Taking a ferry between islands in Greece gives you perspective on how far away they really are. Getting to Rhodes, one of the most distant of the Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea, is no different.
On day two of our tour through Classical Greece, we drove through the country side straight through to the site of Olympia. On our way there, we learned of the great fire in Greece in 2007 and how it devastated this area. It consumed the Peloponnese, burning from June to September.
George, our tour guide, also told us the story of the oldest olive tree in Greece. The Tree was located in Athens, near the Acropolis, and dated back to 600 BC. THAT IS AN OLD TREE. Now, it wasn’t bearing fruit, but it was still a monument of the strength of an olive tree. This is how it died: last year, a man crashed his car into the tree, and it finally died. What a sad ending.
Speaking of olive trees, they are very versatile. They can grow anywhere, it needs little to no water, and can last for years. It is tradition to plant an olive tree on the day of a baby’s birth, then 5 or 6 years later, when the child starts school, the tree starts to bear fruit. When the child turns 18, the tree is ready to harvest. Olive trees stand for peace prosperity and glory. Its significance in Greece dates back 60,000 years. Amazing, I am proud to be named after an Olive tree.
Another thing we noticed, were hundreds – no, probably thousands – of shrines to the saints scattered through Greece. They are all along the sides of the roads. Some are built beautifully, others are plainer but they each are filled with offerings and prayers.
Greek tea, or mountain tea, thyme and oregano all grow in the mountains of Greece. And where there is Thyme, there are bees. Honey is a huge deal in Greece. It is used for sweetener because they don’t have sugar cane.
We finally arrived in Olympia (F), the place I have been itching to go to since we got here. It was more than I expected. It was big, and magical. I could picture what it was like a couple of millennia ago.
Although the temples are almost completely destroyed both by human intervention and natural, you can still see how grand it used to be. The temple or Zeus was massive, and so intricate. It is really unfortunate that it no longer exists. Instead, I pictured Zeus from the Disney movie Hercules. Elizabeth and I started singing Where I Belong. (I will find my way/ I can go the distance/ I’ll be there someday/ If I can be strong/ I know ev’ry mile/ Will be worth my while/ I would go most anywhere/ to feel like I belong). That was the best thing ever.
So Olympia, the source of the Olympic games both ancient and modern, was a major religious, cultural, and sporting centre. Men from all over Greece would come to the games. It was a men only affair, although they had the women’s games afterward. Hera’s alter is now where they light the Olympic flame. On the way to the Stadium, there is the Bases of Zanes. It is basically Cheater’s Row. There were 14 cheaters, each having to pay the fine to build it, and have to watch as they write their names and how they cheated.
There is also a giant stadium that could seat 45,000 men. Again, no women allowed. However, there is one pedestal for the goddess Demeter. Here, a priestess, the only woman allowed, would stand to watch over the games.
We left Olympia and headed north along the coast to the Rio–Antirrio bridge (G), the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge. It gets pretty windy here, and it is prone to Earthquakes, but the bridge should be able to withstand it.
Then we headed to Delphi (H), a beautiful town in the mountains. This leg of the journey gave me a headache. The roads twisted and turned, went up and up and up, with a mountain to your left and a sheer drop to your right. I thought we would never make it. on our way there we passed the largest Olive Grove in Greece consisting of 4 million olive trees. It took 15 minutes to drive from one end to the other.
We finally reached Delphi and went for a walk with our new friends in the small town. This was Elizabeth’s favourite part.
Part III coming soon.
When you are still awake when the birds start chirping, you know you need to go to bed. But when you are still awake when Elizabeth’s Papou gets up, and you have enough energy to climb the Acropolis, you are jet lagged. Here is to Elizabeth and me who couldn’t fall asleep until 6 AM and hiked the next day.
Okay. So I climbed to the top of the Acropolis. You say, Olivia, big deal, tourist do it all the time. NO. It’s a feisty walk and when it’s hot as hell, it’s hard to do. Also, Marble is SLIPPERY. Elizabeth and I took it very slow, we paused to take a drink and take pictures. It was probably the best day. It is only a mild 30 degree day, the sun was behind clouds/haze, and the wind brought a nice refreshing breeze.
So more about the Acropolis. Honestly, when I first saw the Parthenon, I could imagine Ancient Greeks walking here to pray. Although it is under construction, it still held the character of a temple of great wonder. We really lucked out with the weather. I have included some pictures, and more are to come once I have more time.
We then wandered around the Monastiraki and bought some souvenirs for friends. Everyone is so laid back and walking around the cobbled streets in the day time was wonderful.
Food was another great thing about today. We are spending so little money, especially on food, and each meal is enough to get you through the day.
My new favourite drink: frappe and new favourite food: fried zucchini.
Wow. Day two is a win.
Stuck my feet in/ went swimming in the Mediterranean. It was cold but refreshing. It was hard to get into because of the rocks, but Elizabeth and I had an awesome time lounging on the
hot lava-like beach. I learned that hiding your phone from the sun will not protect it from the heat and that phones can have heat strokes. The water was refreshing from the hot steamy day, and we actually managed to find ourselves in a Starbucks, which was a moment of comfort.
This afternoon we met up with Elizabeth’s cousin who said she wanted to take us to her favourite spot in Athens. First, we walked around the Monastiraki, which is a bunch of pedestrian streets with vendors selling all sorts of things and trinkets. Walking along those cobblestone streets was a tremendous experience! Once the sun set, it was like magic as the lights came out and everything came alive. We decided to grab a couple drinks and
walk hike up the hill to sit under the Acropolis. I don’t know what I expected, but it definitely was not this. A 360 degree panorama of Athens, with the ruins scattered across the city all lit up and the majestic Acropolis standing guard over it all. No pictures will ever be able to capture the beauty that I saw tonight. (Although, I have tried to include one to show.)
One heartbreaker is that it looks like visiting Meteora and Olympia are not in the cards for us. We are desperately trying to find somewhere else to go to get the sightseeing in before we go island hopping.
Here is a taste of what I saw tonight, which does not do it justice.