From the Sea Cloud in the Mediterranean
Jun 11, 2012 - Sea Cloud
The light filtering through the morning marine haze made the calm seas around the ship sparkle like diamonds. We boarded our tenders early so we could get a “jump” on the day and were rewarded by having the magnificent Temple of Apollo at Didyma all to ourselves!
The oracle and Temple of Apollo at Didyma is second in importance only to the one in Delphi and throughout antiquity, scores of pilgrims came to this sanctuary in search of wisdom. Known as the Didymaion, the temple has a long history and while some Greek historians date the beginning of the sanctuary to the 2nd millennium B.C., the earliest temple on the site dates to the 8th century B.C. and the current one was started after the site was re-sanctified by Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. Pilgrims reached the site via the Sacred Way, a 20-km road that connected the sanctuary to the ancient port of Miletus. Designed to be the third largest temple in the ancient world, it was never entirely completed and while parts of the 20 columns of the porch were in place, most of the 40 columns that would have stretched down each side of the 120-meter-long temple platform in a double colonnade were never erected.
Our guides explained the strict rituals that surrounded the requests and granting of oracles and prophecies in the Ancient Greek religion. At Didyma, the priestess sat on a swing suspended over the sacred spring and when she had descended into a deep trance she dipped her toe into the water and answered questions in the form of a riddle. After their introduction, we were left to explore the inner courtyard of the cella and the grounds on our own. Between the cats, fragments of Hellenistic friezes, giant heads of Medusa and column drums tumbled out like a line of sushi rolls, there was no end of wonderful images to capture on film and imbed in our minds. All too soon it was time to return to the ship for lunch and the long awaited “engine-room tours.”
For those who did not fancy a tour below the decks, the indomitable Simon, our hotel manager cum lifeguard, opened up the swim platform for our last dip in the crystal-blue waters of the Aegean. When asked why he never joined us – whistle and noodles in hand he proclaimed to all that he only went swimming on “FRIDAYS!”
As the sun starts its slow descent towards the horizon, the crew are aloft, clewing up the sails for the last time. It is hard to believe that this indescribably beautiful trip is drawing to a close, but the memories and friends we made on this voyage will last a lifetime