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OLYMPIA, GREECE : 14 NIGHT ADRIATIC CRUISE FINAL PORT OF CALL

Alright, Alright. It’s been so SO long since I have had a chance to catch up with travel photos, it’s about time to wrap up the highlights from our 14 NIGHT ADRIATIC CRUISE. Looking back through these photos almost brought back that same sad feeling we had knowing that the port of Katakolon and a day trip to Oympia, Greece was our last Adriatic adventure for this trip. But I would have to say it was quite a wonderful final day.

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Our plans were to head via bus to Olympia with our tour guide Yohanna. It was a great thing we chose to plan this, because the port town itself was small and had less historical significance and sites at our fingertips. On our drive, Yohanna told us her version of the mythology of how the Olympic Games began. Supposedly there was a king – King Oinomaos – whose beautiful daughter was Hippodameia. It was foretold that this king would one day be killed by his daughter’s husband so, in efforts to spare his own life, he had any suitor drive away with her in his chariot. If he was caught by the King in his supernaturally fast chariot, he would be killed by the King. A man named Pelops fell in love with the king’s daughter and had the king’s charioteer replace the chariot’s bronze axle pins with pins made of wax that would melt. When the wax melted in the race, the king fell and was killed. Pelops married Hippodameia and organized chariot races as thanksgiving to the gods and as funeral games in honor of King Oinomaos, in order to be purified of his death. It was from this funeral race held at Olympia that the beginnings of the Games were inspired. Pelops became a great king, a local hero, and gave his name to the Peloponnese. ( parts of this story sourced from this article.) This story definitely set the stage for the historical sites we would see that day.

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We got to the Archaeological Museum of Olympia and right away noticed the gigantic statues outside. I mean, just look at the size of that torso next to Bryan! And this time we checked with Yohanna and made sure it was okay to stand next to the statue lest we be yelled at and labeled posers like when we were in Athens.

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My very favorite part of this museum experience was hearing the incredible stories Yohanna told to us regarding these ancient pieces of history. The bull below for example was displayed at one time in a great monumental fountain (nymphaeum) erected by Annia Regilla – a woman born into a prominent Roman family who later became a very influential and wealthy figure in Greece. She had this fountain built to bring cool refreshing water to the people here which made perfect sense to me as it was dry dusty and hot summer weather there in Olympia. The inscription on the bull reads “Regilla, priestess of Demeter, dedicated the water and the things around the water to Zeus,” lest the people forget her generosity to them and her dedication to Zeus. 😉

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One of the most impressive statues is the Hermes and the Infant Dionysus.  They say from one side he seems to be smiling and on the other side he is very serious. I found the baby kind of creepy, and my gut instinct was pretty much confirmed when Yohanna told the mythological story. Apparently Zeus had a love affair with a mortal woman and, when she was dying, Hermes helped him retrieve his unborn son (Dionysus) and stitch it into Zeus’s thigh where he carried the child until birth. Let’s just say it is a unique sequence of events to picture.

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I loved seeing a full sculpture of the goddess Nike (below) since we’d seen just a small flat one in Ephesus so far. Yohanna made a point to mention how skillfully she had been chiseled by the sculptor as her wings and dress flowing  backwards had to be carefully and precisely counterweighted by the solid base to keep his masterpiece upright. I think it was at this moment, and a few mentions of a couple of relatives our guide had named Nicole and Nik… that I busted out a self-amused smile thinking of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the father introduces his family saying “This is Nik, Nik, Nicole, Nikki, Nick Nick…” and so on. It seems that – even in real life (not just in the movies) the goddess Nike and her symbolism of victory really influences the names given in Greek culture. And even now I am realizing that one of our amazing Photography Instructors (the only one who was Greek in fact) at the Venice Symposium was named Nik.  So amusing to me! 😀

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This (below) might have been one of our favorite stories. It is incredible how rich with history the soil of Greece is. Yohanna told us that, even as many pieces of armor we see in the museum, they literally have rooms and rooms of more armor they’ve found and are storing. But these two helmets were significant. The helmet on the right is the helmet of the Athenian general Miltiades. He wore it in the great battle of Marathon and, after victory over the Persians, he dedicated both his helmet and the helmet of the Persian general to Olympian Zeus as a sign of gratitude.

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It was pretty amazing to picture ruins like this in full glory at the top of the gorgeous buildings that stood so long ago, and to see armor and weaponry that were used in such epic world history.

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We then toured the grounds which were equally amazing. Picturing the buildings, baths where the Olympic athletes would prepare and walking up to the ruins of the temples and the entrance to the Olympic Games was something I will never forget.

A few fun facts –

#1 – the athletes used to compete naked – which makes sense as I am not sure how well one could perform in the togas we picture them in. 😉 They did this in honor of the male physique and to honor the gods…also they would often anoint themselves in olive oil to enhance their looks…so they were way ahead of our media’s time haha.

#2 – According to Yohanna, Women had their own Olympic games in which they had to bare one breast to prove they were a woman and not a man trying to compete. Wow.

#3 -If a competitor was caught cheating in the games, his city would have to pay for a very expensive statue to be made of that athlete that would line the essential “Hall of Shame” outside of the Olympic games.  This expense to the athlete’s city would publicly shame the cheater and his city which resulted in the city basically outcasting their athlete from their city furthermore.  I say we should reinstitute this for our athletes, politicians, you name it. Let’s encourage integrity! 😉

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This is the Olympic starting line. 🙂

 

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This is Philippeion. It is said Alexander the Great (no big deal) had it built for his father, Philip II of Macedon, by the Athenian sculptor Leochares and held statues of the whole family. This was supposedly the only structure to be dedicated in the Altis to a human.

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Another crazy cool thing was to see that there is even more archaeological finds currently being uncovered from even further back in history underneath all of this already epic historical excavated ground. Our guide has a friend involved in the current dig who has told her off the record that they are excitedly working to uncover history that will be the oldest they’ve found yet. A whole new world of discovery awaits and depends on the decision of how much to dig since so much of our preserved world history is already sitting atop of this section of earth as of now. The struggle must be real. 😉

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My parents were troopers, and we all appreciated finding a shady spot to retreat to for a few moments in the dry and sunny heat of the day.

 

 

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To top off one of our absolute favorite port experiences on the cruise, we concluded our time in Olympia by attending a buffet home made Greek lunch filled with AMAZING food fun music and the most warm Greek hospitality.

 

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The Greek people take a lot of pride in their culture and arranged to host some dancing and music to show off their most fun festivities!

 

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We chose a beautiful table to dine at, which we later learned from our host that it was once her Grandmother’s dining table.

 

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Greek coffee is small, very strong, and I surprisingly loved it!

 

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Ending our time there hearing about the Greek way of living for Yohanna and her family, the current Euro dilemma Greece would be deciding on that next Sunday, enjoying the delicacies, taking in the warm sunshine, and embracing the ever warmer hospitality of the culture, our family was sad to leave such a special place and culture. It was easy to leave with a deep appreciation of the Greek people and history and gratefulness for our time in Olympia. It was indeed a perfect finale to our Adriatic adventure, and I will always regard Olympia as one of the most enjoyable memories we’ve had in our travels!