The first month of classes at CYA is interrupted by field trips, which are led by Professors and staff and serve to inform us about the archaeological and cultural history of Greece beyond Athens. The first trip was to Delphi, a few hours away by bus. The lower site is the setting of the Tholos of Delphi, a circle of marble columns which are all that remain of an ancient temple to the gods. Above the Tholos, by the road, our Professor showed us where to drink and fill our water bottles from the sacred spring of Delphi, which is supposed to infuse the visitor with divine inspiration from the god Apollo. The main site begins higher up on the mountain, where monuments to Athenian victories, as well as temples, columns, and the Athenian treasury, line the path towards the seat of the oracle. The stadium is at the top of the ridge, where the Pythian games where held in ancient times.
On the same day, the busses took us to the monastery of Hosios Loukas. There are many active monasteries in Greece – this one is home to four monks, who are kind enough to let respectfully-dressed tourists visit to see the unique architecture of their home. I forgot to drink enough water (don’t do this!) and felt dizzy partway through our tour of the church, so I took a break to sit down on the wall overlooking the slope of Mount Helicon and the rows of olive trees and bushes below. Nadia, one of the lovely CYA staff, also brought me water and electrolytes, and told me stories about previous CYA students who actually converted to the Greek Orthodox Church after being inspired by their time abroad. I am not a religious or spiritual person, but it was easy to see how someone would be drawn to the calm, quiet heights of a Greek monastery. I was grateful for the chance to learn more about Orthodox religion, and the concepts sacred and the profane in relation to monastic life.
At the foot of Mount Parnassus, near Delphi, we stopped in the village of Arachova. Arachova is a scenic ski village; decorative snowflake shapes hang above the streets, and in the winter people come from all over Greece to ski on the mountain. The town is also famous for a cheese called formaella, made from sheeps milk and sold in the Parnassos area, or served grilled in tavernas with a lemon and an espresso.