This morning we sailed into the pretty little Port of Katakolon. Located on the west side of Greece it has a population of only 500 people making it a very small little fishing town. Its main claim to fame is its position close to the ruins of Olympia. Yes thats right, Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games. Apparently the first Olympic games was organised on this very site in the 8th century BC.
The history is ancient and trying to get your head around that distance is not just hard but nearly impossible. Here is my very convoluted way of thinking about it, if you average that there are three generations per century, you have 20 centuries AD and then another 8 BC you have 28 centuries total to take into consideration – so there is a very slight possibility that my grandparents 84 times removed would have perhaps heard about this little thing called the Olympics.
So now that the history lesson is out of the way, the site itself if weird, its amazing but weird, these ancient ruins, thousands of years old and of priceless historical value are protected by one little piece of rope, with stones, carvings and walls just lay around on the floor where ever they have landed. Tourists pose on top of old columns while people on duty blow the whistle when someone touches something they shouldn’t. With a boat full of Italians on board you can only imagine that the whistle is a fairly common sound during our visit. There is no reconstructions so we did find it difficult to grasp what it was supposed to look like but with the sun streaming through the large overgrown olive trees it is really such a magical place you just don’t care. So we spent a few hours wandering around, taking photos of the countless stones and avoiding getting whistled at before we made our way to the grand stadium. There were not seats at the stadium, everyone just lay around watching the people compete down below which really isn’t much different to us laying on our couches watching the Olympics now. Oh one thing that has changed is that you used to have to compete naked. Thats right, butt naked! Why you ask? because it puts everyone on an even playing field and the judges can’t be influenced by a persons station or importance when making decisions. So this obviously meant that the early Olympics were only available to other men … poor girls were not allowed to watch the naked men running up and down the field, to be honest I’m really not sure how pretty it would be so maybe the choose not come themselves?
You may wonder why I seem so harsh with the Italian tourists. For me, in my experience there are a few things that just grates on me about this particular group of people, Firstly, they have no real sense of order, they don’t believe in queuing but its even more basic than that, there doesn’t seem to be any courtesy for others, there is no respect for the elderly, if you are waiting for a lift its not who was there first goes first, survival of the fittest seems to be the ruling opinion. Secondly is a total lack of personal space, they push, barge past and stand way to close. Finally its the noise, they don’t seem to have the ability to moderate their tone based on their surroundings. Their voices come in three very distinct volumes, loud, louder and screaming across the room. Saying this, when we booked this cruise we knew it would be predominantly Italians and we were and still are fine with that. We now look on the chaos in a bemused sense of wonder, we expect to have to hold the masses back so the little old German man can get into the lift first. So please don’t think to harshly as a bash the Italians as a whole, I find them just another layer of entertainment as long as they are not bashing into me or trying to steal my croissant!
Ok so back to the day, After our short visit to Olympia we jumped back on the bus and were taken to a very small little farm house called Magna Grecia – This farm is pioneering a new form of tourism called Agratourism, its all about showcasing local Greek products, olives, fetta and oil to name a few. We sat down to a small tapas plate while watching local Greek dancers perform to very traditional Greek music and slowly drank large glasses full of a local red wine. It was a lovely relaxing afternoon where we were able to explore the farm, interact with the locals and sample some very fine cuisine.
Usually, when we travel we try to cram as much information into our heads about the place we are visiting. It is hectic, fascinating but also just a little bit tiring. With cruising and cruise tours the pace is slower, you really can’t rush anything so we find that we are being forced to slow down. We can’t quite figure out if this is a good thing or not yet, yes we need to slow down but are we wasting the little time in the country we have, we are not able to see everything or do everything and we just don’t know if it matters or whether this relaxing is a good thing?