September 27th, 2008 – by: Allen_Taylor
We made good time since leaving Santorini yesterday and we were already docked in Katakolon (ka-TA-ko-LON), Greece when I woke up this morning. The only real adventure for the day was a morning trip out to Olympia, the location of the original ‘games’. We saw the site on a pre-booked excursion, and I would personally recommend that others go it alone. All of the individual areas of Olympia are clearly marked with signage indicating what the various ruins are and how they most likely originally looked. It would have been nice to be able to meander through the site at my own speed reading the markers and taking it all in rather than to be herded through as one of the many tour groups making a morning visit to the site.
The guide did however provide some interesting information on how some of the early events were conducted. Interestingly enough, the winner of the combined fighting (combination of wrestling and boxing) was not the guy that walked away, but rather the one that ‘gave his all’ without giving in during the competition.
The site contains many areas other than the actual contest arenas such as a gymnasium for training, a temple to Zeus, Roman baths, and an area for people attending the games to stay (camp). It was also interesting that the training area for javelin and discus throwing contains several columns that they believed were used for the judges to hide behind so that they could avoid being hit.
The original stadium is a grass oval with upward sloping sides where the spectators sat on the grass similar to the Circus Maximus in Rome.
There was one area blocked off for the competitors to wait for their event and another small one opposite to it where the priestess overseeing the events (the only woman allowed inside the site) would sit.
Hera’s Alter was a bit of a let down. This is the spot where the Olympic flame is ignited beginning each Olympic relay. Now, it is understandable that they can’t leave the large reflective lens that is used to capture the sun’s rays out all the time for the public to see; but as a result, the only thing there is the alter foundation. After two weeks of the Acropolis, Delos, Ephesus, and everywhere else we’ve been, it pretty much just looked like a stack of rocks.
Next stop was a hotel/restaurant in Olympia where we were able to sample some of the local cuisine and see a demonstration of Zorba dancing.
Being able to witness this bit of Greek culture was worth the trip and the group excursion. I’ll add videos to the post when I get home and have faster, cheaper internet access.
The town of Katakolon is nothing more than a dock for the cruise ships to provide access to Olympia. It does have the usual array of eateries and souvenir shops, but having already spent way too much on souvenirs on this trip, I chose to pass on the seeing the town and head back to the ship for a afternoon of lounging poolside and relaxing for a while.
Since Katakolon was our final stop for the trip, I guess this is my final post on places visited. I will probably write some words on the over all cruise experience during the day tomorrow and get them posted during the afternoon or early evening. Hope everyone has enjoyed taking the trip along with me.