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Olympia

August 26, 2007

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We wrapped a wreath of olive branches around Mozart’s head just like the original Greek Olympic athletes, as she pretended to win races and events. More dreamy than dramatic, Olympia is the perfect place to see while in the fantasy stage of childhood and we did not want to miss it on our ancient ruins tour. The tradition of the wild olive wreath as the prize started with a relevant Delphic oracle. It will be a special souvenir that we will always keep.

Before we toured we read and talked about it as usual. Mozart had a passion for a book series called Magic Tree House books, which she went thru lickety-split when she was three and four as she just loved them. It is a very large series by a great writer who incorporates history and education in a way kids enjoy and tends to be popular with third graders. I, very reluctantly, sold her collection before we left with so much of our vast library, but I saved two books for this trip and gave one of them to her that morning before breakfast.

It was the one where Jack and Annie, the main characters, time travel to visit the ancient Olympics and meet Plato there. I am so glad that I brought it along as I think it added to her fun of being at this site and added a kid’s perspective. I think her experience here will bring deeper meaning to each Olympic event she watches in her lifetime, knowing that she was at the place it all started.

It is a large, shady, pretty site and it is easy to agree with Kazantzakis who said“There is no more inspiring place in Greece that can so sweetly and with such persistence encourage peace and reconciliation.”As peace lovers we appreciate the lofty goals of the ancients who ran them from
776 BC to 394AD.

Much of it is gone, but the model at the museum gives a good idea of how it once looked and it still excites the imagination as you walk about. The entranced to the running stadium still stands and the track, so DaVinci and Mozart had a few races and I got to sit in the judges seats and declare the winner. They also climbed up to where they had chariot races at the Hippodrome.

The enormous Temple of Zeus is a monumental landmark in Greek art and the one gigantic, fully restored column gives some idea to its magnificence. The chryselephantine (over laid with gold and ivory) statue of Zeus made by the great sculptor Pheidias sat inside and was considered one of the the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. We have seen so many of these famous seven on this trip!

We really enjoyed looking at Pheideis’ workshop on the grounds nearby where he made this famous statue. Even more interesting was a whole room of things in the museum that gave information about how he built it and showed what he used.

The museum on the grounds was excellent and after having lunch in a little cafe there, we took our time taking in all the exhibits. As you walk in, there is an impressive display of the statuary that was on the east pediment of the Temple of Zeus that just takes your breath away.

The Hermes of Praxiteles is also a famous statue here and a perfect example of the art of the 4th century dominated by a strongly naturalistic style. We were also very surprised and impressed with the largest collection of weaponry of this time period. It seemed odd that they were found here in a place where a sacred truce was held, but made sense after realizing that  they were the logical things for warriors to dedicate to a worshipped warrior god in thanks for a victory.

After a full day of touring, heading back to our peaceful campsite with a large pool was always a treat. It was full of French people, but most people were just there for a day, so it would be quite peaceful most of the day with people gone or off touring. The heat wave either broke or we were above it now as we were back in comfortable summer weather.

We first stopped at a campsite near the town called Camping Diana and there was a very sweet man there and it was a close walk to town and an internet cafe. We had learned our lesson by now though,
so we decided to check out another campground nearby and see if we could find internet within the campsite.

Camping Alphios was not as convenient to town and that was a minus, but they did have wifi available and it was a pretty site with nice views and a huge pool. The best internet was near the reception and Grandma said that it was the best that she could see us on webcam, but we also lucked out and had wifi from a nearby hotel right from our motorhome which is a real luxury.

One of the things I liked best about this campsite was how pretty the morning sunrise was. We were high on a hill and the views around this part of Greece are quite lush and filled with vineyards and farms. We ended up staying four days and catching up with things like booking our ferries to Croatia and such. It was a peaceful and idyllic respite from the heat wave. We were saddened to hear about the recent fires that arrived after we left  as its a beautiful special area.

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