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Michael’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 16 Apr 2006

Location: Olympus, Greece

MapEntry 23 - Olympus (11th - 12th April)

Howdy ya'll,

Firstly, I have finally got the photos from Mt. Sinai put up. They will be a few down, not at the top of the list, and titled Mt. Sinai. Secondly, sorry bout the last one (Entry 22A), apparently it was too essay for some. Now, let me fill you in on the recent activities of myself.

On the 11th I headed for Olympia. As much as it would have been nice to accomplish a day trip and get back to Athens, it is a 5.5 hour trip and too far to do in a day. So I packed my bags and left Athens for Olympia, in the are of the Peleponeese. The bus terminals are in the middle of nowhere in Athens, and have no connection to any Metro station, so you jump on local busses which are chock full, and I'm carrying all my luggage, a bit of pain to say the least. At least the local bus kicked everyone off at the bus terminal so I knew when to get off, or I totally would have missed the stop. To make it harder, there is an A and B terminal, on the opposite sides of the city, so you want to be sure you're going to the right one.

A five and a half hour trip got me into Olympia at around 300pm, (I left at 930am) and I quickly started trying to secure my accommodation for the night. I rang the youth hostel, and found that they had rooms and headed in that direction. I found the joint and climbed the stairs to the reception only to find it empty. There were noises from around the corner, but a sign on the wall caught my attention - Bed €10 and curfew of 1030pm. I quietly turned and headed back down the stairs knowing that I had passed 3 'dancing bars' on the way to the hostel. I found a pension for €20 and settled for that.

By 330pm I headed to the park where Olympia is, about 500m behind the main road (well almost only road). I rocked up to the gate and find that the park shut at 3pm, having found another change in the guide book that hasn't been updated. I had hoped to do most of my exploring in the avo, and then move on in the morning, but now I had all avo to kill, and would have to wander around the site in the morning, travelling in the avo. I wandered along the fence line looking for a break to get in, but to no avail. By the time I turned around, about a kilometer up the road, I headed back along the river bank that flows along one side of the site, stopping and getting a few happy snaps of the frogs singing and going about their daily business till I got too close. There were HEAPS of em.

I headed back to the room and basically wasted time, hoping for the 'dancing bars' to be a bit of fun. As I sat in the room you ould hear the traffic firing past, a little chappel street-ish. Then there was one huge shudder, as if a truck was doing burn outs right outside my room. But it didn't stop... Then it finally dawned on me... f--k, it's an earthquake! How cool! I basically jumped off the bed and started cheering, and slowly wandered out to my balcony (even tho I was on the ground floor!) and saw all the locals and tourists heading into the streets. When I saw the locals out there I knew it must have been more than just a little tremor, and 30 secodns later, holding onto the balcony hand rail I could still feel it shaking.

By 1030, I headed to one of the 'dancing bars' just up the road from the place i was staying. I had just seen a large group head inside and hoped it could be good. Upon entering I realised that they were the first people in there, and 'they' consisted of 3x16 american girls and 7x16 year old american boys. Man... this sucks. I had a beer, and headed out of there for another club I had seen earlier.

I took a wrong turn getting there, and what should have been a 3 minute walk, turned into about 8 minutes, but the error was enough to allow a number of the american kids to beat me to the second club. In a way it was a good thing, cos when I walked in there were just 4 people there (all yankee kids) and I simply spun and headed out the door. Walking in by myself could have got hairy as the bar staff looked pretty lonely for company. By about 1115pm, I figured I'd head to the club closest to the place I was staying, and also the biggest looking place with a huge backlit sign saying "Dance the 'Night' Way". I had my fingers crossed for a crowd, but as I walked up the street, I saw it had already turned off all of its lights and locked its doors. Damn... should have saved the €10 and stuck to the curfew... I was in bed at 1130 anyway.

The next morning I headed to the site, and found that it had rained heavily during the night, but appeared to be clearing. Well, let me say that Olympia is pretty cool. It used to be HUGE. There were all sorts of things there. They had monuments, tarining facilities, place of worship, civic offices, spas, baths, hotels, and of course a stadium for competition. The map follows the paths, and there is plenty of information about each building on the walk, but there are a few that stood out the most.

First - The Stoa of Echoes, or Heptechoes. It was built specifically so that anything that was spoken in there would echo exactly 7 times... no more, no less. Of course, a handfull of columns standing out of the ground wont do it anymore, but it is pretty impressibe to think that they built it that way almost 3000 years ago.

Secondly, and just around the corner, was the Stadium. There is an archway entrance (it used to be an archway tunnel about 50m long) and then you see a natural sunken area of ground. The actualy 'track' area is covered in rock and small stones, and the surrounding area is just a grassy hillside. It used to 'seat' about 45,000 people, but only the judges actually had seats, the rest just sat on the grass. Of course, you can't go more than about 3 minutes without a handful of tourists deciding to race down the length of the track (129m - go figure). I asked a guy to film me on my camera running toward the camera from the other side. I went to the other then and started running towards him. When I had finished the 129m he said that I was too slow and the camera had run out of memory before I got into view... (okay, so not everything in the diary is entirely true... I ain't THAT slow).

Thirdly is the Nephateum (will check spelling later) and was a two tier fountain that was in a semi-circle shape. The land still resembles a two tiered semi-cirle shape, but it used to be entriely covered in a marble fountain, and housed 28 statues of lords, gods and other important people from Greece, 14 on each tier. The model looked incredible, and looking at some of the preserved statues in the museum later, it really would have been a beautiful site.

Finally, the big boy, the Temple of Zeus. This was a big (not huge in terms of number of columns, but huge in terms of height and size) temple set atop a 3m high slab of rock. There were alot of colums, but not as many as the Temple of Zeus in Athens, but in this case, earthquakes had knocked them all over. But most of them are still on the site. The cirular discs that make up the columns are HUGE. They lie on their side, and stand taller than me while I stand nextto them, that makes the diameter of each column probably over 2m. They have erected a new column in one corner, just to show you how big they would have been if they still stood. So why build the colums so big? Well, story goes the temple used to house one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world; I've been to the site of two now, the Great Pyramid of Giza being the other.

The statue of Zeus is reported to have been 12 meters high (think almost 4 basketball rings, or almsot 7 times the average persons height) and was composed of gold and ivory. All the skin parts were made of ivory, and his clothes were made of gold, as well as the throne he sat on. Now, being it disapeared thousands of years ago, no photos exist, but even the artists impressions seem impressive.

I headed thru the museum and then back to the room and tried to get back on the road, not wanting to spend another night in Olympus. I had hoped to get to Delphi, but knew that there would be no bus or train direct from Olympus. I caught the bus to Pierus, a bigger coastal town about 15 minutes away and asked at the train station there, but was told to head to Corinthos (the piece of land that joins the Pelopenese to the rest of Greece) and see if I can get a bus from there. I jumped on the bus, and waited to get to Corinthos. Of course, the bus followed the coast, and didn't cut across the middle so took about 4 hours to drive about what would be 100km in a straight line.

When I get to the train stop, I asked there and they said they had no trains to Delphi, but try the bus station (which was across the road). Asking at the bus station I was told busses leave for Delphi every half hour and I just missed one, so wait a bit and another will leave. That seemed odd, as there are only a handful of busses daily from Athens to Delphi, so each half hour seems odd, but I didn't want to argue, as it was made perfectly clear that by talking to me, she was loosing time that she would be otherwise doing her nails.

I waited about 25 minutes, then asked her how much a ticket would be, and she said about €1-2 which again seemed odd, and then told me it would only take 20 minutes to get there. At this stage something seemed very wrong, and as I climbed on the bus I asked the driver "Does this bus go to Delphi" and he said yes. Then I pulled out my map and said "This Delphi" to which he said "No, you have to go back to Athens". Damn. Another half hour waiting, and it 930 and I'm on an hour and a half bus ride to Athens. At least I had managed to secure accommodation, albeit in a new hostel. When I lobbed in at about 1130pm, I pretty much headed straight to bed (well they shut the courtyard at midnight, and I went then).