Scenery at the town of Uelzen, Germany .
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Hamburg, Germany.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? North to Denmark!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Ancient Olympia... birthplace of the Olympic Games

Having been to both Mexico and Turkey, we have explored a lot of ruins sites. But Ancient Olympia in Greece is a little different because it is where the Greek Olympic Games took place every four years without interruption between 776 BC and 393 AD... a period of 1,169 years!

Sure, to look at the ruins themselves, it's all very similar to the ruins we saw in Turkey. But it's the information learned here to do with the games that we found really interesting.

When we arrived, it was still a little chilly out so we headed straight into the museum. There are actually two museums, one for the archeology, and one dedicated to the ancient Olympics themselves.

We went in the archeological museum first.
These statues are from the roof of the Temple of Zeus.

The temple no longer exists, but this is what it would have looked like.

A lion head water spout from the roof of the Temple of Zeus.

There are lots of examples of pottery dating back 2,700 years.

These figurines were buried in a thick layer of ash and they think they were offerings from the faithful to the god Zeus.

Bronze cauldron handle dating to the 2nd century BC.

Greece was always at war, most often between its own states.

But it is interesting that every four years, a month or so in advance of the games a truce was called, and everyone abided by the truce so that athletes could make their way unobstructed to the games. 

Lots of statues.

Hermes of Praxiteles

The above statue dates from 340-330BC. So it was made about 2,350 years ago. It was unearthed during excavation work that took place in 1877.

Looking at all of this ancient history that is in itself less than a drop in the bucket as far as the world history goes, makes me think about how insignificant our measly 85 years or so of life is.

Most are headless. 

This was a good time of year to visit. Most visitors to Olympia come because of cruise ships, and there aren't any of them around. So the site was really quiet. I think there might have been two or three other people in the museum. 

Then it was time to see the outdoor stuff. We were fortunate to have a beautiful blue sky day!

What the site would have looked like 2,000 or so years ago.

They are still doing active excavation work.

You have to have a lot of patience to be an archeologist.

We pretty much had the place to ourselves.

It was kind of funny because there were probably more staff than visitors. They keep people on staff who are there to make sure the masses don't cross the roped off areas, and because it's normally such a popular site, there are a lot of roped off areas. These people are dressed to blend in, so you don't really notice them. But when you are pretty much the only tourist there, they sort of become your shadow and they try to nonchalantly keep an eye on you, but they're not very good at it. We thought it was funny.. 

Heating vents built under the floors in the baths.

It's actually a really large site.

They have excavated some beautiful mosaic floors, but they are all protected by a layer of sand.

There is a beautiful floor under that sand and a sheet of plastic.

This was the workshop of the famous sculptor Pheidias who made the colossal gold and ivory statue of Zeus that no longer exists. In the 5th century, the workshop was turned into a church.

The site was badly destroyed by two separate earthquakes in the 5th century and never rebuilt. 

This was used as an outdoor swimming pool when the Romans took over in the first century.

What they think it would have looked like.

This one tower at the Temple of Zeus was rebuilt.
I can't imagine the power from the earthquake that toppled these huge blocks of rock.

What the Temple of Zeus would have looked like.

What it looks like now.

What the statue of Zeus would have looked like.

The stadium where all of the games took place.

Me, in the stadium.

The stadium and viewing of the games were open to everyone... provided you were male! There were no seats unless you were a judge. Standing room only! The athletes competed totally naked. Wresting, boxing, and running. Eventually, chariot races were added. Again, only male competitors, but there were some female owners of chariots and horses. Eventually, games were also added for boys and girls. 

The starting lines for the races are still in place.

In 1908, they excavated a site that didn't belong. It was the remains of a building that dated to about 2,100 BC along with several vases and pottery from that time period.

This is where they light the Olympic Torch in the modern Olympics.

The Ancient Olympics Museum.

The Black Figure Skyphos.

The vase above is dated 540-520 BC. It was awarded to Spyros Louis, the winner of the marathon in the first modern Olympics in 1896. It ended up in a private collection that was bought by a University in Germany, and the university donated it back to Greece in 2019.

Amazing mosaic floor depicting Olympic athletes. 
Excavated from a Roman house near Patras dating from the late 2nd century.
It is about 20' long by 9' wide.
How they moved it from there to the museum is beyond me!

Interesting stuff, and we're glad we were able to enjoy the whole thing with hardly anybody else around! And, at half price during the off season, our tickets were only €6 ($8.75 CAD, 6.75 USD) each.

There aren't a lot of overnight options close to the ruins site. So we drove outside of town a little and ended up parked overlooking a modern outdoor theater. 

Modern outdoor theater.

View out our side window.

Max, parked at GPS 37.645677, 21.609788
Kind of an odd overnight spot, but it worked out okay.

Today, we are headed back to the beach!


And in Canada...

Boxing Day Deals have already begun!


  1. Merry Christmas Kevin and Ruth. I am so enjoying your travels.

    1. Thank you Jim and Sandie! Merry Christmas to you both. :-)

  2. That was a fascinating tour of a historical site that I'll never visit..thank-you and Merry Christmas!

    1. We are glad that you enjoyed the tour. We found the site very interesting with a long history

      Merry Christmas to you as wwell. :-)

  3. Wow, is that a wonderful day!!! Thank you for tort insight and showing us to travel with you.

    Merry Christmas to you both.

    1. It was good day, we really enjoyed the history lesson that we got there and we marvelled at the condition of the pottery, statues and other findings that they uncovered around the site considering that the majority of the buildings were in ruins.

      Merry Christmas to you both too. :-)

  4. Amazing and very interesting! Thank you! I enjoy your travels!

    1. It was definitely both. We certainly learned a lot from information in the museum and walking around the ruins.

      We are happy to hear that you enjoy following along on our adventures. :-)

  5. Thank you for sharing your travels. Very amazing history and I enjoy the pictures as well. Merry Christmas 2021!

    1. You are welcome, we are glad that you enjoy our posts.

      Merry Christmas to you as well. :-)


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