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 Gibratlar 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 super yacht 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 it’s way through England. And the picture of my daughter holding the Olympic torch is also fresh in my mind. One of the parents associated to 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 care and my daughter, cousin, father-in-law and I headed off to Olympia.
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 eye’s 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.
The area filled with trees, flowers and 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 Alter 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 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 it’s 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 that 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 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 8pm, 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.