Part 4 (Katakolon) – Cruising Venice, The Greek Isles, and the Eastern Mediterranean

After a fairly uneventful, yet totally relaxing sea day, our first port of call was Katakolon.  Until I started planning, I was not familiar with this area at all.

Katakolon map

Of course, once I did a bit of digging and realized that this area was the site of the first Olympic Games, I knew that I needed to find a tour to Olympia.  After reading probably thousands of TripAdvisor reviews, I decided to go with The Travel Insiders – Ultimate Olympia Experience.  From first contact to the last minute, these people were a joy to work with.  I really liked the small group setting and Despina and Elana were both amazing at what they do.  If I am ever lucky enough to make it back to Katakolon, I am pretty sure I will be stalking these women, they know their stuff and I cannot imagine a better time in and around Olympia.

The tour began with Despina meeting us as we got off the ship and leading us to the very comfy minivan that was to be our transportation for the day.  After the rest of the group showed up (a total of 11 people) we set off for our first stop: a tasting of Greek specialties.

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So as you can see, we were treated to an in depth presentation of some of the more famous Greek products: olive oil, desserts, olives, honey and of course wine.  The gentleman that led the demonstration was clearly proud of what he was presenting and he had every right to be.  The honey was delicious, the olives fresh, the desserts were unique and delicious, the wine was lovely and the olive oil was some of the best I have ever tasted.  We were given some time to shop (I brought home honey and spices) and then we were off to the ruins at Olympia.

The first stop at Olympia was the Archaeological Museum.  This is where they display the artifacts that have been unearthed at the site of the ruins, which we will visit later.  The detail and craftsmanship in these artifacts is absolutely amazing.

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Nike of Paeonius (420 BC)

If you think about the fact that some of these pieces were made nearly 2500 years ago, it is really awe inspiring.

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Pediment from the Temple of Zeus (472-456 BC)

There is WAY more I could show you but we still have a few more stops before we head back to the ship so we had better move on to the ruins outside.

A short walk from the museum is the actual site of Olympia, the sanctuary and the site of the first ever Olympic Games in 776 BC.  If you have been to any other archaeological site of importance (Stonehenge, Acropolis,etc.) you have seen some pretty amazing things, albeit from a distance, behind ropes or fences.  This is not Olympia.  Here you walk among the ruins.  You can touch them, run your fingers along the same inscriptions that people touched nearly three thousand years ago.  For a Western Civilization and mythology fan like me, it was heaven on earth.

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There were, of course some places that were roped off, mostly for safety reasons I would imagine, but the size and scale of these ruins and what they stood for was nearly overwhelming to me.

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This is the entrance to the fields where the games were held. If you were caught cheating at the games, you had to have your name inscribed on one of the blocks along the walkway you were banned for life from the games.  It was a big deal.

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This is where Nero stayed when he would come for the games.  Yep, Nero. The Emperor.  He and I hung out in the same house.  It is almost beyond imagination.  And yes, for a big history buff like I am, I was totally like a pre-teen girl at a 5SOS (or whatever pre-teen girls are squealing over these days) concert the entire time .

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The Gymnasion (2nd c. BC)

This is where the athletes would train for things like javelin and discus.

Since we still have one more stop to go, it is getting close to time to meet the bus.  On our way out of Olympia, we stopped to get a couple bottles of water and ran into an impromptu Grappa tasting!!!  This was the coolest Grappa I have ever tasted, it was cinnamon!  Of course I bought a small bottle!!  Our next stop was a beach break and lunch.  Perfect timing for that, we were starving!!

We arrived at Agios Andreas.  A beach settlement situated on the site of ancient Pheia and mentioned by Homer a couple of times in the Iliad.  It’s kinda pretty…I can see why he may have thought to mention it.

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This was our view from the restaurant we stopped at for lunch.  I believe it is called Kastro.  If you eat and/or get a drink from there, the sunbeds and umbrellas are complimentary.  They also have restrooms/showers for changing.  We tried some pretty cool local dishes: fried local cheese, meatballs with tzatziki dipping sauce, a gigantic greek salad with halloumi and this:

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Octopus.  It was pretty darn good!  The tomatoes are so fresh there and really so is the octopus so how can you go wrong!

After a quick dip in the Ionian Sea, we got back in the van and headed back to port.  The entire day was one of the most amazing days of my life.  Katakolon ended up being our favorite of the Greek stops in no small part to Despina and Elana’s brilliant tour.  If you have a chance to tour with them, I suggest you do it…don’t hesitate, just do it.  You will not regret it at all.

Up next for us?  Chania, Crete.

 

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