Leaving Trizonia Island, we drive for a couple of hours and arrive in Olympia. It is a small town within walking distance of the famous archaeological site. Back in the day, Olympia was a major religious sanctuary of Ancient Greece where the Olympic Games were held every 4 years starting in the 8th century BC. As soon as we arrive, we are dropped off at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia and meet up with our guide, Saskia. It is one of the most important museums in Greece, because of its extensive bronze collections. Here are some cool things that we see in this museum.
Check out all of these tiny figurines; they are not toys, but offerings that were left at the The Altar of Zeus.
The Temple of Zeus was the main attraction here at Olympia; it housed the giant statue of Zeus that was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But we’ll talk more about that later.
Here is the terracotta disc that stood at the top of the Temple of Hera, probably a symbol of the sun.
This is one of the most famous statues here, featuring Zeus and Ganymede.
The story of these two is rather interesting…Zeus is carrying him off to Mount Olympus with satisfaction while Ganymede is not as pleased. Back in ancient Greek times, it was not “disapproved” for there to be a homoerotic connection between a man and a young boy. Ganymede is also holding a hen, which was a common gift associated with this type of relationship. So yeah…
Next up, the statue of Nike of Paionios, who was the Greek goddess of victory.
It was found in so many broken pieces and was rebuilt for us. But her wings are missing. The original base of the statue is still standing in the ruins at Olympia.
This is the pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Zeus, which would have been arranged in a triangular shape on top of the temple.
I’m not sure who everyone is in this range of statues – definitely Zeus in the middle and Pelops and Oinomaus on either side.
Arguably the most beautiful statue here is Hermes, holding an infant Dionysus. It was originally in the Temple of Hera and was buried in rubble after an earthquake. Look at how well it was preserved!
And we’ll leave the museum on this note…the statue of the god Pan. Half goat and half man, and associated with sexual lust and fertility. Because of this, he is often depicted with a large erect penis.
Big dicks were considered vulgar and erect ones symbolized lack of restraint. Haha. And get this – most male statues have smaller than usual penises in a flaccid state because the Greeks believed that it was an ideal of male beauty and self control. The reason a lot of statues are nude is because the penis was used as an index of character. And funny enough, a lot of these statues were found with their willies broken off anyways. Haha ok enough of this subject.
We say good bye to Saskia for today and walk over to check into Hotel Neda, a cute hotel located in Olympia town.
There is not much time to look around this small town, but I manage to sneak out and hit a few souvenir shops nearby. Now it’s back on the bus for a short drive to The Olive Temple, a family run farm that makes wine and all kinds of olive products.
We are greeted with a glass of wine, and a mini tour of the giant olive mill to learn how the olives are processed, extracted and stored. Then it’s time to taste the oils, soaked up in bread to try all the flavors.
Oh my god, they taste amazing! But not too much tasting because dinner is about to happen in the next room.
We are treated to appies of zucchini salad, cheeses, spreads and Greek salad. Look how fancy it is!
My main course is stuffed eggplant, accompanied by a bottle of their red wine and finally a shot of tsipouro – a spirit made from the residue of the wine press. Yamas!!
And for the fun part of the night – the dancing! We are treated to a show featuring some traditional Greek dancing.
After the show we are encouraged to participate and join the dancers. The one woman grabs me and keeps spinning me around. Haha good thing I didn’t drink too much wine beforehand. Even though we have another early morning tomorrow, it’s a fun party night with Matt dancing on the bus on the way home…
And then continuing the drinks at the hotel bar. Definitely the funnest night of the tour!
This morning we enjoy breakfast up on the rooftop patio,
and then head back over to the archaeological site to meet Saskia again, this time to explore the ruins. We get here early to avoid the inevitable cruise ship tour rush. The first stop is the area called the palaestra, where they would teach and practice wrestling and martial arts.
There was a Roman style water system used in the grounds, and there are many baths in this area. This section is also where many visitors would stay when coming to participate in or watch the Olympic Games.
Now over to the remains of the Temple of Zeus, which held the statue of Zeus that was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The statue is no longer standing, it was lost and destroyed and the only proof that it existed is from representations on ancient Greek coins and a description from a geographer and traveler named Pausanias.
Back in the day, it stood 43 feet high and was made of gold and ivory. The Temple had to be slightly dismantled in order for the statue to be installed. Along the way Saskia shows us slabs of rock that show names of Olympic winners – this one is really well preserved. And fun fact: athletes competed in the nude!
Next up is the Temple of Hera, the oldest temple in the site and it is here that the Olympic torch is lit every 4 years before being carried off to the host country. There are a few large Doric columns standing after its restoration.
And now for the fun part…we walk through a long tunnel and then under the stone arch to enter the stadium. It is huge! So of course, we have to have an Olympic style race!
A bunch of us line up for a sprint to the finish line. I do not win, but give it a solid effort (and I also discover that I look ridiculous when I run). Theo wins this race, and he is awarded with a laurel wreath that he proudly dons on his head for the rest of the day. This is perfect because he absolutely LOVES the Olympics. Haha.
We have some free time to wander around and take in the atmosphere, so I explore the lodging area for the athletes and the legislative assembly house ruins.
On my way out I stop to admire the Philippeion, a circular memorial that used to contain statues of Philip II, Alexander the Great and others. It was the only structure dedicated to a human.
The group meets up again at the exit, and we board the bus to start the next adventure!