Perched on the west coast of the Peloponnesus, Greece's largest peninsula, this sleepy fishing village of some 300 souls is your gateway to Olympia, site of the original Olympic Games. Held every four years between 776 BC and 393 AD, when the Emperor Constantine banned pagan festivals, the Olympic Games celebrated the ideal harmony of mind and body. Every four years, the sacred flame of Altis is rekindled to light the torch for the Modern Games.
The games at Olympia were held every four years in honor of Zeus, father of the gods. Since Olympia is located on the isle of the Peloponnesus, athletes and spectators came in droves from southern Greece, and in lesser numbers from everywhere else. The traditonal date for the first olympiad was 776 BC, beginning a tradition that lasted for more than 1,100 years. Special messengers announced the festivities, which were held during July or August at the full moon.
Although the athletic contests were limited to only five days, the competitors had to spend a long preparatory phase at Olympia, training under the watchful eyes of the judges. Most of the events - running, jumping, boxing, wrestling, discus and javelin throwing - were thinly diguised skills useful in warfare, but no one was allowed to fight seriously until they had first returned home. Horse running and chariot racing took place on a special race course.
The winnter of each event was crowned with a wreath of olive leaves cut from a sacred tree with a golden sickle.
Because of the immense popularity of the olympic games, the Temple of Zeus, and the great statue which was housed in it, was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But the religious aspect of the games declined during the Roman period and they were stopped altogether by the Emperor Theodosius after 393. The site was abandoned and the buildings fell into ruin. A huge earthquake in the 6th century completed the damage. Olympia was only rediscovered in the 18th century, and systematic research began in 1875.
The Heraion or Temple of Hera, wife of Zeus, is located in the central area as well. You will find the monument known as the Philippeion, dedicated to Philip of Macedon by his son, Alexander the great. The ruins of the great Stadium can be traced out of the old competition ground very clearly. forty thousand people at once could applaud their favorite athletes. It is hard to stand in this place and not hear the echoes of their cheers.
PLACES OF INTEREST IN KATAKOLON
Building that housed the Altar of Zeus and where athletes and trainers swore to compete fairly
Large, open practice field surrounded by long narrow porticoes known as stoas
Temple dedicated to Hera, the wife of Zeus; built in approximately 600 BC
Horse and chariot races took place here
House of Nero
Remains of a 1st century willa
Complex where the winners were feted and where the olympic flame burned on a sacred hearth
Guest house for important visitors and later a residence of the Roman Governer of the area
Located below the Nymphaion, this area originally had 16 bronze statues of Zeus; the statues were purchased from fines levied against those caught cheating at the games
Shrine of Pelops from approximately 600 BC
Rooms used by the athletes for training, bathing, cleansing with oil, socializing, and teaching
Building remains adjacent to the Bouleterion
Home to most of the Olympic events including running, jumping, boxing, wrestling and discuss and javelin throwing, approximately 50,000 spectators could be accommodated
Temple of Zeus
One of the seven wonders of the Ancient world, this once enormous temple housed a gold and ivory statue of Zeus on his throne; it was created in 430 BC by pheidias, the brilliant sculptor who also created the statue of Athena in the parthenon
Used to store valuables such as the equipment used in the games and rituals
Souvenirs are available in both Olympia and Katakolon. You'll find good buys in: Reproductions: Ancient bronzes, frescoes and vase paintings Handicrafts: interesting items made in traditional Greek style Gold/Silver: Hand-crafted necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
The nearest shopping area is in Katakolon Village, located less than a mile away.
Banks: There are no banks in Katakolon.
Museums: Vary, but generally open from 8:30am to 1:00pm. except one weeday. Major museums are often open until 6:00 or 7:00pm during the summer.
Shops: Most shops are open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10am to 7am and Satruday from 8:30am to 3:30am. Soucenir shops usually have longer hours.
Post Office: Located on Main Street. Open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 2:00pm.
Meals in Greece are a time to indulge and enjoy.
Tzatiki - well known appetizer made with yogurt, cucumbers and garlic
Pastitsio - A baked dish of minced lamb and macaroni
Moussaka - minced meat and vegetables served with rich cheese
Gemista - Cooked tomatoes or peppers, usually stuffed with ground lamb
Wine is a centerpiece of Greek Like. Retsina, a strong, aromatic resinated wine, is the national taste. You may prefer the kokkino (red) and aspro (white) wines, which are inexpensive and quite satisfying.
Ouzo, a clear licorice-flavor liqueur, is the favorie aperitif. Sip it slowly over a plate of mexedes or appetizers. You'll also want to try:
Brandy - Botrys and Metaxa
Mavrodaphne - A heavy dessert wine
suggested tipping is 10 percent for good service
SOME USEFUL WORDS
Yes...................................Malista or Ne