Sauntering and Hiking in Cartagena and Santa Marta, Colombia


Cartagena is a beautiful, white city

I was really looking forward to the two Colombian ports on our ship’s itinerary.  I have been to Venezuela before but not to Colombia. We debated the best way to spend a day in each Cartagena, the capital city and in the oldest city in Colombia: Santa Marta.

Rather than spend time in a bus with a whole group of people, we just wanted to walk at our own pace around the old city center. We could take a taxi to get there. I figured out, online, that it would only cost about $7.- to go by taxi from the dock into the centre. But what if we got stuck in crazy traffic on the way back? So, in the end, we settled on booking transportation from the cruise dock to the old town by catamaran. It was 15 minutes and pretty much guaranteed no delays. Turned out to be a good choice. IMG_3904

We sailed by the old St Felippe Fort and arrived right next to the historic city walls. We really enjoyed strolling through the narrow streets, along pastel coloured houses with the most gorgeous wooden balconies. IMG_3926Of course Cartagena reminded us of Spain but the solid teak balconies with cascading bougainvilleas were even more gorgeous than those of the old country. Bright yellow churches, green pubs and pink shops leaned against each other until they made way for the rough stones of the ancient city wall. We climbed to the top and looked out, the way the cannons pointed, over the sea. I enjoyed walking along the many little vendor stands shaded by a large portico, selling unusual fruits, cookies, candied, coffee and chocolate. We crossed squares and discovered alleys. IMG_3910

We found a tiny little pub, in an alley, with beer and mango smoothies. And wifi! We even found a post office to mail home the mandatory postcards for our grandsons. The post office did not take US dollars so we made a quick stop at a money exchange and got a few Colombian pesos to buy stamps.

It’s interesting how each place has its own unique flavour. Even though all these ports are Caribbean with a similar history, their sights and sounds are all unique. Each has its own music. We heard drums, bongo’s and all sorts of instruments the names of which I don’t know. In Cartagena many women wear colourful head bands and long flowing dresses with baskets of fruit in their head. But mostly for tourists who will pay them for photos. One kissed me and hugged me, but I still had to pay if I wanted to take her photo… IMG_3919


We strolled back, through the old city gate, to where our catamaran was waiting. On the pier side was a lovely tiny zoo with exotic birds, Amazonian ant eaters and monkeys.  And it was hot. Must have been well into the 30’s as we walked along the quay back to our ship.

In Santa Marta, the next day, we booked a hike to a nature reserve. A bus took us from the pier, through the city, and into the hills. Santa Marta reminded us very much of Cambodia with similar roadside stands, lots of motorbikes, dogs sleeping along dusty roads, and tidy kids walking to school. IMG_3916

As we left the city behind, and eventually the squatters’ huts in the hills, the landscape was cacti and palm trees. Those gave way to major banana plantations. We passed an important National Park which closes one month of the year to allow indigenous people privacy as they celebrate religious ceremonies. And finally we arrived at a nature reserve where we tracked across a dry river bed and through a forest of towering palms, ficus and bamboo.


We heard birds, some distant monkeys calling, and saw one big spider… And lots of flowering plants that are house plants in Europe or North America but flourish here in the wild, including hibiscus. Butterflies and hummingbirds darted in and out of the sunshine.


Cacao pod

Along the path were 2 or 3 little stands, crudely made of branches and planks. At one we bought fried bananas stuffed with cheese and papaya. As soon as we ate them, we were surrounded by dogs. I don’t know where they came from so quickly and they dissipated again after we ate.








At the end of the trail we reached a pretty waterfall that tumbled out of the jungle and
IMG_4017into one large pool. I had a lovely refreshing swim here. Kees waited in the shade under some trees. Suddenly there was a tremendous crash! Another man jumped out of the way. Turned out that a very large iguana had been lazing on a branch above his head and fell out of the tree! 



A Tiny Taste of Central America

Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica

IMG_3626One of the draws for this cruise was the fact that the ship docked in many countries we had not yet visited. We were curious to see both Guatemala and Nicaragua. The coast line was green with lots of volcano peaks. The offer of shore excursions in Guatemala was minimal and none appealed to us. They were expensive and most seemed to be several hours on a bus. True, you get to see some of the country that way but we didn’t feel like spending our day on a bus going to a big city. We had thought we’d simply wander around the port area. However, once we docked we were told that no one was allowed to walk in the port area. What we could see, from the ship, was not attractive: a very industrial area with hot, dusty pavement, and lots of machinery. With many other passengers leaving for the day, we decided to not even disembark here. We spent a lovely day relaxing, swimming in the pool and reading our books. Too bad we can’t really add Guatemala to our country list, but Puerto Quertzal just was not at all an attractive place to be. IMG_3602

Our next destination was Corinto, Nicaragua. From the ship, we could see the small town and study the lay of the land. The town was at the end of a long, narrow strip of land jutting out into the Pacific from the mainland. We walked off the ship and right into town. Only to be accosted by a large flock of peddlers: t-shirts, gawdy souvenirs, lots of lots of tricycle drivers, and so forth. But we have learned to ignore, say ‘no, gracias’ and walk straight through. Church bells chimed as we strolled through town on a Sunday morning.


Corinto, Nicaragua

We found a great coffee shop with wifi and spent some time there, cooling down under the fans. It was very hot here!

Then we followed streets around the shore. We took some back alleys and watched kids play the national sport: trompo is an amazing spin top game. The string gets wound flat and tight around the large wooden top. Then, with one loop around a finger, the player throws the top to the ground where it should spin for a long time. It’s fun to watch:

We spent time in Costa Rica several years ago. But we had not visited the Pacific coast and were curious to see Puntarenas.


Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Our ship docked right in town. To both sides of it lay wide sand beaches. We walked north along one beach, watching pelicans dive, fishing boats and suntanning visitors. Then we strolled along the streets of the small town and found postcards for our grandsons: two faded, crumpled old cards. Then we walked and walked until we finally found a post office. It had air conditioning so at first we didn’t mind that there were hordes of people ahead of us. Waiting in line must have been normal here because there were three rows of chairs in front of the wickets. Each chair had a number on the back. Once you got down the line to where the chairs were, you had earned the right to sit. Then, if and when the line moved again, everyone moved over one chair. Kind of like postal musical chairs. The problem was that no one moved very fast. Everyone was busy visiting or, mostly, watching their cell phones. After 20 minutes I had moved one chair. We finally had cooled down enough that we decided it wasn’t worth the wait for 2 stamps. IMG_3609

We walked back, along deserted streets, to the busy souvenir shops by the 

cruise dock. Here one market stall advertised with stamps for sale! Yeah! But it turned out that she took our cards and enough money for each stamp in exchange for the promise to go to the post office to buy stamps and mail them. Will she really go play postal musical chairs one day? Will she really buy stamps for our cards? Will she actually mail them? Only time will tell….IMG_3610

Mexican Ports – Muy agradable


The first three ports we stop at, after 2 days at sea, are in Mexico. In Cabo San Lucas we simply enjoy walking around the boardwalk, eating a Mexican lunch at a little café with servezas a fraction of the cost of those on board, and taking in the scenery. A modern tourist information center had city maps and English speaking staff, even if I can now get around with a little bit of Spanish. Plenty of local taxis if we wanted transportation but we simply walk to the town center following the board walk, find free wifi at Starbucks and stroll back.

Having studied Google maps, we saw that in port #2, Puerto Vallarta, the old city center was a long ways away from the cruise dock. So we did book a tour here: one that took us to town by bus, then around the old city on foot, then by bus around the area and to a restaurant for lunch in the hills, and back to the ship. It was a wonderful introduction to Puerto Vallarta. We walked quite a bit, through little city streets, to the cathedral, across a market, and the water front. We noticed that the city was quite clean and well kept. Lunch was great with good views of the beach, the city and our ship in the distance. Lots of high rises, very busy and not necessarily a place I’d go back to but clean, with nice beaches and lots of resorts.


In Manzanillo, our last Mexican stop, we walked along the nice, wide boulevard to a wonderful coffeeshop with great, free wifi and enjoyed good Mexican coffee while catching up on emails. Since we always send a postcard from every place we visit, to our grandsons, we asked in one little shop if we could buy stamps. A friendly young man dropped everything he was doing and walked us through a labyrinth of streets to a local post office. Would have never found it without his help!

It was fun to wonder back, look at the shops and get a feel for this town. It seemed more authentic, more Mexican than the previous stops – a place I might just look at in more detail for a beach holiday.IMG_3599

Curious About Cairo?

IMG_3201The capital city of Egypt, Cairo, has 24 million inhabitants. There aren’t a huge number of high rises, so the city is wide spread. Rows upon rows of apartment buildings look like they haven’t been finished yet, with rebar sticking out of the concrete and no glass in the windows. Most buildings have the same colourless, dusty look as the desert on whose fringe the city was built. Thanks to the Nile, there is a green stretch here, too, of agricultural land and palm trees.

The endless traffic creates a smog, not helped by the desert dust, that turns the sky grey by mid day. In the morning we can see pyramids from our 6th floor hotel room but by noon they have faded into the smog. It’s easy to get around by hailing a taxi. But you do need to insist on a meter. As in many Muslim countries, Friday and Saturday is weekend here and taxi fares often increases. The first taxi we tried on Friday morning quoted us 100 Egyptian pounds for a ride we knew would cost 50. We waved him away and the next taxi was indeed 50 EGP.

IMG_3054The first trip we made here was to Giza, to see the ‘real’ pyramids. Those in the Valley of the King are mere mounds and hills, not the pyramids we came to see. Seeing the pyramids all the way from our hotel room in Ma’adi should have told me how big they are. Once our van got closer, I thought it might be disappointing: just some large piles of rocks. But once I stood at the foot of the towering Great Pyramids, I got all choked up. It was overwhelming. I had this amazing feeling of centuries of people who toiled here, who dwelled and worked here. Thousands of years. People rolling stones up the sides. People buildings tombs inside. People selling their wares here, much like is still happening today. Camels lay in the shades while people flocked to the pyramids. It is a whopping 140 meters tall, I felt tiny at the base gazing up. How did they do it, all those centuries ago? I heard that all the rocks of this one pyramid could form a 10’ high wall around the entire country of France…

IMG_3231One of my other favourite places to visit in Cairo was the Khan El Khalili (Kh is a guttural ‘g’ in Arabic so it sounds like Ghan el Gha-lili), We started at the large mosque where families sat in the grass to eat from the tin containers they brought, getting ready to say their prayers. It was about 7 PM and getting dark as we followed the labyrinth of cobblestone streets and alleys. Archways revealed more and more tiny shops. Here you can buy leather, cloths, sponges, copper bowls, old old dial telephones, cotton candy, and anything else you might need. People wore western clothing, or gallibayas, long cotton shirts mostly in light blue or grey. Most women wear head scarves. There’s still a lot of smoking here, even inside restaurants. Smoking a water pipe is also popular. You can sit at a cafe that offers hookahs many flavours – rosewater, hibiscus, etc. I bought a wool carpet (that I now have to fit into my little roll-on bag) and some souvenirs. Then we ate traditional Egyptian food in a wonderful, bustling place with waiters wearing a fez and customers smoking hookahs while listening to traditional wailing music. When we left the souk, around 10 PM, the streets were even more crowded, the families still picnicking and, at an outdoor coffeeshop a group of older men was happily playing music with traditional string instruments and drums. IMG_3212


Muezzin tops for sale

With tourism down, vendors are desperate for clients. The funniest vendor was during our Nile cruise. Suddenly a tiny row boat appeared next to our cruise ship. A great big Egyptian stood up in his little boat, held up a tablecloth and hollered “Héllo dahling! Want to buy a table cloth?” He ended up bundling it up in a plastic bag and tossed it 5 decks upon, right onto a small table on the upper deck. It was the funniest show you’ve ever seen. Some people on the boat unwrapped it, he threw more, they threw stuff back and eventually he sold something, the money wrapped in the plastic bag and tossed back into the rowboat. The show was probably worth more than the merchandise.

Egypt doesn’t feel like the other African countries I have visited. Neither does it really resemble Middle Eastern countries, except perhaps Pakistan. So I asked several Egyptians “Do you feel your country is African or Middle Eastern?” They looked at me and shook their heads. “We’re neither. We’re Egyptian.” And it seems true that their history and culture is uniquely their own.

We find the people incredibly friendly. Many speak at least some English. They always smile and say “Welcome to Egypt!”. As soon as we tell a taxi driver that we are from Canada, he grins, gives us a thumbs up saying “Ah! Good! Canada – good!”

Traffic in Cairo makes me feel like I’m a pawn in some crazy board game in which each piece (car, bus, donkey cart or motorbike) aims to fill the next empty space. They don’t pay any attention to lines on the road but simply aim for space in the general direction they are headed. If you are in the far left lane and need to go right, you just elbow your way over and try to narrowly miss all of the other vehicles lurging in the same or different directions. They all honk, too. And, weirdest of all, most vehicles turn off their lights at night….

We visited the Egyptian Museum but were not impressed. It felt more like a storage facility than a museum. Rows upon rows of shelves with mummies, statues, carvings, all just lined up but not nicely displayed. There’s no air conditioning. Some displays have an old typed card with information but many treasures just sit behind a smudged window. It’s time the new museum, scheduled for 2020, opens to properly display Egypt’s treasure trove of artifacts. IMG_3319

In Cairo we also had the pleasure of going out for a night on a felucca. These traditional, flat bottom boats have one large triangular sail. By hoisting or lowering it, the boatsman gets where he wants, slowing tacking up and down the waters of the Nile. We watched the lights of Cairo by night as we ate shaved meat with yogurt and hummus and deep fried strips of aish baladi, traditional pita bread. As the warm air hugged us and the sounds of Cairo’s crazy traffic faded, we felt very grateful to have been able to visit this unique country and its beautiful people.IMG_3120

Abu Simbel: Traveling Back in Time

IMG_2530Egypt. Fabled land of sphinx and pyramids, of the river Nile and Cleopatra. I didn’t think I’d ever visit here. But – thanks to my books My Librarian is a Camel, the story of libraries around the world, and thanks to Stepping Stones, the story of a refugee family – I received an invitation from an international school in Cairo to come and do author presentations for the students.

Of course, that was an opportunity to plan some travel in Egypt. But where do you start and what is possible?

We started by getting books from the library, including travel guides. We also borrowed several DVD’s, even a copy of the classic Cleopatra movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. We visited the Egypt exhibit in the BC Museum and read many nonfiction books.

Then we delved into travel sites like Tripadvisor to read about other people’s experiences. We like to travel on our own rather than with a tour group so we started by counting the days we had to decide where to go. 

IMG_2522Arriving in Cairo, we connected immediately to a flight to Aswan, in the south of Egypt. We knew we would arrive very late, around midnight. After much research I found the perfect itinerary: showed a Nile cruise of 4 days leaving Aswan on a Wednesday and ending in Luxor. The rate was very reasonable and so I booked it, even though a Cairo travel agency insisted there was no such cruise from south to north. Research paid off.  

Prior to sailing, the boat offered an excursion to Abu Simbel, ancient temples in the very southern tip of Egypt on the border with Sudan. We really wanted to see that sight so we booked it but would be picked up at 5 AM. Since we arrived at midnight, I searched for a cheap hotel and found one for about 30 euros. It was cheap but clean and they even had a breakfast box ready for us when we left. The van for our trip south showed up early, at 4 AM when we were still sleeping, so it was a mad dash.

But soon we found ourselves on our way south through the western reaches of the Sahara Desert. After the Aswan Dam the road was long and boring. We dozed for 3 hours but by the time we arrived it was light and still relatively cool. We walked around a mount and suddenly there were there: four gigantic statues, 20 meters tall, the sitting figures of Pharaoh Ramesses II, carved more than 1,200 years before Christ. IMG_2490The sheer size and precision of the decorations is awe inspiring. The temples are dedicated to Ramesses and his wife Nefertari, (our guide called them Ramsex and Never-tired because they had something like 42 kids…) who is shown here in the same size as him, a big exception. In most places the females are depicted much smaller than the males. Besides the incredible exterior, you can enter the temples. I had always pictured these ancient temples as small and dark. But on the contrary, they are huge and light. At 30 meters high, the ceilings and walls are entirely covered in hieroglyphs. Having seen cave paintings in Australia and many other places, I imagined that hieroglyphs would be the same: a few found here and there, small and faded. But no – these hieroglyphs look as if they were carved yesterday. They cover the entire walls and tell stories that jump right off the ‘page’. Even if you can’t read the letters and words, the pictures are clear: they pay tribute to the good life of the pharaoh and what he did. You see people fishing, specific fish that are recognizable to this day. They carry pots and fruits. They dance and pray. You can see the clothing they wore and who they met. It is incredible. IMG_2516

These temples and statues at Abu Simbel would have been lost forever when the dam was build that now forms Lake Nasser. So, thank goodness, the authorities had the entire site moved from down below to up high. With painstaking precision, with cranes and helicopters, the sandstone was secured and hoisted up to a level that would be well above the water level.

The lake was created and now is home to some 30,000 crocodiles. But Abu Simbel’s temples continue to stare across the land, more than 3,000 years after they were conceived.

We were lucky to be assigned an amazing guide from Abu Simbel to Luxor. His name is Mr. Hamed. He is a master egyptologist, can read hieroplyghs like we read our alphabet. He knows everything and taught most guides here. If you ever come to Egypt, book him:


Santorini: the Icing on the Greek Cake

IMG_2406We tore ourselves away from our lovely little hotel in Naxos (pronounced Nachos) with its blue and white veranda, where we had fresh orange juice and coffee by the pool. And stood in line like cattle with hundreds of other tourists waiting for the Blue Star ferry to take us to Santorini.

These ferries are comfortable with nice sitting areas, restaurants and floor to ceiling windows. Why is the water here so blue compared to the grey waters of our Pacific? Is it simply the reflection of the sky? When I google for this, I am told it is because the Aegean Sea does not support algae growth… Interesting.

Greece_GRE.aiThe 3 hour ferry ride took us to the the island of Santorini. The crescent shape island is part of a circular chain that, together, used to form the round top of a volcano until, some 3,000 years ago, the top blew, the crater edge was formed and the crater itself filled with the sea.

Now the island rises sharply out of the sea. Picture 2/3 of a bundt cake, 1/3 cut away and crumbled up, cinnamon coloured. Then picture white icing dripping over the top and edges. That is Santorini. The white icing is a thick layer of Greek adobe style houses, walkways and churches, all desperately clinging to the edge or else they’d tumble into the sea on either side. 

We had seen Oia’s (pronounced E-Ah, like the call of the donkeys you can ride here) sunset walk on documentaries but it was pretty awesome to walk there in person. The walk way is narrow, slippery marble and lined with souvenir shops. We ignored the tourists and drank in the amazing views of steep rocky cliffs straight down to the sea.

IMG_2436We had coffee overlooking the blue sea on both sides with the iconic white churches with their blue domes along the path. I noticed a lovely little hotel right there along the sunset walk. When I googled it later I found out that rooms there start at 800 euros a night. Holy… who stays there? We are very happy with our little hotel with a blue pool and tiny kitchen. At a fraction of that cost!

The best part is that our room, booked through AirBnB came with a free car. Usually, I don’t trust that word “free” but when I checked prices of nearby rooms without a car they were indeed about the same price. It’s wonderful to have a car here since there’s quite a bit to explore. We drove to Oia on the opposite side of the island and explored some back roads. Kees bravely turned left when I suggested it, plunging down a narrow, winding road that brought us down to the east side of Santorini. Low and behold we found our way back to the town of Perissa where we stay, via a nice supermarket. 

We walked a stoney path to a small blue and white Greek restaurant and savoured every moment on the patio as the sun set and Greek guitar music played. The steep hillside has twinkling lights along a path that leads to a tiny white chapel carved into the rock. I feel like Meryl Streep will come around the corner any moment, singing Mama Mia!

IMG_2443Santorini is half the size of Salt Spring Island where we live. But, according to the statistics I can find, it has 125,000 permanent residents and up to 2 million visitors per year (in 2014). Salt Spring has slightly more than 10,000 people and does host a fair number of tourists but not nearly that of Santorini. We often feel that the island “is full” in summer when traffic glogs the main roads, the market it crowded and there are not enough accommodations for all the visitors. No wonder then that Santorini is really coping with huge problems. There is not enough water, the roads are full of potholes and overnight places are at a premium (I heard about houses on the caldera going for 5000 euros a night – who would pay that?!).

There are small metal signs attached to shops and homes that says “You are visiting here but we live here, please respect our privacy and property”. I sure hope it won’t come to that on Salt Spring but perhaps it is time to look at how similar tourist attractions cope. According to recent headlines “Amsterdam is now actively discouraging tourism”. There might be lessons learned there about promoting places to visit, no matter how difficult that might be if you only focus on the money to be made.

IMG_2430Leaving Santorini, we took the Sea Jet ferry. Blue Star Ferries was a lot nicer, with space to walk and nice sitting areas. Sea Jet is much like an airplane, with assigned seats and no place to walk. It was a long 6 hour journey back to Athens. All of the islands along the way looked identical: brown barren rock, almost no vegetation and very dry. I’m sure there are more beautiful islands in northern Greece. We did enjoy coming here and seeing the sites but all in all I had pictured Greek islands very differently from what we saw: interesting history, lovely people, great climate but dry and rocky, no shade and barren rock.

Our hotel on Naxos:  


For my illustrator friends: this is believed to be the first piece of art ever to be signed by an artist.


How do you operate a washing machine in Greek?!

All photos ©margrietruurs

Oracles and Miracles


Road to Delphi

I wonder if the Oracle of Delphi could have predicted that we would show up, unplanned.

We got up at 5 AM (!) to follow our days in Athene with a ferry ride to our first island: Mykonos. We had carefully researched and selected three of the nearly 2,000 Greek Islands. Our choices were based on geography: they had to be near Athene because of our limited time. We watched travel shows to find a variety of size and landscape. 

As we had arranged with our AirBnB hosts, we left the key on the table and pulled the door locked behind us. We stepped into the still dusk alley and walked over, with our luggage, to a hotel around the corner from where we hailed a taxi to take us to Piraeus, the busy harbour of Athens. 

“No ferries!” announced the taxi driver, “National strike!” I had heard rumours of a one day strike on Monday but this was Tuesday. Surely our ferry would take us to the island? But no, inside the hotel our fears were confirmed. So if the ferries don’t go, you can’t reach the hotel you booked. And thousands of other tourists can’t leave so hotel rooms will be at a premium. What to do?

In cases like this I find that the ‘Serenity Poem’ always works: ‘grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.’ Or, in the words of our Greek guide we would meet later: “things ghahppen that will ghahppen”.

First we decide to ensure that we have a place to sleep in Athens for the next two nights and book a hotel via Orbitz. No problem.



Then we take a taxi to that hotel, leave our luggage (because it was only about 8 AM, too early to check in), use their wifi and walk to the travel agency through whom we had booked our Greek ferries. Thank goodness I had decided that booking it myself was too complicated. We always book everything ourselves but this time we are grateful we didn’t. AFEA Travel was amazing. They wasted no time in cancelling our first ferry ticket, hopefully to get a refund. They contacted our hotel in Mykonos to confirm we couldn’t make it. They re-booked a ferry for a few days later from Athens to our next island: Naxos. And then they booked us for a full day excursion to Delphi. All is well again. We are grateful that so many people here speak good English and that all we encounter are kind and helpful. (

That night we marvel at the sight of the Parthenon, as the sun set over the Aegan sea, and look forward to a totally new plan: learning all we can about oracles and mythology.

I love being in the very place where Zeus ruled the world, where Apollo reigned and where Hercules flexed his muscles. History is tangible here, the ‘story’ part of the word being especially applicable. Everything is stories.   Where we come from, what it looks like, how it was. Even the language is rich in history and meaning.

Did you know that you speak Greek every day? Words like forum, gymnasium, marathon, spartan, stadium, atlas, even the word phone all come from Greek. And well known brand names, too, like Nike, Amazon and Olympus all come from Greek.


Delphi is the ‘navel’ of the earth

On the way to Delphi, our guide tells wonderful stories about battles with giants and cyclops, about gods and their confusing offspring, one of them marrying his own mother. Delphi is a two hour drive north of Athens on the mainland, in the mountains and was believed to be the navel of the flat earth. We drive through green fields, sparse forests and picturesque villages. 

Delphi was a bustling place about 2,500 years ago. The original artifacts that have been found around the remaining ruins are now housed in a nearby museum. The marble statues, gold decorations and bronze castings are impressive and represent the humans who lived and worked here so many thousands of years ago. 


Oracle of Delphi….

The Oracle was fascinating. Apollo ruled here as god and the female oracle was believed to be his direct connection to the people. I find it much better to buy into this belief than to think of the more realistic alternative: the woman selected to be the voice of the gods, was kept high on methane and chewed intoxicating leafs. Her incoherent mumblings were interpreted by three poets who tried to relay them as sensible, poetic lines.

Really? The future of the world was determined by a woman who was stoned and by three men who liked words?

But despited being high, the Oracle was apparently able to predict future events. She was consulted, and proven to be correct, by many travellers from far away. The way she predicted what would happen, make it sounds like Delphi was a kind of CNN or BBC headquarters of the ancient world.

However, they had a kind of a blanket statement that meant ‘use these predictions at your own risk’ – whatever the Oracle told you, you had to use your own common sense to interpret it. One god was told he would destroy a mighty land. He did, but hadn’t realized it was his own land…

No matter how you look at it, the Oracle of Delphi is an impressive part of the history of mankind. 

What I find particularly fascinating, having traveled to many interesting places, is that all peoples throughout history, in far flung places, seem to have come up with very similar stories. The cave paintings of Australia’s aboriginal people, the stories of the Aztec, those of the Haida, the carvings at Angkor Wat, all resemble similar stories. Here in Delphi we learn about a Greek myth about rain that washed away mankind except for two whose task it was to repopulate the world after their boat stranded on a mountain top and the rains receded….

Perhaps the saddest story I learned today was the fact that Aesop lived here. He was a slave but earned his freedom by his amazing storytelling powers. We saw names of people carved in marble, listing those who obtained their freedom, apparently his name was recorded here, too. Aesop happily went on telling stories as a free man. Until the Greeks decided they did not like the tales he told and pushed him to his death from a mountain top. So much for freedom of speech and censorship.