Peloponnese Road Trip – Olympia

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.

Bronze helmet, circa 500 BC

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.

The Kronion Thermae – A large building complex built between 2nd Century BC and 5th Century AD which included thermal baths.
The Gymnasion built in the 2nd Century BC. The large rectangular building is 120 x 220m with central court enclosed by a colonnade. It was a training area for the foot race, javelin and discus throwing.
Typical example of a wall. Originally it would be covered with plaster or marble facings

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).

Monument stone outside the Workshop / Church
The converted Work Shop into a Church

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.

Temple of Zeus – Fallen columns
The Ruins of the Temple of Zeus
One column remains standing at the Temple of Zeus

The Stadium

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.

Entrance to the Stadium – “Krypte”
Standing at the Archway to the Stadium
Colleen in the starting blocks for the 100m dash – She Won!

The Nymphaion

The Nymphaion, a monumental fountain surrounded by a two- story tall building. The aqueduct from  2 AD built by Herodotus Atticus and his wife Regillia and includes statues of Roman Emperors found in the Museum
Hannah reads the plaque to learn that this is the site of the Temple of Hera where they light the Olympic Torch. Easy to miss due to poor display information.
The Temple of Hera – the oldest temple of the Sanctuary from 7th Century BC. Measuring 50 x 18m with a height of 7.8m.
The Philippeon
Another view of the Gymnasium
Snack break!

Inside the Museum

Bronze sheet in the shape of a winged Gorgon from a shield device. 6th Century BC
A fighting centaur from the pediment (above the entrance to the Temple of Zeus)
The Centaur gets a little fresh
The human torso from the Eastern Pediment of the Temple of Zeus
Glass bottle from 6 AD
Glassware from 6 AD
An Emperor’s Clothes from the Nymphaion

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!

Emma holds an Olympic Torch from the 1980 games (Moscow) according to a family friend who is an Olympic Torch buff?

Final Thoughts

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.

The Foster’s of Olympia

2 Replies to “Peloponnese Road Trip – Olympia”

  1. Amazing how some of that is still up! I think that would be worth a visit to Greece. Just think: The Temple of Hera – the oldest temple of the Sanctuary from 7th Century BC has seen a lot of history. It was around when the Celts sacked Rome in 390 BC, the birth of Christ, the rise and fall of Rome, the discovery of Canada and the birth of the Foster’s in Canada to mention a few things of note. Amazing!

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