Archaia Olympia Travel Blog› entry 25 of 44 › view all entries
After a wonderful drive through the mountains, the last 5 kilometers of this trip really frustrated me. Why there was such a lack of signs for this city, I will never know - but we did eventually find it.
I parked on the sidewalk (literally) in front of our hotel and went in to check in. The only person there was a little old lady who spoke no english, and I thought my frustrations would continue - but then the owner or manager or something walked back from wherever he had been and took our information. We headed up to our room to drop our things off before heading out to the site. Our room here was cute too, not as nice as the pension but it had everything we needed. It was closer to a typical hotel in the US, I guess. We were told to park in the parking lot in the back of the hotel, but when we got back there, all we saw was a little patch of dirt big enough for 2 or 3 cars.
The hotel manager handed us a little map of the town (the map was small because the town was small) and we walked off to Ancient Olympia. This historic site was just a little northeast of town, and was a 5 minute walk from our hotel. We bought our tickets for the site and the museum, and chose to see the site first, since the weather was really nice.
As many of you know, this ancient city was home to the Ancient Greek Olympic games that took place thousands of years ago. It was a place of extreme importance in the known world, as it was also a very religious site dedicated to the god Zeus. With the ruins of the city sprawled out before us, we first checked out some of the sites of Olympic importance.
A short distance from this spot is the Ancient Olympic stadium. The track, situated in a small valley, is a long, narrow dirt area. On either end is a line of stone that probably marked the starting and finish lines. The valley allowed spectators to sit on either side of the track and watch the events unfold there. To one side of the track was a booth for the judges to sit in, which was the only area with actual seats.
There were quite a few tour groups around at this time, but I took the opportunity to run down to the other end of the track and back. As I crossed the finish line, I almost crashed into some tourists who weren't paying attention. From the track, we walked over to the remains of the temple of Olympian Zeus. This temple housed one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, a large statue of Zeus that was molded right in Olympia. The temple itself was brought down by earthquakes in early AD, but the statue of Zeus vanished before then. Some believe it was taken to Constantinople and lost there.
We walked around the rest of the side and saw the training grounds for athletes, the building where the emperor stayed when he was in town, where the Zeus statue was molded, and other things.
Walking back into modern Olympia, we walked the few streets in town looking for potential places to eat dinner and markets where we could buy some things for lunch the following day. No luck on the market, but there were lots of good Greek-style restaurants to eat at! We settled in on a place that had some specials that night and even ordered an appetizer of grape leaves stuffed with rice. I believe they were called Dolmas. We got to have some souvlaki, pita break, rice, tzatzini (a fatty yogurt), some vegetables, and a drink, all for 6 euro!
As it grew dark and we realized there just wasn't much to do, as headed back to the hotel and called it a night.