The park bench was hard. Tossing and turning offered little relief or hope of achieving any level of comfort. The larky park gardener, by means of loud spritz from the garden hose, the scraping of garden tools on cobblestone and the violent, unnecessary rustling of tall bushes, looped wide circles around me ensuring that I wasn’t getting any sleep. My efforts of achieving some degree of slumber before the 7am bus to the Doric Temple of Apollo became increasingly futile. I looked at my watch. It was 4am.
As the seconds crept by, the gardener’s racket became progressively more melodic which I’m sure I could chalk up to some innate, self-preserving, mental condition that converts cacophony into music. I began looking around the garden in the town square. I tried to concentrate on the perfume of the roses and the smell of the water from the gurgling fountain all the while attempting to ignore the buzzing of mosquitoes that sounded like diesel-powered buzz-saws in my ears.
I sat up; coming to the realization that sleep was now just a dream. I looked over at my travel buddy, who seemed dead to the world just a few benches down from me; mouth gaping open, mosquitoes kamikaze diving his face. At least one of us was getting some rest. I decided to simply watch the gardener who was slowly winding the garden hose with its angry, hissing leak. Every few seconds he would shoot me a disapproving glance under a scrunched and furry-eyebrowed brow, condemning our intrusive, backpacker ways of commandeering an empty bench in lieu of a more costly bed at a local hostel. I looked at my watch. 4:12am.
7am we found ourselves to be the first and only individuals in line at the bus station ready to purchase our tickets to the Doric Temple of Apollo. The vapid man at the ticket counter blankly stared at us through the worn glass doors of the tiny station and we in turn, stared back in our sleep deprived delirium; weeble-wobbling zombies wearing cock-eyed sunglasses. After a few minutes, he opened the door and we crept in to purchase our tickets. Soon afterwards a bus huffed and snorted to a stop in front of the station and we climbed aboard its empty innards. Save for us, the bus remained empty as we rumbled at break-neck-speeds in typical Greek fashion to the ruins that awaited our exploring.
Not twenty minutes later, the bus spun around the cul-de-sac outside Apollo’s temple, hissing and groaning to a jarring halt. Stepping out into the sunlight we were greeted by the Doric columns of the temple bathed in a warm golden glow, a soft sweet breeze that tussled the vibrant poppies at the base of the protective gates, and a sign that stated that the site would open at 11am. The bus peeled out behind us. It was 7:32am.
A quick, numb, survey of our surroundings established the absence of any sort of civilization bringing to mind the question of why the bus came out here at this time at all...
We did however notice the fortress on the mountain a few miles away. The fortress was Acrocorinth. The pre-Christian walls crowning the mount added to by Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian and Turkish occupation. As the song goes, time was on our side, and so was adrenaline due to the lack of sleep. So, with a silent nod, we ascended the mount to the fortress.
It too was closed. Behind the massive, black, wrought iron gates that towered above us was the caretaker’s house. I yelled a few times to see if anyone was there and as I leaned on the bars, they opened with a low groan. I looked at my buddy and with a shoulder shrug, we entered the fortress.
With some apprehension about trespassing on national monuments, we made our way between the main towers and into the heart of the fortress. It was deserted. Doors were swinging open in the breeze and free for entry. There were remains of churches, mosques, houses, fountains and cisterns. I cursed myself a few times for not having a more powerful flashlight or a length of rope to climb into some of the structures shrouded in cavernous darkness.
|Photo by Antonio D. Paterniti|
|Photo by Andrew Crocker|
The once lifeless cul-de-sac in front of Apollo’s temple was now stuffed with buses and tourists scampering about, loading film into cameras, reviewing maps, chasing uninterested children and adjusting the position of knee-high black socks. With a sigh we walked into the midst of this contrary situation. We would not be able to wander and wonder quietly through these ruins as we did through the fortress on the mountain. We would have to share this site putting aside our exploratory covetousness.
Once inside we bifurcated ourselves from the crowd and found what used to be a garden, at one time full of lush foliage and artesian springs, now arid and covered with layers of sand and crumbled history. Beneath my shuffling feet, a speck of bright green appeared. Kneeling, I began brushing the dirt aside revealing a multicolored mosaic tile floor. We stood and looked at our find; a glittering array of patterns and colors hidden under just centimeters of ancient dust. The sun's rays sparkled upon the tiles again after perhaps thousands of years.
|Photo by Andrew Crocker|