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Visiting Olympia

The port of Katakolon on the Greek mainland is the port that is closest to the ancient site of Olympia and this was how we arrived in the area. Olympia was the home of the original Olympic Games which were also held every four years and date back to around 750BC.

On arrival at the site it is possible to visit the museum and we found this very interesting and worthwhile. The displays contains a lot of the artefacts that have been found on the site over the period of its excavations. This museum houses everything from tiny trinkets to large portions of friezes that have been reconstructed and many statues. Flash photography is not allowed within the building although it is light and airy so good photographs are still possible. One of the most interesting exhibits is a scale reproduction of what the site looked like at its peak. This is really useful to help get a feeling for the place when it is mainly only outlines that you can see at the actual site.

After the museum we were taken to the main site. Although it was quite busy the place managed to radiate an atmosphere of calm and quiet (beside the very noisy cicadas). Some parts are quite easy to imagine. As you enter the hot and cold baths would have been to your right and there was also a large gymnasium. Other buildings would have been hotels and practice rooms.

The two most important religious parts of the site would have been the Temple of Zeus and the Temple of Hera. Several columns from the Temple of Hera are standing and some have been reconstructed. It is easy to picture the complete temple. The Temple of Zeus has far less remaining. It originally housed an enormous statue of Zeus which is thought to have been 43ft tall. This was produced onsite in the workshop of Pheidias.

Walking to the far side of the site you enter a small tunnel and emerge on the running course. This had banked seating on the sides. I found this very atmospheric and you could really imagine the anticipation and excitement that competitors would have felt on entering this area. At the time there was only one winner who simply won a laurel wreath and great acclaim. There were no prizes for coming second. The track is in blazing sun and on the day we visited it was so hot I had trouble walking from one end to the other so it must have been difficult for the competitors in the heat. The stating blocks are still in position.

The site invites exploration. The tree lined walkways provide shade and there are discoveries to be made and you can let your imagination take hold. The site has some shade but it is very hot so make sure you have plenty of water and take sunscreen. This is certainly an interesting ancient site to visit, ensure you get a good guide and you will really appreciate the history.