We docked for a few hours in the small port village of Katakolon, our first stop in Greece, where a short bus ride took us to the original “Olympic Village”. This place, Olympia, is the site of the ancient Olympic Games, a purpose-built village used once every four years, where the athletes would gather to train and compete. Once again, the weather was spectacular and we enjoyed a lovely guided tour around the excavated ruins and accompanying museum. Read on, and check out the photo gallery.
“The ancient Olympic Games were originally a festival, or celebration, of and for Zeus; events such as a footrace, a javelin contest, and wrestling matches were added later. … The first Olympics is traditionally dated to 776 BC” [Wikipedia]. What is most astonishing to me, though, is that this site disappeared for thousands of years – buried under soil and forest – and only recently uncovered within the last two centuries.
We passed by the impressive gymnasium, where athletes trained, the massive temple of Zeus, the neighboring temple of Hera, and the tiny (and otherwise unremarkable) spot where the modern Olympic torch is ignited every two years and carried ceremoniously to the opening ceremony of the winter or summer Olympics.
We saw the stadium, large enough for 45,000 spectators, where the marble starting blocks (with grooves for runners’ toes) are still in place.
We toured the neighboring museum, with incredibly beautiful and detailed sculptures that had decorated the roofline of the temple of Zeus, and various other parts of the grounds. Several were remarkably well preserved, after more than 2,500 years underground.
Check out the photo gallery for more.