Day 8 – Olympia Greece
Day 8 already, the time is going too quickly! We arrived in the port of Katakolon on the west coast of Greece (on the Peloponnesian peninsula) in the morning and we had a private tour booked for the morning to go up to Olympia the birthplace of the Olympics in ancient Greece.
I had heard from the tour operator that there was only one other couple on this tour, so it was pretty much going to be a private tour with our own guide again, which after Ephesus was great. We meet Niki the tour operator from Olympic Tours and our guide Joanna (or the Greek equivalent of that) as we got off the ship in the morning and the other couple from California (Sam and Krish).
We took a minibus up to Olympia, about 30 minutes from Katakolon – again the weather was fantastic, sunny and about 24 degrees with a cool breeze – so perfect conditions. The tour started on the ancient site of Olympia where the Greeks started the original Olympic competitions in 776 B.C., which ran for over 1,000 years every 4 years through war and peace-time and through the time of the Roman empire. Initially it started with horse and chariot races on the ancient Hippodrome, but they soon added running, jumping, javelin and wrestling all sports suited to the ancient warriors of the time. Only men competed (naked), and only men watched.
The site was also the site of an ancient temple built for the Greek god of war Zeus and his wife Hera. The temple was huge and contained an enormous statue of Zeus sitting, built from Ivory and Gold. The museum on site houses some of the real treasures form the site including the beautiful statue of Hermes the messenger of Zeus (from 300BC) and the reconstructed east and west pediments (from the top of the columns) from the temple of Zeus which are breath-taking. The east pediment features the story of the founding of the site and the games from the original chariot race won by Pelops for the hand of the daughter of the local king. The west pediment has the story of the battle of the Centaurs and the Lapiths with the god Apollo imposing peace and order.
We also had some time in the original stadium including time to wander down the track (not run – although some of the more energetic and younger tourists did). We even heard from our guide how some tourists go all the way to being authentic athletes by stripping off their clothes to run down the track.
After the tour of the site and museum we had a little time to shop and spend some money in the village of Olympia and then we had a tasty Greek lunch at a local restaurant (all in the price of the tour – probably one of the better tours of the trip so far). I found the tour online on Trip Advisor and will need to give it a glowing recommendation, because even though there were only 4 of us booked on the tour Olympic tours still ran with it.
After finishing up with the tour and saying goodbye to Joanna we headed into Katakolon for more shopping then sat and had a beer in one of the many harbour side restaurants (with WiFi) looking over the other 2 cruise ships that were in port along with the Ruby Princess. Then back on board to get ready for dinner – I could get used to this cruising life style.