Thursday, July 28, 2016

Greece Trip, Tuesday, 7/19/16

Today we headed for Olympia on Greece's western coast. On the way we stopped at a store, Padelina, owned and operated by a Greek family that grows and processes olives. We enjoyed a highly educational olive-tasting there. Even virgin olive oils taste different, we learned, depending on the type of olive, location, and details of processing. Consumer Reports has found many imported olive oils lacking, so I wanted to take the time to find out what a fine-quality olive oil can and should taste like. There's a fusti bar, Experience Olive and Grapes, near home in Chesapeake, Virginia, so hopefully we can continue to find high-quality olive oils after we return home.

By the look on my face, I found an olive oil that tastes "just right"
Our next stop was the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology, also called the Archimedes' Museum and the Museum of Ancient Greek Musical Instruments and Toys in Katakolo Port. There we saw reproductions of an assortment of amazing inventions, including the automatic theater of Philon and the robot-servant of Philon (3rd Century B.C), the hydraulic clock of Ktesibios (also 3rd Century B.C.), Hero's "aeolosphere" or steam engine, a type of ancient calculator, a couple of advanced catapults, and the world's first door alarm. The museum is privately built and owned and well worth our time. Some of the exhibits were hands-on, an aspect many of us thoroughly enjoyed. Don, who likes to tinker with gadgets and inventions, was in heaven.

The robot-servant of Philon served wine (mixed with water, of course) at dinner-parties
We checked into our hotel in Olympia, then headed for a tour of the Olympia Museum and Olympia itself, the site of the original Pan-Hellenic Games in honor of Zeus Olympios, and the inspiration for the modern Olympic Games. All the city-states of Greece ceased war and held these games to honor the gods and to compete to see who was the best at various athletic events.

Highlight of the small museum in Olympia were the Hermes of Praxitiles and clay molds with glass and other evidence of Phidias' workshop. Phidias built not only the statue of Zeus Olympios at his temple in Olympia but the statue of Athena in the Parthenon. Both of the statues are long gone, but they were well-described and famous in their day. In fact, the statue of Zeus was one of the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World." Hera's temple at Olympia is actually older and possibly a sign of a more matriarchal society that was later supplanted. The altar in front of the remains of Hera's temple is the site where the modern-day Olympic torch is lit even today.

Don and Zoe, a member of our group, race in the original Olympic stadium. The heat was stifling. Zoe won, but I thought Don gave it a pretty good effort for a man who's nearing sixty years of age.

Praxitiles' Hermes at Olympia. He teases baby Dionysus, probably with grapes
Clay mold and evidence of glass-making for Phidias' statue(s)
In the evening we walked around Olympia, a pleasant village with lots of shopping for us tourists. I bought a nice reproduction of a kylix, a type of ancient Greek wine-cup. Sakis Doylas made the reproduction with exquisite colors. He is very proud of his work. The original was found in a burial site and is now housed in the museum at Delphi, which we will visit tomorrow. We also visited Apollo Jewellery, whose owners were proud of the fact that a member of the family carried the Olympic torch for the 1996 games held in Atlanta. They still have the torch and like to show it off to visitors from the U.S.

Don and I pose with the Olympic torch. The owners insist Americans do this (seriously)
I am not sure of the timeline, but somewhere up to this point in the trip we visited the ancient theater of Epidaurus, famed for its perfect acoustics and careful mathematical proportions.

The Theater of Epidaurus. We tested the acoustics by clapping and by dropping a coin in the center. Amazing!
For those who are considering travel to Greece, and, indeed, to much of Europe, keep in mind the bathrooms are generally small. Very small. I worry that many Americans, who tend toward plus-sized, might not even fit in many of the showers we used on this trip. I will post some pictures so readers can see what I mean. Don kindly stands in the showers to give us a sense of size and proportion.

Don in a typical shower in Greece. Bathrooms and showers are tiny by U.S. standards
This bathroom seems small even by Greek standards, but we managed.
Want to visit Italy in July, 2018? I am organizing a tour.

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