Our last two days have been full of Ancient Greece. We are on our regional tour of Greece and spent our first night in Nafilon after visiting Mycenae.
Our next day was to Olympia. We had an interesting drive over the mountains but it was difficult to get a lot of long range views as the atmosphere was quite hazy. There were lots of orchards in the first part of the day and then once over the mountains we were in an area of olive groves. A lot of this area had ben badly burnt in Greece’s forest fires in 2007. I had seen photos of this area from WW2 where the Australians and New Zealanders had fought the Germans. It was an area where a lot of tough fighting took place.
The major part of our day was at the archeological site of Olympia. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but the site was much more extensive than I expected. Once inside the entrance, we found the remains of buildings that included gymnasiums and wrestling halls. There were the obvious set of ruined temples.
The main area was the original stadium which is clearly visible. It is a big horseshoe shaped feature – probably 100 metres long and with a sloping embankment where the crowds would have watched the events. The male athletes competed in the nude and women were not allowed to watch; having to remain outside the stadium and wait for news of the outcome of events.
The main theme of the games was in honour of the Gods. The first written account of the games here date back to 776 BC. They were discontinued in 394 AD through the influence of the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius. Competitors had to speak Greek and be of Greek birth.
My biggest disappointment was the site where the Olympic flame is lit. It is near the ruins of the temple of Zeus (where the original 12 metre high statue of ivory and gold was one of the seven ancient wonders of the world).
Rather than being on a specially carved piece of rock, like I had imagined, it is done on a low lying flat rock that was originally used as an alter for sacrificing animals to the gods. As unimpressive as it may be, I only had a very quick time to take a photo before it was surrounded and swamped with a group from a cruise ship.
Our second day was warm and our plans became somewhat revised.We drove north to Patras skirting the town, and crossed the 2 1/2 kilometre long bridge crossing the strait which was designed by a Spanish architect.
From there, we followed the coast to the town of Itea. This town was fairly unremarkable, but it did give us a chance to wander around the seafront and have a meal of calamari and a glass of retsina in one of the little restaurants on the sea shore. The town also had a bank and a post office which many people found useful.
We spent most of the afternoon at our hotel- in the town of Delphi, high up on the slopes of Mt Parnassus. After checking in, we found that the pool was very tempting and it was really pleasant to float around with the mountain peak directly above us. This area is subject to earthquakes and we were hoping that today wouldn’t be the day!
The town was rather cute with two streets that ran across the face of the mountain; each separated by a series of steps. The traffic flowed -different ways on each street level. They were full of cute shops, taverns, and bars. I don’t know- where the locals would shop as this is certainly a tourist town. Perhaps there were other streets somewhere else of more functional shops for- everyday life. I couldn’t help but weaken and buy a CD of Zorba music and other Greek dances.
On our last morning, we visited the archeological site of Delphi. This site was dedicated to the ancient Greek god of Apollo, the son of Zeus. The temple was the house of the famous oracle (the Delphi Sibyl) to whom people would come from all over the ancient world to consult about the future. The name is still continued through the Delphi forecasting technique used in IT applications.
It is a bit of a mystery as to why it is located here, but apparently two eagles flew around-the world- in different directions and had a mid air collision here and so this town became the centre of the world. Interesting! The site is on a steep hillside and includes he temple of Apollo, a treasury, theatre and a stadium at the highest point.
We left here in the the morning to return to Athens. We were back at our very ordinary Hotel Espesia (Non) Palace, in the centre of the city, but somehow ended up with nicer rooms than those we had on our initial stay in Athens. From our room, we had a great view of the Acropolis as it was floodlit after dark.
We finished off our day with a walk into the Plaka which was full of its narrow streets, ancient churches and cute shops.
We left Athens on Friday, May 23 for a three day cruise to the Greek islands. I’m not sure
when II will get to post this;- perhaps once we get to Turkey.