We didn’t have to get up as early this morning as our excursion met at 8:15, so we got up at 7:15, which was right about the time I felt like I had slept enough (Toren too). After a quick breakfast, we got our tour bus stickers got on our bus. We drove straight to Olympia and the Olympia Archaeological Site, which is about 30 minutes from Katakolo by bus. There is a modern day city of Olympia, but it is quite small and, like most of Greece, heavily dependent upon tourism with just a few hotels, restaurants, and gift shops. The major attraction, of course, is the ruin of the original Olympic stadium and all of its accompanying buildings – temples, training rooms, Roman bathhouses, etc.
The official start date of the Greek Olympic Games is 776 BCE, but our guide our guide said that they started before that, possibly as early as 1,000 BCE. noted early on that the olympic games pre-date the official start date by the Greeks of 776 by about 230 years – so they may have started as early as 1000 BCE. They were held religiously (and I do mean religiously; they were dedicated to Zeus) every four years (with some additional games at other locations around Greece in the off years) until about 393 CE, when Christianity took over the Roman empire and all things Pagan were not only abandoned but outlawed. Anyway, before anthropologists excavated the ruins, they were completely covered with sand, dirt, and vegetation and, of course, much of the site had been looted. Thus, the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire is responsible for the nearly 1,500 year hiatus in the Olympic Games. A French historian, Pierre de Coubertin, was the founder of the International Olympic Committee and the person who lobbied to bring back the Olympic Games. His heart is buried in a silver box in the ruins of Olympia.
We spent about 3 hours at the ruins, walking around with our tour guide. Our guide wasn’t great this time. He would stop every 50 meters or so (I’m starting to think in meters after spending 2 weeks in Europe) and drone on and on, repeating himself 4 to 8 times during the course of the tour. Toren couldn’t take the standing around and got antsy, so he and I traipsed all over the ruins well before the rest of our tour group did. We saw the temple of Zeus, which, before the statue of Zeus was taken to Constantinople (probably by the Romans) and then burned (possibly by Christians) was one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World. Here’s what it may have looked like before it was destroyed:
Today, all that is left is a ruined temple:
The one pillar you see standing was reconstructed for the Olympic Games in Greece in 2004. Here’s a panorama of the entire Temple of Zeus:
The Temple of Hera is where the Olympic flame is lit every time there is an Olympic event. That is, of course, a modern tradition started by Germany in 1936 under Hitler and Goebbels for propaganda purposes. There is no constant flame there and, in fact, the alter in front of the temple of Hera is quite modest:
You can see the Temple of Hera, which was likely the second largest temple after Zeus’s, just behind Debi in the above photo. Here we are in front of it:
The sculptor of the statue of Zeus, Phidias, had a workshop in Olympia (which was later turned into a Christian church). He is recognized as one of the greatest sculptors of his time.
The most impressive site is probably the stadium, which is quite massive and could have accomodated about 40,000 people. As our guide in Athens noted, the original stadium did not include seats or benches; people sat on the ground. The copy in Athens has benches, but those were added by the Romans. The stadium in Olympia was used for all sorts of races and includes two finish lines, one for men and one for women. I tried to get Toren to run the length of the stadium, but he only made it half way. I walked the rest of it – it’s actually quite far – 180+ meters. Here are Suzy and Debi at the entrance to the stadium:
Here are Toren and I on one edge of the stadium:
And a panorama of the stadium:
From the ruins, we walked up to the archaeological museum, which contains the statues and other remaining objects from the ruins. The museum has many statues, but many are missing. The decorations of the temple of Zeus are set up roughly as they would have been seen on the outside of the temple, which is pretty cool. Once again, I had to leave the tour group as Toren was getting antsy, so I did a quick walk through then let Toren run around in the court yard outside. I also picked up some baklava, which was good, but not amazingly different from what I’ve had in the U.S. Toren and Ethan played for a while in the courtyard, then we headed back to the buses and drove into Olympia for about 15 minutes of shopping. We then drove back to the ship. We could have walked around Katakalon more, but we didn’t want to buy anything else and there aren’t any other particularly famous things to see in Katakalon, so we boarded the ship and ate lunch.
After lunch we took Toren to the pool. He loved it, but we were booted out after about 30 minutes by a pool attendant when they realized Toren wears a diaper. No kids with diapers allowed! And there is no other pool for them. This is kind of annoying considering ½ of the main pool onboard is a wading pool that is about 2 inches deep, and then about 1 ½ feet deep and it is fenced off from the rest of the pool, so it is clearly designed for little kids. But they wouldn’t allow it. So, we left. We then took a nap and went to dinner.
We did make it to the onboard show this night. Debi saw that it was a ballroom dance extravaganza, so she really wanted to try to make it, and given that Toren had been falling asleep around 10:00 pm, that meant he might make it through the show that started at 9:15. So, we went with Gary, Rosemary, Brent, Suzy, and Ethan. Toren made it through about half the show before falling asleep. It turns out the show was pretty good. There were two dancers who seemed like they were probably professional ballroom dancers. The other six (three couples) were decent dancers, but not nearly as polished as the main couple. The singers were also good, but not amazing. Basically they performed a variety of dance numbers set to popular music with ballroom rhythms – chacha, swing, country swing, tango, etc. With Toren out, we went to bed after the show.