Oct 052011

(scroll to the bottom of the post to find photos)

September 28, 2011 (Day 8 )
Itinerary: CycleGreece Day 5, Tour of Ancient Olympia, lunch in town, ride support van up the mountain, bike in to Lampei
Bike Data:
Trip odometer: 15.5 miles
Moving time: 1hrs 34 min
Max speed: 30mph
Max elevation: 2752 feet
Min elevation:  147 feet
Weather: 90 when we started in the afternoon, dropped to around 80 in Lampei

This morning we had high hopes of visiting the Olympic memorabilia museum, but unfortunately it was closed all morning.  We found out later it’s been closed for months.  Mark and I spent our morning instead bumming around the small town of Olympia as the shops opened up.  We found some postcards and a book about Ancient Olympia to start reading up on our tour.

At 10:30am we met with a former mayor of Olympia for a tour of the Ancient sites with our bike group.  How amazing it was to walk through the same paths the first Olympians walked through.  Of course everything is in ruins, but we could get a sense of how massive the columns for buildings like the Temple of Zeus were.  The former mayor did a great job with his tour through the area.  We would stop in the shade under one of the many olive trees and learn about the surrounding ruins.  The ruins for the very first Olympic torch are here, though they aren’t grand by any means.

Outside the first Olympic stadium, we learned that only athlethes of great moral character can compete.  16 statues of the cheaters stood at the entrance to the stadium to remind all athletes to be moral.  The first Olympic events of course mostly included various sprints and other running events.  The stadium was massive, but unimpressive as it was just a shallow bowl with a straight track in the middle.  Spectators would watch from the grassy sides.  Two of the runners in our bike group went for an out and  back sprinting race.  Meanwhile, the mayor walked to an olive tree to make a wreath for the winner and crowned her just as she had just won the Olympics.

After the ruins, we walked over to the museum holding most of the art and statues that had been excavated from the site.  The perfect statue of Hermes was the main attraction and was only excavated in the 1800s!  Hermes stood very similar to Michelangelo’s David, though it had been sculpted thousands of years before and not excavated until after the David was sculpted.

The main room of the museum held the two pediments (or triangular sculpted sections) at the top of the Temple of Zeus along with the remaining sections of the frieze.  Many of the pieces have been lost since the temple was built of course, and the sections were held up in pieces reminding me of more modern art where sculptures might contain just portions of a human being.  This mix of ancient art presented in a more modern art style really intrigued me.

The three climbers in our bike group soon took off for the mountains, while the rest of us found a local taverna to have a relaxed lunch.  Mark and I split a pizza similar to a stuffed pizza we had in Africa.  After lunch, we hopped in the support van and managed to meet the rest of our group just as they had crested the giant first mountain climb.

From here on, I was feeling incredibly good today and I mastered the rest of the climbs to Lampei with little effort and for the first time in my life actually had to stop and wait for Mark to catch up to me a few times!  15 miles may not sound like much, but when climbing is involved, it sure does take a lot of effort.  The scenery sure does make up for it and the weather got cooler as we climbed into the mountains.

We had several amusing sightings as we climbed.  For instance, a large herd of goat were in the middle of the road crossing from right to left.  We stopped to let them cross and then a goat herder in a truck pulled up and ran up the side of the mountain to get  the goats back on the right side again.

In Lampei, we stopped to re-group with the rest of our bike group at a local tavern and let all the locals gawk at us on our road bikes.  This is a tiny mountain town with only one hotel and they don’t see cyclists very often.

Our little Hotel Lampei Ori was a bit out of town and run by an old man who spoke no English.  We were once again so happy to have our Greek-speaking guides with us and checked in easily.  I really wonder how often people come and stay at this little hotel in the middle of nowhere.  The rooms were smallish, and the beds were just 1 foot off the ground.  But most notable was the tiny postage-stamp sized shower in the bathroom.  I believe this is now the smallest shower I’ve ever seen with just barely enough room to lift your arms above your head.

While doing laundry we could hear the sounds of dogs crying in the background outside our window and finally realized there was a small litter of puppies downstairs!  Well, you can guess where we all ended up after that.  The puppies were small enough to fit in the palm of my hand and the parents were very friendly as well.  Everyone wanted attention.  The mother dog had a sad story of being found on the side of a road with a broken leg.  Our hotel owner took her in, but has no money to pay to have her spayed.  We might all be pitching in soon to get her spayed.

Amazingly there was a little taverna in town for us to eat dinner at while the locals played backgammon in the background.  We are loving the fact that we can eat with a group of people and share the food so we can all get a taste of everything.  This is the best way to sample new food.  Everything I’ve had in Greece has been delicious so far.  I also love the fact that our tour guides order for us in Greek and we don’t have to worry about menus at all.  Actually, many of the places we are visiting don’t even have menus.  Instead you simply ask what they are cooking today.

There is not much to do in Lampei other than bleat at the goats, so we tried some local Greek spirits, looked at photos, and socialized for the evening.


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