Tom and Linda's 2011 Europe Trip

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Scientific American Cruise: Olympia

Monday, 3 October: Katakolon

Every evening we found some literature stuck in our door sign. It included details of schedules onboard for the next day and information about whatever port of call we were to visit. It was a nice service.

We did sign up for a tour of Olympia. The site is quite a long way away from the port and I didn't think we could get there and back easily on our own. So, at least this once, we'll put up with the tour.

We meet the group at 8AM, depart 8:15 to go to the ruins and a stop in the village for shopping. Maybe I'll find a watch. I'm used to using my phone for a watch, but it doesn't get a signal here, and I've been having trouble getting to lectures on time.


Arriving in Katakolon, we pulled up across the pier from this huge cruise ship, much bigger than we are.



Down the gangway from Deck 2, orange tour ID stickers on our shirts. We had a credit-card-style cabin key/ID card for the cruise that was scanned as we got off and as we got back on - an easy way for them to make sure they had everyone back.

The card was also used for buying things on board - they didn't like to deal with cash. But they did sell everything in US dollars and charged it to the credit card you had tied to your ID card.

We had quite a good guide. She had good information, spoke English well and had a sense of humor.

On my own I would have spent considerably longer in the ruins and would rather have gone to the museum than the village, but the tour that did that was full when we signed up.


The tour we were on was the earliest from our ship, and there was only one other ship in dock. As a result we got there in the cooler morning and had a lighter crowd. Win-win, I'd say.



So, ancient Olympia was the birthplace of the Olympic Games which were at first local. Beginning in the 8th century they expanded to competition between city-states.

When Rome conquered Greece they kept it up until the rise of Christianity under Constantine, when there was an effort to reduce reference to antiquity. He suspended the games in 363 AC and they weren't revived until 1896.

The reason they were on a 4-year interval here is that there were 3 other states that hosted them, so Olympia only had the games every 4th year. Somehow, those other host-states have been ignored in our modern version and we only recognize the games that were in Olympia.

Rams-horns of ionic columns. The doric, ionic and corinthian styles of the columns of classical architecture are easily identified by the style of the capital, but also include proportions and how they are used.


The first time the Olympic Torch (originally an "eternal flame") was lit in Olympia and carried to the modern olympics was 1936, Germany. Hitler.

Apparently the Germans were the primary excavators of the Olympia site.

Now Greece has its own anthro/archeologists and is trying to get its treasures back from museums in England, France, Russia, etc. Germany has apparently returned some things and the worst culprit now seems to be the UK.

Simpler and heftier ionic columns are probably older.


Through this archway is the original Olympic field.


I think this was only the entrance for the athletes. The audience just walks over the hills on the sides.


And here it is - the original Olympic Stadium. Just a huge flat bit of ground between burms where most of the audience sat on the grass to watch, and a few marble starting blocks.

Down on the left are a few seats for the upper classes and the judges.


This bit of seating has been partly reconstructed.


Most of the town of Olympia is a tumbled ruin with little reconstruction or organization, but you can pretty much walk anywhere you want to.


In some places columns have been re-erected to show the shapes of buildings. These ionic columns were part of a temple.


Signs pretty well show what they think this place once looked like, with explanations in Greek, English and German.

The Temple of Zeus once housed a 12-meter-high statue made of gold and ivory. He pretty well dominated the space!



The ruins started to get crowded as the morning went on. After a bit of free time to explore (I would have liked a lot more) we met back at the bus. Then we were driven to a place to buy things that the guide probably got a kickback from. I tried on a silver and turquoise neclace, but we didn't buy anything.

Since we're carrying our luggage on our backs after the cruise is done, we have little inclination to buy stuff. Photos don't weigh anything. Nor do memories.


Then it was on to the main street of modern Olympia for more shopping.


We sat down in this cafe for a lemonade. Then I did a little shopping on my own. Found some nice deals, but was late back to the bus.

Tom was anxious and the guide was panicking, and I was applauded when I boarded. I was really only a few minutes late.

Funny thing is, I was shopping for a watch. Didn't find one.


So we did our little tour, got back to the ship sometime around noon.


Did laundry and ate a little lunch, went to a lecture that put me to sleep partly due to not sleeping well.

I went to get coffee or something and found a constume jewelry sale going on in the atrium. Found a watch I actually like fairly well for $10. Not a bad deal, and now I can be a bit more in control.

The second lecture of the day was given by Mohammed Noor, another engaging speaker with well-designed slides. Greatly enjoyed the talk.

Next stop: Santorini (Thira).



1 Getting There
6 Olympia
11 Ephesus
16 The Cinque Terre
2 Sorrento
7 Santorini (Thira)
12 Athens
17 Pisa & Sienna
3 Pompeii & Herculanium
8 Istanbul
13 Venezia
18 Tuscany
4 The Amalfi Coast
9 Varna & Odessa
14 Padua & Verona
19 Montepulciano
5 Sci-Am Cruise
10 Yalta
15 Firenze
20 Rome & Home

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