So, I started my day with the Olympics, and I bet a bunch of you did too! Mine just happen to be the Ancient Olympics. No Shaun White, snowboarding phenom, here. Just a bunch of oiled up naked guys showing off for the king of the gods, Zeus.
Back in the day, the ancient Olympics took place every four years to honor Zeus. The athletes were all Greek, and would come a month or so in advance to train. There were a couple of main training areas, the gymnasium which was mainly field sports, like running and shot put. And the Palestra which was for the wrastlin’.
I thought it was kind of cool that they had these stone pipes on the floor to bring water to the gents, for drinking or freshening up.
There are a couple temples here, the original was for Zeus and his wife Hera; but after the games got popular, they built Zeus and larger, more palatial temple across the way. At one point during the Roman rule the Romans came and decided that two temples were ostentatious; so, they turned to the old one into a museum for a while. Hard to believe the Romans would find anything “over the top”, but there you go.
The new temple to Zeus was huge! Today, they only have one column up so that you can see what it would have looked like. Most of the columns have fallen over, probably during an earthquake. They are just lying to the side of the temple.
We swung by the Philippeum, which was really just a vanity project for one of the Greek rulers. He was like, “Here Olympia, have a fancy round building”.
On the way to the stadium there are a bunch of plinths in a row. These used to have 16 bronze statues of Zeus sitting on them. They were punishments statues. If you got caught trying to cheat you had to pay to have one of these statues built and erected on the site. Apparently, there were only 16 cheaters in ancient Greece… or at least 16 cheaters that got caught!
Then we headed into the stadium itself. How amazing is that? Like, the stadium from ancient time is still here! The athletes wouldn’t run in circles, but instead ran back and forth from marble start and finish lines. The winner’s pedestal is even still there! Only one spot on this pedestal though, no first, second, and third. Just first place, or shame.
I also saw were they have the Olympic torch lighting ceremony for the modern Olympics takes place. They set up a mirrored bowl in the corner where the sun hits, and a maiden puts a torch soaked in olive oil into the bowl. The sun’s rays then catch it on fire, and a bunch of people run all over the world with it.
One thing I liked about this archaeology site is that they haven’t tried to rebuild a bunch of stuff like we’ve seen at other sites. They have purposely left it as close to how they found it as possible. I mean, they do stuff to make sure that it keeps standing, but really, it’s still a ruin.
We headed over to the Ancient Olympia Museum, that houses the pieces of art that survived the ages. Among other things, there is a statue of a wingless Nike, and one of Hermes playing with a baby Dionysus, as well a wonky-eyed fellow. (I feel ya, man.)
After shopping at another little market, we headed about three minutes up the hill for lunch. Here we had a cooking demonstration, before eating.
And after eating was a dance demonstration, that quickly turned into a dance frenzy.
On our way to Delphi we stopped at a beautiful little port town on the Corinthian Gulf called Nafpaktos for tea and a bathroom break. I totally skipped the tea (not the bathroom) and headed right to the water! It was beautiful, and peaceful! I kinda wanted to stay…
The last leg of our journey today was a harrowing ride up to Delphi. Our driver must be amazing, because he took our giant bus into a tiny town, and then up a very narrow, winding road, and finally had to back it up about a quarter of a mile to park at our hotel. Plus, he drives the thing like it’s a go cart on the open road.
I’m finally at the hotel, a little butt-tired from sitting a lot, but happy. Dinner tonight, then off to bed for me!