Katakolon, a small port town in Greece may not have a familiar sound to it, however, only 38 kilometers from the port lay the ruins of Ancient Olympia, where the original Olympic games began thousands of years ago. Rob had been there before, but was amazing enough to return to the site for me to see it. We rented a moped bike and I drove all the way there – almost an hour trek with one of those – hugging the shoulder the entire time to avoid becoming a windshield ornament to one of the dozens of tourist busses shuttling passengers to the site. We arrived safely and set out to explore the area, carefully dodging the countless tour groups that hogged the paths.
Unfortunately, powerful earthquakes took a heavy toll on the structures that once thrived, leaving many of the columns broken and spread about where they had originally tumbled. We ran the first Olympic 100 meter track located in the stadium, which is surprisingly well preserved and lacking overgrowth. We even walked through the workshop where the legendary ancient wonder of the world, the Statue of Zeus was created by Phidias.
Did you know that back then, only men could compete? And even more obscurely, did you know that they did it in the nude? Even the sport of wrestling…
Before returning to Katakolon, we wandered through the museum stocked full of impressive artifacts and statues that were salvaged from the site. Many of the statues depicted Olympic scenes of competition and victory. Artifacts included molds from which the clothing of statues are cast to create the folds in the robes and dresses; armor and helmets; common everyday tools for cooking and gardening; and even spiraled bronze hair remains of statues that did not remain intact. The museum, packed with fascinating relics of day-to-day life really helped me to complete the depiction of this ancient civilization, whose passion resonates among the remains of the architecture and art that was so carefully created thousands of years ago.