Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Greece with Kids: Ancient Olympia, Little House on the Prairie Dubbed into Greek, and All the Feral Cats and Dogs

Day 01 of our trip to Greece is here and here.
Day 02 is here.

Welcome to Day 03!

Did I mention that we slept next to an olive grove?

We slept next to an olive grove!

Also check out the oleander in the foreground, blooming in all that heat!
I might have mentioned before that I LOVE watching local TV when we travel. The kids and I still look up the coral reef music video that played obsessively between TV shows in Hawaii, and I was just as obsessed with watching the Greek music channel, MAD TV, while we were in Athens--unlike our American MTV, this channel actually played actual music videos! You should search YouTube for Greek music videos, because they're pretty great.

Also pretty great?

It's Little House on the Prairie, dubbed into Greek! If you want to hear an excerpt that I filmed, click over to my Craft Knife Facebook page, because for some reason YouTube doesn't want me to film the TV.

Here's one of the many reasons why it's great to have a tour guide:

These little shrines are all over all the roads in Greece, and I had no idea what they were for until we stopped at one so our tour guide could show us. In Greece, if you have a minor accident, you're thankful that it wasn't worse and so you put up a little shrine out of thanks. If you have a big accident, you put up a shrine out of thanks that it wasn't even worse, and if someone was killed in your accident, you still put up a shrine, but you put a picture inside it of the person killed, so people know who to pray for.

Also in the shrine are images of your favorite saints (the kids were pretty stoked that this one had St. Nicholas, who we studied particularly in our Story of the World text), tokens and other offerings, an olive oil lamp, and the supplies to replenish the lamp. Our tour guide also showed us how grandparents use the warm oil from olive oil lamps to bless their children, so learning how to make an olive oil lamp and blessing my someday grandchildren is on my to-do list now.

Our first of many stops this day was the site of Ancient Olympia:
If you're paying attention to your Greek phonics, you can read Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο and Ολυμπίας, all of which are cognates and easily recognized in English.

In related news, here's a picture of Will wearing her cap smack on the top of her head, something that drives both Matt and I absolutely nuts:

If you don't want to look like a tourist overseas, don't wear a ballcap, because it's not a thing anywhere else. I don't care, though, because it's not as if people aren't going to take one look at us and not be able to otherwise tell that we're tourists.
One of the cool things about Ancient Olympia is the proliferation of oak trees, the sacred tree of Zeus, doncha know?

I didn't photograph every single oak tree, just almost every single oak tree.
Here are the remains of the gymnasium and palaestra, the training area for the Olympic athletes:

Here's a lizard:

And here's where the stoa stood. It's a kind of covered porch:

Remember that column reconstructions show you the height and location of the ceiling. Here's a kid for perspective.

Here's a bath house attached to the gymnasium:

Sure, you can just see the foundations now, but this place once had running hot water! The US barely had that in the late 1700s!
And here's what I was super excited to see: our very first Wonder of the Ancient World!

Well, not exactly--this is the site and partial reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus, which is where the statue of Zeus that was a Wonder of the Ancient World lived. It's long gone, now, as is most of the temple; when the temple was no longer supported by the city-state, it became impossible for the people who lived there to keep it in repair. I mean honestly, what random neighbor do YOU know with a crane big enough to maintain a Greek temple?

The site alone is impressive enough, however, even with just the few reconstructed columns that evidence its scale--it's almost more impressive to see the fallen columns all around you, because that makes it easier to visualize how BIG everything must have been! You'll also see in a minute that many of its sculptures and metopes survived and are in the nearby museum.

Imagine all of these massive columns actually in place. There's a lot of scope for the imagination in Greece.

Look! I'm here, too!

And here's an oak tree, fittingly right next to the Temple of Zeus.
Near the Temple of Zeus is a place equally awesome, the Temple of Hera:

Here's one view.
And then again with a kid for scale.
The altar in front of this temple is where the Olympic flame is lit:

Here's a recreation of that event:

Here's a YouTube video of the complete ceremony; the kids and I watched this after our vacation, coloring and chatting and playing games but taking it all in and looking up for the cool bits.

Next to it is the Nymphaeum of Herodes Atticus, because you gotta respect your nymphs:

Remember Herodes Atticus from the Acropolis? We're also going to see him the next day at Delphi!
There are the remains of another stoa on the way to the stadium--

--and some remains of the Treasuries, where offerings were given by other city-states--

--and then we come to this, the formerly underground entrance to the Olympic stadium:

And so finally here we are, at the site of the Ancient Olympic games!

Okay, it's not much to look at, but when you're at the place where the Ancient Olympic games were actually really held, you KNOW there's only one thing that you really want to do:

Because we'd all run so well, our tour guide handed around the laurel wreath that she'd made during our walk. Usually laurel wreaths were just that, made from the bay laurel tree, but at Olympia they were made from the wild olive trees that grew on the site--just like this one!

Oh, just hanging out at Olympia, having won her race and wearing her laurel wreath.

Wild olives have much smaller leaves than the cultivated olives that we saw throughout our trip.
Something else you should know is that while we'd been touring this site, gaping at the architecture and marveling over the structures, Syd had been doing some particular sightseeing of her own, and was quickly developing her own obsessions:

Yes, those animals are ALL at Olympia! After seeing several friendly, collared but seemingly owner-less dogs at the Presidential Palace, I went back to our hotel and Googled it--I mean of course! It turns out that Greece has a massive number of stray and/or feral animals. In Athens, at least, there's an organized program to vaccinate, sterilize, and tag them, which is why all of the dogs we saw had bright yellow collars.

Outside of Athens, however, there don't seem to be any such programs. To be fair, though, the dogs and cats that we saw everywhere other than Ancient Delphi all seemed happy, friendly, and well-fed--in fact, on the last night of our trip, Matt and I happened to be walking again through the Plaka in the evening, when all the stray cats of the city seemingly came out of nowhere, from every rooftop (literally!) and alley, and all began to chow down on dishes of cat food that had magically appeared on the sidewalks for them. Do the shopkeepers feed them, or the city? I don't know, but they were being fed, at least.

For now, though, here at Ancient Olympia, Syd had mostly been sightseeing the animals, and as we left the stadium--

--to go wander some more, she declared that she just wanted to go find the animals, and so we let her run off alone. Sure, the archaeological sites are big, and she doesn't speak Greek, but our tour guide had given us all business cards that had her cell # on them, and I made the kids both put the card into their lanyards, and their instructions were, if they got lost, to go up to another tour guide (trust me--they were everywhere) and ask them to call Militsa. As you will see, Syd repeatedly wandered off to find animals wherever she went, and she'd also disappear and then meet us at the front entrance of a site, or even once at the bus--it was hot, the bus was air-conditioned, and the kid is no fool.

So that's why Syd isn't in any of these next pictures--she's off having her own adventure and making her own memories while the rest of us saw more ruins:

Here's a different side of the Temple of Zeus.

This is the front door, but you can see the huge column that we saw earlier in the background.

Here's the location of the Nike of Paeonius, which we're going to see in the museum later:

Back to the Temple of Hera to walk around it for a closer look.
And look who we bumped into in front of the Philippeion!

After seeing all of the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia, we went to the museum to see all of the treasures that were found at the site:

These lion-head gargoyles are from the Temple of Zeus.
We ran into an interesting rule here, that would be the case for all the rest of the museums that we visited on this trip: inside the museum, you could take photographs OF the exhibits, but you could not take photographs WITH the exhibits.

A bit of a bummer, because all I really want of life is a photo of myself with a real Spartan helmet, but at least I got to see all the Spartan helmets. Maybe Matt can photoshop me into them later.

The metopes from the Temple of Zeus depict the best thing EVER: the twelve labors of Heracles! We studied him, remember, so we were always on the lookout for his depictions:

Here he is holding up the sky while Atlas fetches him an apple.

Here he is killing Cerberus.
And the sculptures in the Temple depict, of COURSE, the battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs at the wedding feast of Pirithous. The Greeks loooooved the imagery of this myth, and we saw it an awful lot. In the myth. the Centaurs are invited to a wedding, although why on earth you would invite Centaurs to your wedding I do not know, because the first thing they did was get drunk, and the second thing they did was try to rape all the women and children.

I told you about Centaurs.

This Centaur is just fighting, at least. The one to his right is fighting and being rapey at the same time.
Now turn your eyes away from the Centaurs, children, and look at these nice sculptures instead. They're going to have a lovely chariot race!

We saw the stand for the Nike of Paeonius outside at Olympia, but here's beautiful Nike, herself!

There's another whole room just for Hermes and the Infant Dionysus, which used to reside in the Temple of Hera:

But this, I think, was my favorite artifact in the museum:

It's a votive offering by Miltiades after his victory at the Battle of Marathon.
And other helmets!

Do they look familiar?

And finally back outside, where you CAN take your picture with the sculptures!

I know you also want to hear about the olive oil and wine tasting that we went to after this, and then the lunch hosted by a family in a small mountain village that we went to after that, and then the seaside town where we stopped to taste mastika and hit the beach after that, and you obviously want to see how beautiful it was when we swam in our hotel pool that night with the Delphi mountains behind us, but I'll tell you that another time.

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