Imagine a group of elderly tourists, some of them walking with sticks. Early in the morning. Their Greek tour leader brings them to an excavation and starts to buy tickets. He asks for the discount that is normally granted to the elderly. The guard looks at the gray haired people. It is impossible not to realize that all of them have passed their sixty-fifth birthday long ago. Still, the guard demands to see their passports – which they have of course left in the hotel because the hotel owner has warned them of pickpockets.
Or take an incident I witnessed in 2007. Someone is taking a photo in the museum and by accident uses the flash on his camera. A guard starts to shout at him and insists that the tourist formats the entire memory card.
This is Delphi.
This is the place where old people have to prove they are old. This is the place where forgetting to switch off your flash means that you lose all your photos, even the ones you took two weeks ago on the Athenian Agora and the ones you took in Corinth or Olympia. In Delphi, they train the guards to be as rude as possible.
And yet, every time I am in Greece, I visit this site. There are many reasons why. Because it is the most beautiful place in the world, to start with. Because the museum has one of the most interesting collections of ancient Greek art. Because this collection is also very well displayed. Unlike in western Europe, where museums often show objects in poorly lit rooms in which it all looks very mysteriously but you can’t see a thing, the rooms in the Delphi Museum are bright and it is easy to study the objects. Greece has the best museums in the world, and in Greece, Delphi is one of the very best. No doubt about it.
Here you can see small Mycenaean objects, bronze cauldrons, the sculpture of the treasuries of the Siphnians, Athenians, and Massiliots, a splendid Cleobis and Biton, a cow made of silver plate, beautiful face masks with golden decorations, the archaic pediments of the temple of Apollo (with an impressive Dionysus), the monument of Aemilius Paullus, and the famous charioteer.
Delphi… You can only like the place. Except for the guards. During the afternoon, I saw that group of elderly again, in the museum. At one point, they burst out laughing about something their guide said. They were clearly enjoying their visit and because they were – except for me – the only ones in the room, no one was disturbed. Still, the guard shouted that they had to be quiet, easily producing more decibels than the laughing people.
The most beautiful place on earth will always attract visitors, so there’s absolutely no reason to remain polite to them. If the Delphian authorities replace the guards with Dobermanns, no one will notice, except of course that dogs can be kind.