).

'What about the Chinese?' Mr Grigg says, in a deft piece of distractive debate worthy of Plato. He is referring to the latest development in the Greek economic crisis. The Chinese, it seems, are to be the country's saviour, overcoming the Python and working with the new government and investing in hotels and casinos near Athens.

'Aren't you suspicious of their motives?' he asks old Nick, who has a face like Rumpole of the Bailey.

Nick shrugs. 'They bring money. They bring jobs.'

As we sign out of the hotel, on which a Visa sign can be seen clearly on the front door, Nick shakes his head as Mr Grigg proffers his debit card.

'No, no card. Only cash.' Nick licks his lips. I see a flicker of the Python's forked tongue and glimpse a pile of banknotes in the back office (and no offer of a receipt) as we drive off into the wilderness.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

1 comment:

Corfu Bluesman said...

Etsi einai!

Bcak in Dorset for a while. Good post!