Olympia

Trip Start Sep 13, 2010
1
6
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Trip End Sep 30, 2010


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Flag of Greece  , Peloponnese,
Sunday, September 19, 2010

This morning while Mom showered, I went for a walk to get pictures of the island, exploring side streets and seeking out beautiful vistas. There are cats everywhere resting on high spots, walls, and stairs.  I have included many pictures.  The shops on main street were not open yet so you will have to imagine the windows and doors open and sample wares out on the walkway and people walking about.  After following the main street to its terminus, I doubled back and made my way down to the lowest path along the sea wall.  I came across the church of Panagia Chrysafitissa.  Its original date is uncertain but it was restored by the Venetians in the 18th century.  I like this church because you can see its bell hanging from a nearby Acacia tree.  By the time I got back to the room I was soaked and had to change my clothes after a 45 minute walk through the streets.  It is another hot and sunny day at 32 degrees.

I had a great breakfast of yogurt and fruit.  There is something wonderful about Greek yogurt and it was drizzled with honey.  Then we packed, brought our bags to the front gate (I have included a video of part of that walk) and were off to Olympia.  I got lost in Tripoli when the road I needed to take was blocked and my idea of a detour ended up taking me way off course.  A nice young man who didn't know English well enough to tell me where to go, led me on his bike for about 2 kilometres until I was in the right direction.  Let me tell you, it takes a lot longer to go the last 116 km through the mountains than it does on a regular highway.  Longer like an extra hour!  I was warned in Tripoli that the road is not good and very curvy.  It was ridiculous and I spent at least 2 hours zigzagging through the mountains on skinny roads that in places only had room for 1 car.  By the time we found our hotel and got out, my legs were sore and my bottom hurt.  I think I had been tensing them the whole time.  Mom on the other hand was raring to go.  After we checked in and put all of our bags in the room she wanted to head straight to ancient Olympia.  This is after a 5 hour drive!  So we were off again.  Fortunately the site is only 5 minutes down the road.  I am also glad that it is a flat site with no climbing.

One of the things that struck me was the scale of the place.  It is huge and very grand if you can try to picture what it would have looked like during the height of the Olympic games popularity in 576 BC.  Archaeologists have somehow managed to determine the purpose of each building based on artifacts found inside so we were able to imagine the space and how it was used.  They also had drawings of what they believed the intact space looked like.  It was spectacular. 

The Olympics were not just athletic contests but also a venue for writing, poetry and history readings. The site was a religious sanctuary and while many of the buildings were devoted to the housing of athletes and officials and training facilities, I would say an equal proportion of space was devoted to honouring the gods… particularly Zeus with temples .  Also, business transactions and treaties were made between leaders of city-states during the Olympics.  Slaves and women were not allowed to be spectators and women caught sneaking in were thrown off a cliff.  After several earthquakes toppled buildings and floods buried the site with mud and silt, it fell into oblivion until it was rediscovered by a British antiquarian in 1766.  It is still being restored today.

At the very end of our walk, we finally came across the stadium.  It is large and could house over 45,000 people.  The rectangular space is surrounded by a hillside.  There is one small formal sitting area for judges but other than that, people just sat on the slopes to watch.  There is a grand entry into the stadium and the final of the shotput event for the recent Athens Olympics was held in this ancient stadium.  I didn’t watch that event on television but I can only imagine what they must have felt like walking through that entry arch.

Then we were off to the museum where they house the artifacts and relics found on the site.  I was amazed by the prehistoric pottery and tools that they found dating back to before 2000 BC!  That is incredibly old and the pottery looked very nice.  They also found ancient weaponry and defensive gear and I wondered if the builders of Olympia knew of the history they were building on top of.

We did take our time through all of this and ended up finishing with the museum with 15 minutes to spare before it closed.  Perfect.  We walked back to the car and I felt like I had run a Marathon today but Mom seemed fine.  We shared a wonderful pizza at a local restaurant before coming back to our fantastic room.  This room has a big, deep bathtub which I took full advantage before writing this entry.
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