February 25, 2011
After two nights in Kalamata we were heading on again and this time our final destination was Olympia, although we had a stop to make along the way. We were heading for the Temple of Epicurean Apollo and the drive there was quite crazy. We drove on lots of small, narrow roads through tiny little villages that meant not only did we have to contend with idiot drivers we also had to contend with people just walking out in the middle of the road and little old ladies tottering along the middle of them, oblivious to the queue of cars behind them! Interspersed with the villages were some massive power stations, smoke pumping from the cooling towers and ruining the clean air! It reminded me of where I used to live in Yorkshire which isn’t necessarily a good thing!
We eventually reached the town of Andritsaana where we sat in traffic behind an old lady for about 5 minutes before finally finding a turning leading to the temple. When we reached the site we found the main temple was currently being restored and was inside a large tent to protect it. It had actually been inside a large tent since 1987! The temple was quite cool though and the restoration did look pretty good, even if it was inside and not yet complete after 24 years!
Before we continued our drive we finished off the dips and bread from yesterday and then made our way through a lot more dead towns and plenty of bonfires blowing black smoke everywhere too. One idiot had a large bonfire in his front yard which was blowing smoke back into his own house! We decided to take a slightly longer route to Olympia but heading towards the coast and then following the coast road north. The road to the coast was exceptionally bendy with plenty of hairpins to keep me awake and I was very glad to get onto the main road again and not have to deal with so many twists and turns!
When we arrived in Olympia we got checked in easily at our hotel and decided to try and visit a couple of the museums before they closed. However, we were out of luck as the Modern Olympic museum wasn’t even open and the museum about the Ancient Olympics closed within about 10 minutes of us being there! We decided to walk back to the hotel and drink our final beer, the Black Lager (which was very good) before lazing around. We’ve done a lot of miles over the last few days and I’ve not slept much in the last week so lazy afternoons are certainly a good time for me to unwind and feel a bit better! In the evening we went to Taverna Bacchus, a fairly large tavern about 15 minutes drive from Olympia. It had been recommended to us and so we had high hopes. My roast lamb was delicious although Elizabeth’s vegetable platter was a bit hit and miss – she enjoyed the zucchini fritters but not sure she needed the HUGE pile of greens she was faced with alongside it!
February 26, 2011
This morning we got up early to head to the Ancient Olympia site. We didn’t want to pack all our bags up so we thought that if we got to the site early we could be back before 12 to check out. We started off at the large museum which was really impressive and had some amazing pieces there. There were thousands of tiny animal figurines and animals featured quite a lot, including griffin heads, eagles, lions and even large bronze pots with animal heads as handles. They also had pieced together the remains of a couple of bronze shields and these were really cool, the detail on the front still being clearly visibly even after the wear and tear and being buried for a couple of millennia! The main exhibits here were two impressive statues, the Nike of Paeonios and Hermes of Praxiteles, along with the friezes from the main temple of the ancient site. There were a couple of annoying groups in the museum though. One was a school group from the US and their teacher was taking them through every room and shouting out information at them. It was impossible to concentrate with his voice over the top of everything and it didn’t even sound like what he was saying was true! At one point he told them that one statue was the only one of Athena he knew of where she had bare feet. While he was saying this, I was looking at another one of her… with bare feet!
After the museum we headed to the actual site of the ancient city and thankfully the groups were still busy loitering outside the museum – they’d been given free time to look around but had chosen to laze in the sunshine outside, instead. The weather was glorious though and walking around the site was very pleasant. If seemed like we might be getting towards our breaking point of viewing archeological sites but each one at least had something a bit different. The temple here was quite impressive and the site was really well preserved. Some of the column temples had collapsed and these had been left as they were but this meant that you could get closer to the individually carved stone pieces and see just how massive they were. They were almost as tall as Lizzy! One of the most impressive things was the way the stadium had been restored, including the entry archway which led to the buildings were the athletes lived and trained (gymnasium). Some of the sites we had been to looked like they weren’t tended to all that well but with the nice weather here the flowers had started blooming and made the area looked really pretty.
Having got to the site about 8.30 we were finished by 11.30 and headed back to the hotel to get our bags and get on the road. We were heading to Delphi which was over a 3 hour drive so we wanted to get going as soon as we could. The first half of the drive was along a decent road and as no Greeks stick to the speed limit and overtake when they like I decided to follow suit! Another car was doing about the same speed as me and I followed him all the way to Patras, a large town at the northern coast of the Peloponnese. From there we had to cross the new bridge back to the mainland and the bridge was really cool. However, the toll charge was extortionate and neither of us could believe it when we saw the sign. I expected some kind of toll as all decent roads in Greece have one but we had to pay €12.90 to cross this bridge. We stopped just beyond the bridge to take some pictures of it and then carried on into the next town called Nafpaktos for a quick sandwich. The town had a lovely little harbour including an enclosed area with some fortifications enclosing it and some statues, too. It was a really nice little stop for lunch and even though the bridge was pricey it was a lot quicker than driving the long way around!
After lunch we carried on and we arrived in Delphi late afternoon. The main street was really busy and we struggled to find somewhere to park but we eventually did and walked back to where our hotel was. We checked into the hotel which was quite nice and had a lot of interesting things in reception, including a rabbit! We found a nice restaurant for dinner where we decided to have Greek food and the stew I had was really, really tasty!