Been There Done That: We travel to the site of the original Olympic Games

Bust reproductions displayed on the ship


ABOARD THE MV AEGEAN  ODYSSEY — This morning we arrived at the small fishing village of Katakolon (established in 1857), the gateway to the mystical site of Ancient Olympia, sacred ground to the people of the Peloponnese Peninsula as early as the 10th century B.C.

This is a popular stop for cruise ships, offering passengers an opportunity to visit Olympia, and we did so after breakfast.

After a 40-minute drive from the port, we reached the site of Olympia where the first Olympic Games were held in 776 B.C. in honor of Olympian Zeus. The games took place every four years until the Emperor Theodosius I abolished them in 394 A.D. as part of his suppression of pagan rituals within the newly christianized Roman Empire.

While walking among the Temples, Hippodrome and stadium with the capacity of 45,000 spectators one’s imagination is stirred by the historical significance of it all.

Upon our return we attended another lecture by Dr. Candace Weddle entitled “Body Language: The Human Form in Ancient and Medieval art.” It was an interesting lecture on what the human body’s representation in art says about a culture. From the ideal nudity of the most famous Greek statues, to the hair styles of Roman emperors, to the sculptures of saints and sinners decorating medieval churches, the treatment of the body can signal a cultures values, fears, politics and phobias.

Later in the afternoon I stopped by the Observation Lounge for afternoon tea, one of England’s greatest contributions to civilization. A selection of freshly prepared sandwiches, cakes and scones were served, accompanied by a selection of teas and a choice of coffees. A cup of darjeeling, a slice of freshly baked cake and the panoramic views of the Aegean are a good combination.

Observation Lounge

I had dinner at the Marko Polo again tonight. I had an appetizer of artichoke tart with crispy pancetta bacon and lime butter sauce, sweet corn and bean soup, blackened grilled fresh sea bass fillet with spice crust with flavored bell pepper vegetables and parsley potatos. For dessert I had a selection of European cheeses. The meal was nicely plated and quite good.

A nice selection of wines

Each night we are offered complimentary red and white wines with our meal by a wine waiter that pours glasses in the dining room; not a sommelier, whose role is more specialized and informed. The wines offered are table wines from Italy, Croatia or Greece. Nothing exceptional, but fine. Most of the tables I joined ordered the included table wine and found it good. I never heard a complaint.

We are offered other vintages from a wine list provided upon request: A “Special Offer” white and red for $18 a bottle, as well as champagne, white, rose and red. Each is sold by the glass for from $6 – $9, or by the bottle for from $18 – $38; not unreasonable prices.

To see how the wines rated in quality I looked several up on a well-regarded wine rating website. I found several, but not all. Most of the wines were rated 85 out of 100, 100 being the best. An 83 – 86 rating is considered good, suitable for everyday consumption. A few of the wines were rated 88; very good and well recommended.

The mark up on the bottles varied to as little as $4 to as much as $12. That’s pretty good, as restaurants often mark up wines 200 – 300 percent, depending on the wholesale price and quality.

The public areas are full of artwork

Although the ships hallways are bare, its public areas are full of artwork. For example, just outside the Ambassador Lounge are a collection of Michael Halliday’s works as seen below.

Michael Halliday’s works

In addition there are a number of bust reproductions on display. Replicas of ancient ships are displayed; one of the best is found in the ship’s library. The wood-paneled library is furnished with two large desks, a large round table with seating for six, and a single computer station. It contains hundreds reference books on histories of the ancient civilizations to be visited, culture, language, geography and various travel guides. There is a small selection of recent fiction.

The library is open 24 hours per day and borrowing is on the honor system. There is also an assortment of articles from US, Canadian, European and Australian newspapers that are updated daily.


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