|Delphi, a religious center dedicated to Apollo, is a spectacular site for kids to visit. Located on Mt. Parnassus, in ancient legend, Delphi was originally the home of Python, serpent son of Mother Earth and Poseidon. Apollo, arriving as (or riding on) a dolphin, killed the serpent, which was buried in the omphalos, the belly button of the world. For centuries, people came to Delphi to consult the oracle (who conveyed advice from Apollo) and celebrate the Pythian Games.|
|Tip: The main entrance to the archeological ruins leads straight into the Sacred Precinct (Sanctuary of Apollo), but before you do that, start with the museum or the Castalian Spring and the gymnasium ruins.|
|Castalian Spring Pilgrims to Delphi first stopped at the Castalian Spring to purify themselves (tossing water over their head). You can still see water flowing down from the spring (you can't, however, walk up to the spring itself). Next to the sidewalk, there's a little fountain where kids can put thei hands or toes under the water.|
|Gymnasium Like the Olympic Games, athletes trained for months before the Pythian Games. Down the road from the spring are the ruins of the large gymnasium, which had a long running track, spot to practice discus throwing, and circular pool where the athletes could cool off. This is a quiet area, with fewer tourists, and you can run around.|
Museum The museum contains exquisite pieces found in the ruins at Delphi. Most stunning is the Charioteer, a 5th century BC bronze statue of a chariot driver such incredible detail, you can even see the guy's eyelashes. There's also the bronze feet of the Charioteer's horse, plus a marble copy of the omphalos, bronze shields, and sculpture from the Sanctuary of Apollo.
|Sanctuary of Apollo The Sacred Precinct is a big complex, built at different times, from 600 BC into the Roman era. As you walk up the Sacred Way, you just have to imagine all the buildings and sculptures on either side. On the first section, there were tons of bronze statues, then several treasuries, small buildings where cities displayed their power and wealth.|
|Omphalos Where the Sacred Way turns to go up the hill, stop at the omphalos, the center of the universe. Kids can rub their hands on the belly button of the world (it's a replica). Originally the omphalos was located underneath the Temple of Apollo, or near the Castalian Spring, the belly button seems to move around.|
|Rock of the Sibyl Long before Apollo arrived on the scene, there were oracles at Delphi, and this rock commemorates the first oracle, nickname "Sibyl," real name Herophile. Mysterious Sibyl sat on this rock, talking in riddles, not unlike siblings at the dinner table. Once Apollo made Delphi his special spot, the oracle relocated to the bigger and better temple of Apollo.|
|Polygonal wall Check out the polygonal wall, a retaining wall for the temple of Apollo, not like retaining walls for your garden at home, except this retaining wall is thousands of years old, has withstood earthquakes, without any mortar to hold the stones in place. And on this wall are inscribed the names of freed slaves.|
Temple of Apollo The temple of Apollo was suitably grand. Out front, there were huge golden tripods and a gigantic statue of Apollo. Inside the temple, in the innermost room (adyton), the priestess oracle sat, dispensing divine advice. Although the oracle of Delphi is long gone, there were plenty of questions we wanted to ask.
Tip: If you have burning questions, "Ask the Oracle" on Winged Sandals
|Theater The Pythian Games were not just about sports. At Delphi, the emphasis was music and drama competitions winning playwrights were crowned with ivy wreaths. This 4th century theater is beautifully preserved, although you can't sit in the seats and pretend you're watching the show. From above the theater, there's a wonderful panorama of the valley below.|
|Stadium Follow the path up the hill to the stadium, where sports events were held. The stadium looks familiar, a long dirt field with bleachers on either side for the spectators. Don't miss the stone starting blocks, where the athletes positioned themselves for the start of the race. And, kids can run their own races down the field.|
|Tip: In summer, bring lots of water with you. No picnicking is allowed at any part of the site. At the ticket booth, buy the reconstruction plan of the archeological site a three-dimensional drawing helps visualize the ruins.|