Ancient Stadiums And Steep Tolls.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
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Trip End Dec 31, 2018


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Where I stayed
Pension Posidon
What I did
Ancient Olympia (Archaia Olympia)
Read my review - 2/5 stars

Flag of Greece  , Peloponnese,
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"What a beautiful bridge" I said to Avan as we crossed from the Peloponnese region across the sea to the next region in Greece. I took a couple of pictures and then up ahead, just at the exit we saw a toll booth. Now toll booths are everywhere in Greece. I am not sure how the Greeks can afford to drive on the freeways at all. We see many vehicles exiting freeways and re-entering, but without the knowledge of the side roads we are unable to dodge the tolls.

12.90 Euros the sign said. What?! We couldn't believe it! No sign previously to warn of the toll. This is $17.20 in Australian dollars for the privilege of a couple of minutes on a bridge. We dutifully paid up. Fuel is very expensive here too at around $A2.50 a litre but the car hire was not exorbitant.

The day had started well. We arrived very early at the Olympia Archaeological Site to be there when the gates opened to beat the crowds. The ticket booth had a sign up saying the 18th was worldwide museum day, which meant all museums and archaeological sites would be free today. Yes!! We had been very annoyed the afternoon of the day before, when we had arrived at 4.00pm to find the site already closed. This is commonplace in Greece, but just so annoying as it stays light until 8.30pm and we would have been happy to have completed our sightseeing and moved on. Instead we had to find accommodation in the touristy Olympia new town. But now, refreshed after a good sleep in a little family run pension, and finding that all today’s sightseeing would be free, our spirits are lifted and we are able to really enjoy the site of where the ancient Olympics were begun and staged every four years. 

Olympia is a gorgeous archaeological site. Set amongst trees and rolling hills it has an evocative feel - well that is until the tour bus people roll in. We hurried around the viewpoints and sights so as to beat them and get at least most of our photos free of the annoying tourists posing at each ruin. We also could read the excellent English information boards at the view points before the crowds. Seeing the ancient stadium of the first Olympics was memorable. You could imagine scenes of athletes and judges and spectators. Of course all athletes were men who performed naked, as were the trainers and coaches, so the imagination has to include that!

The museum of the ancient Olympics was excellent too. One quirky story told in the museum was that a woman once posed as a a male athletics trainer to be able to enter the (men only) stadium after training her sons for various events. However, when one of her sons won the boxing, she screamed with such delight that it was immediately obvious that she was a woman. Thereafter as well as the athletes competing naked, the trainers also had to be naked so no woman could pose as a man. The only way a woman could have any access to the Olympic games was to compete in equestrian events, which allowed female competitors. (There were separate games held for women).

Being International Free Museum Day, we decided to change our plans a little to make the most of it and drove on to the Archaeological site of the ancient city of Delphi and on our way, amongst other roads tolls, we encountered the expensive bridge toll. It took away the excitement of free museum day I can tell you! We just gave the money saved back to the Greece government another way.
 
The Delphi Archaeological site required a steep climb, but with amazing rewards for our efforts. On the way up through amazing temple ruins, we had a glorious view of the theatre and then at the top of the path we found the amazing Delphi stadium, in much better condition than the one at Olympia, and with a ranger present who was able to answer our questions. 

We stopped by the museum (wonderfully free) and asked for directions to another nearby UNESCO site, the Monastery of Hosios Loukas. Directions were a bit complicated, our lovely sat-nav girl Athina was no help, and worst of all heavy rain set in. We had to back track a few times on impossibly narrow winding roads, but finally found the place and the rain eased off just as we arrived. The monastery was founded by Loukas a hermit and bizarrely his remains lie in state in the church. The monastery has some amazing mosaics and gorgeous Byzantine architecture.

On the road again we set a northerly course up and over an exceptionally high mountain range heading to Meteora. Greece is amazingly mountainous and even has snow still visible on mountain tops even though it is nearly summer. The red of the poppies and yellow and purple of the other profuse wildflowers provide spectacular scenery, for our late afternoon journey.

Footnote: The Archaeological Site of Olympia, Archaeological Site of Delphi and the Monastery of Hosios Loukas are UNESCO World Heritage listed. Olympia was also the home of the statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  

May 18th is International Museum Day and museums worldwide are free" we read on a sign at the ticket office to the Olympia Archaeological Site.



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