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Greece – Day 10

Greetings and welcome to day 10! Today we visit the magnificent archeological site of ancient Olympia, home to the original Olympic games of Greece. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

Here is a view of the suspension bridge in the morning. You can make out more detail, but it is nowhere near as spectacular looking as it was last night. Apparently, they only light it up fancy on Sunday evenings, so we were fortunate to have arrived on the night that we did.
Here is a picture of our local Olympia tour guide, Angeli. She easily wins the prize for most attractive guide on the tour. Because of that distinction, I can’t speak much as to the quality of her guiding as I was distracted. I seem to recall that she was a pretty decent guide in addition to her other charms.
Here is a picture I took of a scale model of the ancient Olympia site. I added my own labels for reference. I thought this might help to illustrate how large the site was as well as show where everything was in relation to one another.
Palaestra
The Palaestra is where the Olympic athletes would train before participating in the games. As is the case with most ancient Greek ruins, the standing columns are reconstructed from the existing ruins. The Olympic site was mostly destroyed by an earthquake in 551 AD and then buried in silt in 600 AD.
Philippeion
This rotunda shrine was commissioned by Phillip II in honor of the Macedonian kings.
Temple of Zeus

Built in the middle of 5th century BC, the Temple of Zeus was home to one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, which was the giant ivory and gold statue of Zeus seated inside. The statue is said to have been so large that if Zeus had stood, he would’ve pierced the ceiling of the temple. Little remains of the statue today, but a drawing in the museum shows what it might have looked like. One of the columns of the temple was reconstructed in honor of the 2004 Olympic games in Greece. The statues displayed in the museum were originally perched over the entryway to the temple.
Temple of Hera
Built during the 7th century BC – long before the Temple of Zeus – the Temple of Hera is one of the oldest temples in Greece. It was in front of the Temple of Hera that the original Olympic flames were lit using a very polished parabolic bowl to focus sunlight onto the kindling of the torch.
Fountain
Dubbed the Nymhi of Herodes, this fountain was built by the Romans towards the end of the ancient Olympic period to provide fresh water to the athletes and attendees. Before that time, they had been on their own to obtain water.
Olympic Stadium
The original stadium was built during the 6th century BC but was little more than a simple track as running was the only event in the original games. As more events were added, the stadium was remodeled. Around 500 BC, the sloping sides were added for spectators and the vaulted entryway (where I’m standing) was built in 3rd century BC. The marble slab in the ground served as the original starting line for the Olympic races. I was able to sit right on it and ponder the ancient spectacle that once took place there.

In the nearby museum, we were able to see many fantastic relics associated with the ancient Olympic games. The statue of Nike (victory) was once perched on a tall pedestal in front of the temple of Zeus. It was created in 5th century BC to commemorate the victory of the Peloponnesian war. It is mostly a plaster recreation now, but serves to suggest how magnificent the original was. Also in the museum was the ancient helm of Miltiades which was an offering to Zeus in celebration of the victory at Marathon. One of the best preserved artifacts is the statue of Hermes preparing to carry the infant Dionysos safely away from the jealous Hera.
For lunch, we dined in a nearby cafe and I enjoyed my first taste of Pasticcio, which is a macaroni, beef, and tomato confection baked in the oven. It disappeared from my plate almost instantly. For dinner we congregated in one of the hotel rooms and shared wine, cheese, and bread. I love these little parties as it is a fun way to get to know the other members of the tour group – and drink lots of wine too!

Now we must say goodbye to Olympia as we will be journeying to the Peloponnesian peninsula (technically an island now because of the canal) to visit the ancient site of Corinth. Do tune in and see what happens!

3 Responses to “Greece – Day 10”

  1. on 19 Nov 2008 at 12:40 pm Kimberly Champagne

    What happened to Day 9? Hope you are having a great time. The history and pictures have been amazing but I am sure it is just a drop of what you actually did in Greece.

  2. on 22 Nov 2008 at 9:21 am Mike Carson

    Michael

    You did a superb job of capturing the essence of what we saw, and thankfully have saved me a lot of head scratching about names, guides, history, etc. Looking forward to your info on the isles !! Our best to your mother.

    Mike and Lori Carson

  3. on 25 Nov 2008 at 7:21 am Dad

    So, did you get Angeli’s phone number or email address? [g]

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