Our next port of call was the pretty town of Katakolon, but we didn’t get to spend any time in town as we were heading for the site of Olympia, the home of the original Olympic games. Dad was a little tired so decided to skip the tour and take a day off, so I headed off on my own. Although with a busload of my new friends, I was hardly alone. Our guide was a young Dutch girl called Saskia, and she was charming – a good guide can make all the difference.
The ancient Olympic Games started in the 776 BC, and centred around the workshop of Zeus. They were held every 4 years, and thousands came to watch. Only men were able to participate, and there were no second prizes. The site is quite large and although in ruins there is a lot of detailed knowledge about the site based on contemporary writings. We visited the gymnasium, the wrestling training centre, the temple of Zeus, the main running track. We saw pediments inscribed with the name of the victors and others where the names of people caught cheating were recorded. Although it was hot, it was pleasant to walk around, because there were many pine and olive trees, giving shade and pleasant greenness.
We were the only cruise ship in Katakolon that day. Saskia told us that the day before there were 4 of the huge ships there, and 10,000 (literally) people at Olympia. So glad we went today! It wasn’t crowded at all, and it was lovely wandering around picturing the site in its heyday, which continued until the Byzantine ruler Theodosius I put a stop to pagan worship in 393AD.
There is an impressive museum at Olympia, containing all the treasures found at the site – pottery, coins, paintings, and sculptures large and small. There was one big room which displayed the sculptures from the pediment of Zeus’s Temple, arranged as they would have been originally. Although many of the pieces were not intact, they were held in place with metal fixings so you could easily imagine how grand it once was. The rest of the gallery is arranged chronologically, from prehistoric artefacts to the Hellenistic and Roman galleries. I could have spent a lot longer there. One of the highlights of the trip for me.
We sailed at 1pm for one of the longer sea legs of the trip – we won’t reach our next destination until tomorrow morning, so there’s not much more to report for today!!