Olympia is one of those ‘bucket list’ destination sites that you need to visit at least once. It was incredible to see the history and the grandeur in this wonderful location.
Although I have to admit it reminded me of Downtown Disney with the restaurants and stores coupled with a number of first class Museums and the ancient grounds where the Olympics first started.
Having had the luxury of walking Ancient Messene, Methoni, and Mycenae we expected ruins in better condition and the ability to get very close. This is not the case as Olympia is a major tourist stop. The ruins are behind ropes and the staff are very diligent to stop tourists from getting too close.
Walking the Grounds
Twenty four distinct sites are on display in varying states of ruin. It is difficult to get a full appreciation of what life was like when this was a thriving community or when athletes were training. You need at least two to three hours to walk the ground.
Workshop of Pheidias
In the 5th Century BC the Athenian sculptor Pheidias created the statue of Zeus in his workshop. Terra cotta moulds and tools on display in the Museum are from the workshop. In the 5th Century AD the building became an Early Christian church (Basilica).
The Temple of Zeus
Built between 470 and 457 BC the temple was 64 x 27 m with a height of 20m. It housed the colossal gold-and-ivory made statue of Zeus, known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Two earthquakes; one in 522 AD and the other in 521 AD destroyed the Temple.
The stadium was built in the 5th Century BC with a capacity to hold 45,000 spectators. Seating was on the grass except for the judges of the Olympic Games who sat at the South end.
Inside the Museum
Check out the Torch and buy something
Ben and I went in search of lunch – Gyros what else? Meanwhile the girls went shopping. They entered a store and engaged in a great conversation with a lady who had a Canadian connection. Her brother carried the Olympic Torch in 1976 from Olympia (The Temple of Hera) to the first relay runner until it finally made its way to Montreal. A runner from Olympia is required to start the relay to the destination of the games and her brother carried torches four times. Her fascinating story led to the purchase of earrings and a ring. PS, the Gyros were pretty good!
Entrance to the site including access to the Museums was 12 Euros for adult and the kids were free. The restaurants were a little overpriced with a sitting fee but takeout was reasonable (2 Euros/gyro). It is worth a visit but I would encourage having a map of the area to fully appreciate all the different sites. You must visit the Museum to get a full sense of the splendour of this area. It is a great day trip.