Friday, 15 July 2016

Fri 15 July 2016. Methoni to Ancient Olympia

Fri 15 July 2016. Methoni to Ancient Olympia
We plan to turn north today, hoping to find it cooler as we go. No police last night nor by 9am this morning. Breakfast, showered, paid our bill and went down to waterfront to get better look at castles. 

The day was already a scorcher, turned towards town and ran straight into police who gestured us to pull over, followed closely by the avenging angel’s husband in his red car. They asked why we were leaving town when we had destroyed this man's bicycle - not a great start. Eventually BoyRob got to have a say and drew a diagram of how it happened, pointing out the woman had parked in the road, in a narrow entryway. Police agreed it was a private road and they had no jurisdiction, however they had a complaint which they were obliged to follow up. They offered we could go back to station and wait for them to write up a complaint (adding this wasn't their priority for day) get the paperwork we needed for 3rd party insurance (and deal with the excess) or we could settle it now with the man. BoyRob asked how much – and the price had doubled again! We protested, countered with last night’s offer, and the husband agreed. GirlRob wrote a receipt in English which the man signed. So what did we learn? Custom and practice win out over law and common sense. Nobody happy, we all went our different ways. 

Which country are we in again??

The day improved once on the road following the coast north, green with fruit on trees or in hothouses. Picked up fuel at servo, chatting to a Greek girl who said she'd come back after living in New York for 16 yrs, "cos of my old people", and that Greece wasn't any worse than rest of Europe except for higher taxes. It looked like she had a good business. Her young son was in the office with a tutor learning to read Greek. Not long after we drove out of town, a guy on a tractor gestured us to turn around, then a fellow in a ute flagged us down indicating too low ahead for our vehicle. Decent blokes! Got the right road, crossed damned-up river, then over irrigation channels, and arrived in Olympia. 

Found Camping Diana, campground Boomers had stayed in, and were met enthusiastically by a little 93yr old man who made a great fuss of his first Australians (!!) He led us to a shady site among the noisy crickets, saying as we passed two other campers "lovely Italians" of the first, then almost spat as he said "is a German". As we've noticed elsewhere, there is little evidence of WWII reconciliation in Greece. Had lunch of our fresh breadstick, deciding we would rest until it cooled later in arvo to walk the ruins. 

Two swims and five postcards later, with instructions from our courteous old man (who turns out to be a historian in his spare time), we purchased a Seniors Pass (based on our Swedish EU visa) to all museums and the primary archaeological site, and drove down to see Ancient Olympia, built on a prehistoric site, on the southern slopes of Knossos Hill. 

What a relief to find the ruins scattered on fairly level ground - minimal climbing!! Wandered through Temple of Zeus (which once housed the colossal gold and ivory cult statue of Zeus, one of Seven Wonders of World), Temple of Hera (both temples with beautiful Doric columns), Nero’s house (the Octagon), and Stoa.

Temple of Hera

Picture of mosaic floor

"New" ruin on top of Nero's house

Adorned with life-sized statues in niches of a two-story semicircular building, the Monumental Fountain and aqueduct must have been truly impressive in its day. 

Nymphaion - Monumental Fountain

The minor pieces of restoration were non-intrusive, retaining the integrity of the site - eg part of a plinth replaced with a corner of marble to demonstrate its former glory. Later Roman influence was obvious in the remains of patterned fences and buildings made from thin orange baked bricks. 

Went through Monumental Arch into Stadium 1, sloped grassy sides (used to have mud seats for the unimportant spectators), and a stone platform for the judges. It was fascinating to see the Bases of Zanes, where bronze statues were erected, paid for by the fines of athletes found cheating in the Games. 

Bases of Zanes

Separate games were added much later for women, and named after Hera, the wife of Zeus. Admired Hera’s Altar where a parabolic mirror is placed every four years and ceremony held where "Diana" ignites the Olympic flame to commence its journey to the city of the current Olympics.

The sculptors house had been razed as part of the eradication of all things pagan, and replaced by a basilica.


Walked into town for a meal of traditional Greek food and drove back to our camp ground, one of only two overnight guests. 

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