Sunday, May 17, 2009

trip to olympia

A few days ago we made a day trip to Olympia, the sacred grounds where the original Olympic games were held.  It is on the complete opposite side of the Pelopenese from Tolo, where we were staying, so we knew we had to get an early start for 3 hours of driving there, and then 3 hours of driving back at the end of the day.  

We thought it'd save time and be nice to have a picnic at the Olympic grounds, so the night before we bought a whole bunch of supplies.  You can get fancy European meats and cheeses in the US, so we were most excited about buying these treats cheaply in the small supermarket.  We bought 3 kinds of lunchmeat, bread, mayonaise (surprisingly, they had Kraft, but we bought another kind), a big sack of fresh olives, and a bottle of wine.  We also saw what looked like spreadable cheese with a picture of garlic on it.  How could we not buy creamy cheese with garlic? (especially since there is no one else to comment on our breath?)  

Driving to Olympia was a no holds barred, full body effort.  We got a stick shift car, so we got to practice white knuckled turns while down and up shifting constantly to go up hills, around bends, and to re-accelerate.  (More properly, I got to practice while Marisa tried to not vomit in her seat.)  I've never seen this done in the US, but in India we admired how the drivers honk ALL the time, ostensibly to warn other drivers, scooters, pedestrians, and passing elephants about the soon-to-occur dangerous maneuever.  We noticed a few people in Europe honking around bends, so I took this practice to its logical extreme, as seen in this video:

It made me (us?) feel much safer to honk constantly, because Greek drivers don't seem to care what lane they are in, so we were a bit worried about getting hit head on while rounding blind turns, even if we stayed in our line.  

On the way we saw some beautiful mountain towns and views up the valley.  We actually appreciated the views more on the way back when we were less stressed out about having enough time in Olympia.

Three hours later, we arrived safely in Olympia.  I was feeling exhausted from the effort of the drive, though.  I don't think I've ever felt so tired after 3 hours of driving.  It was only 11:30, so we planned to head straight to the museum to first learn about the ancient site.  After that we'd picnic and then walk around.

There wasn't clear signage for parking.  After a minor argument about whether we could drive on the road pointing to the museum (it looked like more of a pedestrian access path), we drove up it and parked the car directly in front.  After we'd spent a few minutes parking the car and got out, a woman ran out of the building, "You can't park here!  And the museum is closed until 1pm!"  There is no predicting museum hours in countries that take afternoon breaks.

We decided since I was already famished we might as well find a spot to picnic, so we kept driving up the road and were amazed to see the old Olympic Stadium to our right, past a wrought iron fence.  There was a perfect spot to park the car right across from the stadium, so we got out and picniced right above it.  The stadium below provided some entertainment because tourists kept coming in and doing goofy things.  One large group of teenagers came in and staged a footrace.  As Marisa notes in her photo caption below, I kept yelling "Vittorio" at the racing teenagers below.  I'm not sure, but  I thought that might be italian/latinish for Victory.

Our food tasted great, at least to me, because I was so hungry from driving and from a small breakfast.  I slathered large amounts of mayonaisse and an even larger amount of spreadable cheese onto bread, accompanied by the meat and olives we'd bought.  The garlic from the cheese was the dominant flavor, though.   Marisa finished before me but half an hour later I was still eating.

I'd started to slow down and was no longer ravenously hungry when I prepared another piece of bread, covered with cheese.  I took a bite and realized it didn't taste good anymore.  In fact, it tasted kinda bad.  "This doesn't taste so good anymore.", I said to Marisa.  She laughed, because she likes to laugh at how I get sick from overeating.  (mixed with concern over my health)

"This tastes like something familiar...  hmm..  it tastes like butter!"

"Maybe it's a buttery cheese", Marisa responded.

"Let me look at that package and see how many calories are in it."

I took a look at the label on the front.  Underneath the picture of what looked like cheese and the garlic cloves I saw anew some Greek lettering we had previously ignored.  It read, "βούτυρο".

I had a hooked on phonix moment where I sounded the label out..  "Boooo tuurrr oooo.  Oh my god, Marisa, this label sounds like butter!  This is butter!"

We (mostly I) had eaten an entire tube of butter.  Probably 10 tablespoons, at least.  I felt pretty sick, scraped all the remaining butter off my bread, and finished the rest of the meat and olives.  We proceeded to the museum, stomachs heavy with 2000 calories of butter.

On a side note, I have been surprised and impressed with my ability to read (if not understand) Greek words.  This probably sounds stupid to anyone who has been to Greece or knows Greek, but it's easy to sound out Greek words if you already know the Greek letters, which many people do.  I learned almost all of them in math and science classes.  For example, with "βούτυρο", the important letters are beta (b sound), omega (o sound), tau (t sound), rho (r sound, it looks like a p).  Marisa points out that even frat boys know Greek letters, since the fraternity names are all in Greek.  This may be the only advantage of being in a fraternity, other than becoming really awesome at drinking games.

The Olympia museum was I think worth it for learning the context for the site, but I don't remember many interesting artifacts from it.  They provided lots of history that we wouldn't have otherwise known.  (for example, how important religion was to the original games, which was why they were eventually banned as pagan by a christian bishop)

The site itself was amazing to walk around.  The complex is quite large and surprisingly complete.  Many of the buildings had fallen over, but I don't think we'd ever seen so clearly fallen columns before.  For example, in this picture you can see exactly how the column support fell over:

Many of the foundations were still standing, and you could imagine how the athletes would have used various spaces.  Marisa took this picture of me pretending to wrestle in the wrestlers courtyard:

There were many other interesting parts of the complex, including baths where the athletes would get massages, stretch, and bathe.  It was filled with temples to various gods.  

Personally, I thought the neatest part was the runners stadium, where they'd hold several hundred meter races.  The arch through which the runners entered the stadium is still remarkably preserved.  You could imagine it sorta being like when they run into the Olympic stadium now, or when basketball teams bust through the paper arch covering when coming onto the court.  There were treasury houses for each Greek city state lining the road to the entrance, so the athletes could walk past symbols of their respective cities.  They also had statues of athletes who cheated, as a reminder of the eternal consequences of a tarnished reputation.

In the stadium I staged my own race and did 15 laps while Marisa walked the course.  She had the good humor to take some pictures.


  1. Hahahah, where did you get that goofy hat steven?

    You guys should take more videos. I didn't know you had the capability until now

  2. that hat is awesome. it's like the hat of the greek in the wire. i bought it in athens.

    We didn't have the video capability until i installed an earlier version of the cupcake android update to my g1. now we can take videos really easily and upload them to youtube! too bad i only got cupcake in the last 3 weeks of our trip. we have some other vidoes but they're really crappy and shaky.

  3. The post and the comments under the pictures are interesting and show what a great time you're having. I have a hazy memory of honking before turns someplace, somewhere, sometime in our past life. I just looked up g1 and cupcake android and now know that those terms refer to your phone and I guess some software that allows you to take better videos. What an education I'm getting. This video is a great improvement over the initial ones you sent. Good work!

  4. I just noticed one of the Google ads. Timely!

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