I was a little skeptical about today and our trip to the site of the Ancient Olympics. I had heard that there wasn't much left out there, and that it was really difficult to visualize the games etc. Well, I don't know if our Rick Steve's walking tour was the reason, or if maybe I have a great imagination, but I was totally impressed by and enjoyed the site of the ancient games.
Starting at the beginning: the port of Katakolon. Katakolon is about 40 km from Olympia, but the transport is very easy. We found out about a transfer service that was significantly cheaper than the cruise line tours, that still guaranteed your return to the ship. It is called Katakolon Express, and they were great. I'll write a full review later, but the buses were very nice, and we were back to the port with a couple hours to spare.
Olympia has two major sites: where the ancient games took place, and the accompanying museum. Both are worth seeing, and come in a combo ticket for 9 euros. We started with the site, and it was so cool to walk among the columns which had been arcades that surrounded the training courtyards. They still have a bathtub which they used to clean off the layer of olive oil and dust which covered their bodies to protect from the sun and injuries. We saw the workshop of the man who created one of the wonders of the ancient world: the statue of Zeus. Then, we saw the site of the real thing. I don't know about you, but standing on the ground which ancient philosophers like Plato visited and people from around the world renowned is pretty crazy to think of. That 40 ft statue must have been a site to see which his ivory, golf and gemstones glittering in the reflective pool in front of him. I guess when the Greeks came to the games, it was sort of like our vacations today, mixed with a religious pilgrimage. They certainly were rewarded for their efforts in getting there.
After walking down cheaters lane, where early drug dopers (animal blood and herbs) had their names engraved on statues which they paid for, we walked through the grand tunnel, out into the stadium. This stadium had no seats, only hillside, except for the judges who were known for their fairness. The marble starting and ending blocks are still there, and James just had to run where many, many others had run before. I myself, got a snazzy photo on the starting line. The ancient games ran for several centuries before being banned by the new Christian rule. Think of that: our modern games have only been going since the 1890's, barely over 100 years. How many people must have visited and competed at that ancient site?
We could have had no better introduction to Greece, and I can't wait to explore further in Athens tomorrow!