Never fear, after a hair-raising drive I have made it to Olympia, home of the ancient Olympic Games every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD. But first a correction. The toll roads are apparently only near Athens; I didn't have any at all today except for a steep toll across a bridge. But the roads are not as pristine here, and there aren't those rest stops or public toilets. You've just got to hold it.|
I spent my first hour or so back at the Temple of Athena to see it in the morning sun instead of yesterday's afternoon sun. When I arrived, the sun was just breaking through the mountains and lighting the mountains in the background of the Temple. It was a magical, serendipitous moment that I quickly photographed. Lucky thing because within 5 minutes, the sun was higher and the angels stopped singing.
I took several other photos of the Tholos, maybe the best is the first photo below. Then just when I was about to leave, when the sun was up pretty high, I had the idea for the silhouette in the second photo.
The drive to Olympia was in two pieces: the first half was from Delphi to the Rion-Antirion Bridge, which crosses the Gulf of Corinth between the Greek Mainland and the Peloponnese (the southwestern part). That part of the drive followed the southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth toward the west, featuring mountains on my right and the gulf on my left. The scenery was magnificent. Somebody thoughtfully put a chair beside an inland lake. The islands in the gulf look serene. Many mountains here and all the way from Athens, are topped by wind farms.
I stopped for lunch at the tiny "Cafe Cauldera" where I had a great grilled ham and cheese, and finally some coffee (I'd found none since my hotel breakfast). This authentic-looking coffee-drinking Greek gentleman smiled and nodded when I pointed to my camera. I have a lot to learn about taking peoples' photos.
The Rion-Antirion Bridge is quite a beauty. I've read that the Greeks are upset at how much it cost; the money could have been best spent to improve the economy. I'm a bit concerned about its future since everyone knows that rion and antirion will eventually annihilate.
OK, now I've gotten to the second half of the journey; from the bridge to Olympia. After about 10 miles of highway driving, my GPS asked me to exit. I saw that the route it was taking me was straight south to Olympia rather than along the coast in a big loop westward, then back east to Olympia. Beside, who am I to question a GPS with a brand new SD card of Greece and Italy in it? Well, I spent about 2-1/2 hours on white-knuckle roads through mountains, plains, farmland, wasteland and lots of sheep land. The road was winding the whole way, about 30 hairpin turns, and hundreds of blind 90-degree turns, often one right after the other. This was all on very narrow roads, now centerline, just barely room for two cars, sometimes not even. I'll bet during that 2-1/2 hours I saw fewer than 50 cars/trucks/motorcycles. The road turned into gravel several times, there were recent rockslides that had been pushed to the side of the road. I even saw vultures circling overhead, waiting for my rental car to break down, or for two tires to go flat for that American who can't speak any Greek and has no idea where he is. I couldn't even stop to take very many photos because there were very few places with space to pull over and stop. But here are a couple anyhow:
That second one shows a solar energy farm near a small city. Gotta hand it to these Greeks, they're doing nicely switching sir energy sources. About 10 miles before my GPS told me I'd reach my destination, it put me only a wide two-lane road with actual shoulders and a speed limit I could actually achieve. I think the drive would have been much easier if I'd just followed that type of road all the way from the bridge. Anyhow I survived the "road to Olympia" and the vultures remain hungry.
I headed out to supper a bit earlier than the restaurants typically open, so I stopped in a Greek Orthodox Church next to my hotel.
Supper has come and gone, I enjoy recalling my day while waiting for supper and sitting outside for a bit afterward. I hope you enjoy my story, and appreciate you taking the time to read. No driving tomorrow! Just a day seeing the ruins of Olympia, and their archaeological museum. In closing, here's an updated map:
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