April 12, 2016
The ship cruised very slowly in to Katakolon this morning and at 11 am we were able to get off the ship.
Katakolon was a small fishing village until the cruise ships started coming (there were three ships in port today) and now it is a small town with a lot of tourist shops. Today though, we were headed to Olympia.
We booked a tour though Olympic Tours and they are excellent - I highly recommend them if you are looking for tours in Greece. We have booked three more tours with them.
The ride to Olympia is about 30 minutes and we learned about some of the history and culture along the way - especially related to the Olympic Games. The country is going through a hard time now but they are staying positive and optimistic.
Olympia is preparing for the next torch lighting ceremony which will happen on April 21 for the summer games in Brazil. Did you know the torch is lit with a parabolic mirror and the sun hitting it at noon? It is.
Did you know St.Nicholas is the Saint for sailors? Every port town will have a church called St. Nicholas.
Ok that's all the questions I have for now.
The museum at the ancient Olympic site is fascinating. Olympia was built as a scared place. It was a place that people would make a pilgrimage to in order to honour the gods. The first Olympic Games started in 776 BC as a way to unify the greeks and stop the warring. Every four years they would call a sacred truce and the wars stopped for a month. Often they would realize they were "brothers" and stop fighting for some time. The olympics stopped in 393 AD when Christianity was introduced and the games were deemed pagan with too much idol worshipping. In the ancient games athletes participated in the nude to display the beauty of the physical, mental and athletic body. There was only one winner - no silver and bronze- who got to wear the wreath. If a man (the games were only for men) won three times, a bronze statue would be made to be on display in Olympia by his home community.
The modern games began in 1896 and as you know, the athletes wear clothes. And there is a silver and bronze medal.
In the museum are amazing marble statues that they recovered. Greek mythology is fascinating and I wish I could remember more from my university days (about Greek mythology).
Outside we explored the ancient Olympic site. The Judas trees are blooming so there are hits of purple throughout the site. We saw the temple to Zeus which originally had a 36 foot high statue of Zeus holding a 6 foot gold statue of Nike (goddess of victory) in his hand. That would have been something to see! We saw the site in front of Hera's temple where the torch is lit and of course we raced in the stadium. The distance is 600 feet for one length from the start of the marble marker to the end. A stadium or stad means 600 feet. If an athlete or country was caught cheating, their punishment was to build a bronze statue of Zeus that would be displayed at the entrance to the stadium. They would be publicly shamed as everyone entered the stadium and looked at the statues. I believe there were 16 Zeus statues (they don't exist now).
It was surreal being at the site. Kind of one of those - I'm actually here moments.
After visiting the site we had a huge traditional Greek buffet lunch followed by Greek dancing. Unfortunately James and I didn't get to partake. We lost his mom at the ancient site and spent the time looking for her. We eventually found her (whew!) but missed the lunch.
We returned to Katakolon and looked around a bit. We will be back here in a week or so.