Took a three-hour drive north along the coast road to ancient Olympia. First settled about 3000 BC, it was taken over by the Mycenaeans from 1700 – 1200 BC when the site was dedicated to Zeus Olympios. A religious as well as athletic site, it was the ultimate training site too for the quadrennial games that came to be known as the Olympics.
Shattered by thousands of years of earthquakes, it was mercifully left alone after the Romans pulled out and fell into obscurity so its best statues were not looted by the Brits or others. Notable among the finds is the famous Hermes by Praxiteles and some nearly complete frieze decorations from some of the temples that were missed by Elgin.
After lunch at the Olympia Palace Hotel, we ambled through the grounds to the museum, gawked at the treasures therein and drove home.
The northern part of the Peloponnese has a few Umbrella Pines, some of those useless columnar Cyprus trees (no shade from them!) and of course, millions of olive trees. It is also beset, like the rest of Greece by the weed-like bamboo that grows everywhere. Greece’s 5 million rural people (6 million more of them live in Athens) are spread pretty evenly around and wherever there’s a Greek, there’s a few hundred olive trees. Outnumbered by tourists in the High Season, the Greeks are struggling to stabilize their economy and being helped along by increasing numbers of tourists.
The Palaestra or wrestling school at Olympia
The Philippeion donated by Philip II to commemorate one of his battles
Remains of the Temple of Hera
Entrance to the Stadium
The Original Olympic Stadium with starting blocks still in place
Column cap from one of the columns of the Temple of Zeus
Remains of the Temple of Zeus
Giant (2 feet high) solid bronze casting from 7th C. BC. Quite the metallurgical achievement.
Greek warrior's bronze helmet from 700 BC
Hermes by Praxiteles, larger than life marble sculpture