Friday, April 16, 2010

Driving around the Peloponnese and a relaxing sea day...

April 14, 2010- Katakolon, Greece – OLYMPIA for the site of the first Olympics
Gorgeous day! Spectacular blue sky and low white clouds. Sunny and warm and no humidity – no sweating all day! We just enjoyed the sunshine and scenic mountains and ocean as we drove along the coastline.

We docked in Katakolon, which is a port city on the western Peloponnesus. There were two other ships in the port – which was a surprise considering the size of the port and the quaint village at the port. ALL the shops were there strictly for the ships.

Most of the ship’s passengers were on tours to Olympic, the site of the first Olympic games but we toured there on a previous trip. The games were held in honor of Zeus, chief deity of the Pantheon, ruler and protector of both gods and men. They were established when Hercules decreed that the men of Greece would meet in Olympia every four years to compete in a series of athletic events to commemorate his victory. Nobility, merchants, ambassadors, and spectators would congregate along with the athletes. The games were so sacred that all hostilities, including war, were suspended for the duration of the games. From 776 BC to 393 AD, the games were held every four years at the time of the full moon in August or September. They first began with a simple footrace and a few wrestling matches but gradually expanded into a five-day extravaganza. The winners, crowned with wreaths of olives and the assurance of immortality, were hailed as heroes. The 293rd Olympiad was the last one held in Olympia. The Byzantine Emperor, Theodosius I, suspended the games in an effort to curtail pagan activities and his successor, Theodosius II, ordered the destruction of the temples.
The games were revived in 1896 by French historian Pier de Coubertin. To oversee, the games the International Olympic Academy was founded in 1961 and is based in Olympia.

Avis and a local rental agency had cars waiting so there were five of us in a rental car and off we drove to the south. Our goal had been to visit Mavromati/Ancient Messini (where the God Zeus was born) near Kalamata (where the olives come from) but after talking to the Avis office, we knew this was not realistic – too far on windy, narrow roads.

We headed south and stopped wherever we felt like stopping. A small sign marked a beach – we turned off there. We drove a few miles through fields of crops and found a quaint village, rather sad-looking, at the end of the road. The sand was dark but not from moisture. There was a very large 2-story home at the water’s edge which was being destroyed by the sea - the steps were separated from the 2nd floor, the side of the house facing the sea was gone…we all thought of the family who had once occupied the home and where they were now. There was a lot of stray driftwood and some trash scattered along the beach – not a pretty beach for swimming or walking. But with the crashing waves from the green/blue sea it was not terrible either.

We continued south to the small village of Zaharo and stopped to explore the supermarket and tried to enter the Greek Orthodox church (we never got in to a single church the entire day and I remember that from last time, when we were out in the country). I bought some pink pepper and they had green, white and black pepper. In the freezer section you could also buy the whole octopus and squid (you can imagine the packaging for those delicacies!).

On we ventured and stopped at a friendly gas station for a rest stop. We tried to talk to them and we all laughed a lot. The back of the station had a gorgeous view of a valley that led out to the sea. Driving further south to Kiparissi and then continuing to find the elusive “Palace of Nestor”, we tried to question the locals but to no avail. Our pronunciation and their understanding did not work. We knew this was not a common area for tourists so that made it all the more interesting to us.

But the olive fields were colorful on the narrow roads. The rugged, arid mountains in front of us were majestic. The sea and large island on the side of the road were scenic even if we never did find the palace! In the end, it turned out to be a nice joke for the day. We would look for the brown archeological signs but when we found them there was not a ruin in sight!

We headed north again back to the port and had some difficulty finding the ship. Once again, slightly stressful but we arrived at 4PM for a 4:30 all-aboard time.

Casual dinner and the entertainment was a revue show of all the entertainment onboard. The Prinsendam Orchestra, the Adagio strings, the dance band Counterpoint and Buddy at the piano. Laundry and typing…

It’s a Fact: Olympic events began small and grew over the years. By the 5th century BC, the religious festival was a 5-day program. Married women who tried to watch the games risked execution.

“Happiness is not so much in having, as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Norman MacEwan

Thursday, April 15, 2010 – At sea
Slept until 9 and it was wonderful. Meeting at 10, lunch with friends at 12:30, took a nap in the sun in the late afternoon --- finally, a day where I felt I had some control.

Formal night and we had Jessika join us, an officer from the Shore Excursion Staff. We had a nice meal and commented again on how friendly and caring the staff are toward everyone. This is one of the nicest crews; everyone is very genuine and caring and seem to really enjoy their job.

Missed: Indonesian Tea ceremony (will definitely do that in the near future), Culinary Arts Cooking Class with Guest Chef Marisol Simon, On Deck for the Cure Walk (five laps around the deck), Prom Night, Learn Basic Turkish, Mah Jongg, Seahorse Racing…

“Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.” - Dorothy Parker