Katakolo, Olympia, Greece

Aug 30, 2018 - Sea Cloud


This morning we docked on the west coast of the Peloponnese and set off early to explore the venue of the ancient Olympic Games. The games were held annually from 776 B.C. until the fourth century A.D.  People flocked to the site from all over ancient Greece.

We started our visit walking past the gymnasium, palestra, and early Christian church that was built over the workshop of Phidias, where he crafted the chryselephantine statue of Zeus—one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. We were impressed with the size of the Leonidaion, a huge guesthouse for distinguished visitors, and then we marveled at the Temple of Zeus and its fallen columns.

Eventually we found our way to the stadium and had mock races. On the way toward the exit we viewed the Temple of Hera and where, in modern times, the Olympic Flame is lit.

The museum exhibits complemented the artistic aspect of the site. Bronze votive offerings from ancient times and marble art from the Classical period are unique and very important. A pedimental sculpture depicted the chariot race of the hero Pelops on one side and the centaurs and Lapiths on the other. The victory of Paionios and Hermes of Praxiteles are highlights of world art, and we could not believe that among the artifacts on display was the helmet of Miltiades—the general who led the Athenians to their unbelievable victory at the battle of Marathon against the Persians in 490 B.C. History was alive…

Returning to National Geographic Sea Cloud, we enjoyed another great buffet lunch on the Lido Deck, a swim in the Ionian Sea, and later in the evening, an olive oil tasting. Guests voted, and while the olive oil of Messenia and Crete received many votes, and it was concluded that Greek olive oil is the best.

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About the Author

Sophia Theona

Cultural Specialist

Sophia Theona was born in Canada but has lived most of her life in Greece. She studied at the University of Athens and the National School for guides. For more than two decades she has guided specialized tours around Greece. Guests often call her “the eternal traveler” because her enthusiasm about every aspect of history, archaeology and life in Greece inspires the people she is traveling with.

About the Photographer

José Calvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Nicknamed “Indio” (Indian) because of his powers of observation and quiet nature, José has almost two decades of experience working as a naturalist and photography guide; as well as being recognized as an expert birder and nature photographer in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity — over 893 bird species have been recorded in the country. Since very young José spent all of his free time in the outdoors in the forest, where he soon fell in love with the birds. He particularly enjoys listening to their calls, and watching their behavior. Oddly enough, another one of Jose’s passions is science and technology, and because of this, he was among the first in Costa Rica to experiment with digital photography. As the technology quickly improved so did his love for it.  He truly believes that nature photography is the perfect combination of both of his passions.

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