Monday, February 28, 2011

Farewell, Greece; Cruising the Adriatic

We had seen the sights we wanted to see in Greece and were anxious to move on to Italy. (In retrospect, we might have stayed warmer and drier by spending another week in the south of the Peloponnese.) So we drove up the west side--not the pretty side, I'd say--of the peninsula to Patra, where we planned to take the ferry to Bari, Italy. Patra looked like a scary town, not a place you'd want to linger. Even in the security-controlled port area, young jerks were trying to get at our vehicle. So it was with some relief that we boarded the ferry, the Superfast II--part of the Superfast fleet--after only half an hour in the port, and got ourselves and the Grey Wanderer ready for the not-so-superfast 15 and a half hour voyage. We embarked at 6PM and debarked in Bari at 8:30AM Italian time. The vessel was quite large and full of amenities, for sale, and the voyage was very smooth. A week later or even a few days later and it might not have been so smooth. Vicki brought her eye-shades and ear-plugs and was able to sleep much of the night. I couldn't find mine and suffered accordingly. (I did catch a bit of an apparently 50s movie bio of Verdi). But we made it just fine and just in time to see the last of sunny Italy for a few days. By nightfall temperatures had dropped into the 30s and rain was threatening. It's still February, and we are a couple hundred miles north of where we were in Greece.

The fortress above Patra; we wanted to get out of Patra

Typical port scene

Our ship, the Good Ferry Superfast II; note stylish tail-fins

The Grey Wanderer safely and securely parked; it was its
2nd longest voyage ever (counting the Atlantic, of course)

Leaving Patra

Farewell, Greece

The Snoring Lounge aboard the Superfast II

Arriving in Bari; we spent our first few hours in the port
parking lot, looking at maps and guides, planning our tour
of southern Italy

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Olympia Museum

Olympia Museum; the Games are very old, older than
Clasical Greece, and it is amazing how much has survived

West pediment of Temple of Zeus: the battle between the
Lapiths and Centaurs (look it up)

East pediment: Pelops, founder of the Games, father of

Detail: a Lapith woman

Detail from the east pediment: the Seer

Nike of Paeonios: formerly on the triangular
pedestal in the sanctuary

And now, two of the utterly cool things in this museum
(reflecting my bias for the historical, I suppose): this is
Miltiades' helmet, from the Battle of Marathon; he had
presented it to the Games as an offering to Zeus

And this cup, found in the excavation of Pheidias'
workshop, bears the inscription "I belong to Pheidias"

A warrior bids farewell to wife and child

Among the hundreds of figurines found at Olympia

Olympia II

Along the row of Zanes, leading to the
Stadium, once statues of various cheaters
whose fines helped support the Games

Like every other religious site, Olympia was built on
top of someone else's site; here a neolithic site more recently
unearthed and explored

Remains of the Altar of Hera, where the Olympic Torch is lit
every two years (summer/winter)

Temple of Hera

Vicki at Hera's; note profusion of wild flowers; spring in this
part of the world

Olympic athletes were marinated in olive oil for both
training and competition; and used these tubs to clean off

Another view of the gym and wild flowers

Site of Pheidias' workshop; a Christian church in the 6th

Bases of the colonnaded Leonideion, a large hotel for
officials, VIPs

Parting view of the Stadium, from the slopes of Kronos Hill

Olympia I

We spent Sunday morning touring the archaeological site of the Olympic Games, Archaia Olympia. The first recorded Olympic Games occurred in 776 BC and ran an unbroken string every four years until 393 AD, when the Christians shut them down, along with various other pagan institutions. Initially, and for the first several hundred years, the Games provided a month-long truce every four years, allowing athletes and spectators to journey to sacred Olympia (birthplace of Zeus). The main occupation of the various Greek city-states, history tells us, was making war on each other and on anyone else within reach; so the Games were a nice respite. But then in Hellenistic times and later under Roman administration the Games changed, becoming less a Pan-Hellenic gathering than another spectacle. Sic transit, Gloria. Anyhow, the Games were forgotten, the site silted up under 3-4 meters of mud, and it was not re-discovered until the 18th century. Most of the archaeological work was done in the 19th century.

Kronos Hill, a pathetic little near-hillock where Zeus was
said to have been born (Kronos his dad; it's a long
disgusting story), overlooks the Olympic sanctuary

In the sanctuary, entering the gymnasium area, where the
athletes trained

The Phillipeon, a monument to Philip of Macedon, erected
by himself, celebrating his conquest of Greece

Temple of Hera

Alongside the Temple of Zeus; 6th century earthquakes
toppled pretty much everything sizeable

Pedestal of the statue of Nike (victory); we'll
see her in the Museum

Temple of Zeus remains

The Temple of Zeus housed Pheidias' colossal statue of
Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders; it was later carted off
to Byzantium and there lost in a blaze; this representation,
which I like, was in a bar in Olympia...Sic transit, etc.

Remains of vaulted entry to Olympic Stadium

OK, so the Greeks did know how to build an arch

Starting line in Olympic Stadium; intact,
seriously, after all these years; I'll spare you
the photo of me, this time only, lined up and
awaiting the starting gun

Olympic Stadium, with Kronos Hill in the background; no
seats, no skyboxes, nothing

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mountain Road, Rural Peloponnesia

So after Mycenae, we headed west, through the interior, bound for Archaia Olympia, on a mountain/gorge road of Vicki's nightmares.

Nice little road-side chapel; note snow in the mountains...

Heading toward one of the more vertical little towns we have

Closer up

Road narrows (a lot), helpful bend mirrors, a dozen of them,
eventually, begin to appear

Fortunately, there's not a lot of traffic

Back on the narrow, twisty, and true

Tiny oil truck for tiny roads

In another little town, a fixer-upper with income potential

A couple more of the thousands of road-side shrines one
sees in Greece

Finally, we're on an expressway, sort of; but then it comes to
an abrupt, unannounced end...

But we finally make it to Olympia and spend the night
(with police permission even) in the parking lot next to the
great archaeological site