What could be more exciting than running the first Olympic track ever?! Join us on a trip to Olympia Greece to see why you must make this a must-stop sailing destination.
A few days before our arrival to the Peloponnese in Greece, I had no knowledge of what we’d find nor did I expect anything of particular significance.
As I’ve written before, for the first time in my life I seem to live each day as it comes. In the past month, the most I’ve speculated about the future is that, at some point, we’ll get to Athens and see the acropolis. And at some point, we’ll eventually head across the Atlantic and keep going around the world.
Anything in between will be an interesting treat.
After an enjoyable month of island hopping in the Ionian Sea, and after spending a month in Sicily and after we started our adventure with a trip from Gibraltar to Malta… we decided it was time to make our way along mainland Greece, towards Athens, and into the Aegean Sea. Our plan was to cut above the Peloponnese through the Corinthian Canal. Prior to our plan, I had no idea that there was a canal that separated mainland Greece from the Peloponnese!
On a Sunday evening, about one hour out of Patras, Greece’s 3rd largest city, we radioed the Patras Harbormaster looking for a berth.
We were direct to a commercial quayside in front of a £20 million superyacht and a tugboat. Lucky for us, our new friends Jim and Carole were nearby and they walked over to help us dock. It’s always nice to enter a new place knowing that you have an extra pair of hands if needed. (Read ‘Couple sets off for a 3 year around the world sailing trip – 15 years later they’re still going!’)
While heading towards Patras, my husband says ‘who wants to see where the Olympics started – in Olympia Greece?’
Of course, we all said ‘me, me, me, me.’ It wasn’t that long ago that my husband, daughter and I stood in front of the butchers on the Aylesbury town center high street to watch the Olympic torch make its way through England. And the picture of my daughter holding the Olympic torch is also fresh in my mind. One of the parents associated with her per-school had a connection and all the kids were able to hold one of the torches and get their photograph taken!
At the time of the Olympics in England, we had no idea that we’d visit Olympia Greece nor did we have any inclination that we’d be living on a boat and traveling around the world.
Thanks to information from Jim and Carole, we choose to rent a car rather than take a 4-hour bus trip! With a crew of five, it was actually the same price as a bus and took 3 hours less. My husband rented a car and my daughter, cousin, father-in-law, and I headed off to Olympia Greece.
Not knowing what to expect, I was immediately blown away by what is called the ‘Sanctuary at Olympia.’
Dating back to the 10th century BC, the area flourished until 426 AD when the emperor Theodosius II closed all ancient sanctuaries.
My eyes walked down a very lush road and entered into the archeological site to see descriptive plaques, columns, building outlines, Greek works, Roman works, and the site of one of the ancient wonders of the world! Above is a photo of my husband and daughter standing next to the entrance plaque.
We saw the spot where the great statue of Zeus was located!
Bonus – I wasn’t expecting to see the spot of an ancient wonder of the world. Below, my cousin is modeling in front of where the ancient wonder once stood.
The highlight of the visit was having my whole family run across the stadium.
Bar my father-in-law, we all ran the distance of the track that naked Greek men ran all those thousands of years ago.
Yes – the first Olympic games were performed by men only and they were naked! Women were not allowed to watch let along partake in the events. Things you didn’t know about Olympia Greece – eh?!
The area filled with trees, flowers, and the lush green countryside was littered with ruins – including mosaics.
Most ruins had a plaque in English showing an image of what it looked like back in the day so it wasn’t difficult to imagine the spectacular beauty of the sanctuary.
At each plaque, Sienna would point out what the building looked like and we’d read out what it was for. One ruin was a Gymnasium where athletes trained for running events and the pentathlon.
Another building was called the Palestra where the sportsmen trained for wrestling, boxing, and jumping.
There was a place for the priests of Olympia, Baths, a Council Chamber, and a Temple of Hera along with the Altar of Zeus and the Temple of Zeus. The place is huge!
Above is a picture of what the ancient wonder of the world looked like.
And, of course, there was the Stadium. This is the bit that my family and I ran across as if we were competing in the running races. See my face below – that’s how happy I was to run the stadium!
The stadium did not have seats but it easily held 45,000 spectators along the grassy upslope sides.
After taking several pictures and saying ‘wow,’ a thousand times, we all headed to a little café before proceeding to the museum. At this point, I was a bit tired and a museum didn’t sound all that appealing.
We had some snacks, and ice tea, and a sweet and proceeded to the museum.
Never in my life have I been so blown away by what I saw. When I visit museums I usually feel overwhelmed and overloaded. There’s stuff all over the place and I can’t concentrate on anything.
Well…the museum at Olympia Greece is different.
It’s small yet the impact is profound.
After walking into the main doors and passing the small-scale 3-D model of the grounds, you walk into a hall that has the actual pediments from the temple of Zeus. The pediments are the triangular tops of the front façade of a building. The bit you look up to upon entering.
The actual pediments were reconstructed in the large hall and it was amazing to see what it really looked like! Yes, some heads were missing and various bits were not present but there was enough there to give you a first-hand experience of what the building must have looked like in its hay day.
I had to pinch myself because I just couldn’t believe something like this existed.
As I carried on through the museum, my eyes smiled at larger than life-size statues, metal objects, pottery, and more. My daughter, Sienna, kept finding more and more goodies. She’d come up to me and say, ‘Mom – close your eyes…’ She’d then lead me to a statue or glass window and say, ‘Okay – open them now!’
Each time I opened my eye’s I felt this amazing gratitude to be able to see such wonders.
The whole day was surreal. I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t think ahead and don’t know what I’m going to see and do. Perhaps if I did know what I’d find at Olympia Greece it might have been anticlimactic? I’m not sure…
The one tip I’d give, however, is that I would have preferred to have done the museum first and the archeological site second. That way I’d be better able to place the museum pieces to the appropriate buildings.
By 8 pm, it was time to head back to the boat.
I stopped off in the town to buy my daughter a sticker book and kids book on mythology and how the Olympics started. Secretly, I couldn’t wait to read it for my own benefit!
Seeing Olympia and running across the very first Olympic stadium, just as the Greeks did during the 10th Century BC was a definite top 100 highlight of my life. And I know my family also enjoyed the experience immensely. If you’re sailing around the Peloponnese, this is a must-do experience.
Check Out Some Other Areas In Greece & The Mediterranian
If you’d like a breakdown of all the places we’ve visited while sailing the Mediterranean please read our destination overview: Sailing The Mediterranean. Otherwise, check out more posts about our time spent in Greece.
- The Magic of Fiskardo Kefalonia
- Navigating Through Lefkas Canal
- Nisis Atoko
- The Greek Ionian Islands
- Corinth Canal
To be absolutely truthfull, this was all news to me! I hadn,t thought that a museum would look as nice as those pictures represent. Thanks for a lovely description. I really enjoyed this episode and look forward to more in the future… Safe trips and adventures. David …
Malissa Benade says
Kim…so fun to read as we visited Olympia 3 years ago today! Crazy! Loved seeing the pictures. The museum was so neat, clean and COOL! Outside we melted, but it was so interesting wasn’t it. Not many will ever get to see that place…glad you visited.
PS-how did you get pictures inside. without getting caught??! ..We took, but were told to delete them…(shhh…we never did!)
Kim Brown says
Hey Malissa – they allowed us to take pictures however you’re not suppose to pose in them! We snuck a few poses in anyway…
John Godfrey says
I ran that Olympic sprint 5 years ago in 40c on my own as no one else from our coach party would take part due to the heat and some were a great deal younger than me, as at the time I was 75. But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything s I have been in Athletics for some 50 years or more.
Kim Brown says
That’s awesome John. Thank you for sharing that. Smiles, Kim
Reminds me when visited Greece back in the 60s
Walked, talked & ate with the local natives in old & new Athens!
Many of the museums throughout Greece asked tourists to
check all cameras in at entrance, then claim the cameras upon
exiting the museum!
Touring the Mediterranean is exciting!