Our second glorious day in Greece was spent exploring the fascinating archaeological site and Museum of Olympia. Olympia was the home of the ancient Olympic Games and an important sacred site in the ancient world. We began our visit to the site with a stroll through the remains of the ancient Gymnasium and Palaestra. Our Greek guides Smaro and Laura explained some of the finer points of athletic training in the ancient world, like competing nude or scraping off oil and dirt with a strigil. We then proceeded into the sacred precinct, admiring the collapsed remains of the massive temple of Zeus. This Doric temple once housed the spectacular chryselephantine (gold and ivory) cult statue of the god. Once ranked as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, no trace of this masterwork by sculptor Phidias remains today. We continued to the ancient Olympic Stadium, where we all posed on the runners’ starting line.
After visiting the archaeological site we proceeded to the superb Museum of Olympia. This museum presents a stunning range of artifacts found in association with the site, from the colorful terracotta remains of the archaic temple of Hera to the incomparable Hermes of Praxiteles. Also on display are two helmets dedicated to Zeus (one owned by Miltiades, no less!) after the defeat of the Persians at Marathon, one of the pivotal battles of the Greco-Persian Wars in the Archaic Era.
Returning to the ship for lunch, we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon with presentations on such diverse topics as photography techniques and ancient Greek seafaring. We completed our day with a relaxed Greek buffet on the lido deck. followed by a rousing performance of sea shanties by the Sea Cloud shanty singers.