DAY 6 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18:
Today was a partly sunny day, with sun the morning, and a mix of clouds and sun in the afternoon. The temps were warmer, with highs in the low 60s.
We checked out of our hotel in Delphi after breakfast and began our drive west and then south. The drive along the Adriatic Sea (also called the Ionian Sea) was very scenic. After driving along the coastline for about 2 hours, we stopped for wonderful snacks just before we crossed Greece’s suspended bridge called the Rio Antirrio. It was built in 1997 ahead of the Greece Olympic games shortly after. It connects the Continental province with the Peloponnese province to the south.
Driving another 2 hours we arrived at Olympia. What a remarkable archaeological site this is! Located along the Alpheios River, ancient Olympia was where the first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC. The Games symbolized national unity.
As we walked through the archaeological site, we saw many impressive ruins. These included the gymnasium and palestra (dates to the 2nd century BC), the Temple of Hera (dates to the about 600 BC. Hera was the mythological wife of Zeus), and the workshop of a sculptor named Pheidias who made the 40 foot high statute of Zeus. This building was later turned into a church in the 3rd century AD.
The highlight/prize of the ruins is the Temple of Zeus (it dates to the 5th century BC). It had columns that were 33 feet high and about 12 feet wide. The statue of Zeus was positioned in the middle of the temple. Today only a few of the columns are reconstructed.
We ended the tour of the site at the stadium. It could hold 45,000 people and was used for foot races. The runners ran naked a distance of 365 feet. It dates to the 4th century BC. Here we read from Acts 13 (about Paul and Silas being identified at Lystra and Derbe as “Zeus” and “Hermes/Mercury”) as well as from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Paul encourages us to “run with perseverance for the prize…” It was fun to run or walk the distance of the stadium.
From the site we walked to the very impressive museum. Displayed in the museum are many amazing discoveries from excavations of Olympia that began in 1875.
Before driving up the hill to our hotel, we enjoyed walking around (and shopping) in modern-day Olympia. Although it is “off-season,” a few of the stores were open. After checking into our hotel, we enjoyed some free time before a group gathering at 6:30 and a buffet dinner at 7. It was another great day in Greece!
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19: MYCANAE, CORINTH, ATHENS