02.07.2015 - 03.07.2015 37 °C
2 July. God it's bloody hot - temperature up a level from Italy.
Drive to Olympia introduced me to another variation in "how to drive on the continent"
First thing is the very strange speed limits. Driving at 100 kph then suddenly hit with a 50 kph speed limit. There is zero reason for this. The road is the same, we haven't entered a town, I can't see any school kids taking their lives in their hands dashing across the road. I am of course the only driver paying any attention to this new limit.
This is made more bizarre when in the middle of a town (30 kph limit), the limit changes to 90 kph. None of these limits seem to matter (except to the anally retentive Englishman sitting on top of his little red SEAT (it's too small to sit in it) as everyone Just drives as fast as they can regardless of limits.
Overtaking is also an experience or rather being overtaken. The driver behind just comes right up to your bumper (in fact close enough that you can discern the colour of their eyes) and the expectation is that you move over into the dirt track (quasi lane) to let them pass. It's quite unnerving to start with but you soon get used to it. Road rage doesn't seem to be an outcome - it's just the way they do things.
Arrived at hotel (Best Western, Hotel Europa) in Olympia around 6 pm. It's quite plush. Lovely pool in delightful gardens. Room is luxurious, staff are really attentive without being annoying. Seems like a real gem
They have a restaurant in the gardens overlooking the valley so I decide to eat there - it's quite popular, though unfortunately a large number of loud Americans with like-It is are in attendance. "We need to like order, what do you like want?" "I'd like like an omelette but with like egg whites only" - SERIOUSLY! Where is a shot gun when you need one.
Hilarious moment. I was waiting for my food to arrive when a couple of guys (60ish) sat behind me and it was clear from their accents they were from Lancashire. The waiter came over to take their order and also put some bread and a dish of tapenade on the table.
Lancs guy # 1 - "What's that?"
Waiter - "It's tapenade sir"
Lands guy #2 "what's tapenade?"
Waiter - "It's olive paste sir"
If you know Peter Kay, then this could have been lifted from one of his sketches (garlic bread). Imagine Lancashire accent
Lancs guy #1 - "OLIVE?" "PASTE?" " what's that all about?"
Lancs guy #2 - "did he say Olive Paste?
Lancs guy #1 - " he did"
Lancs guy #2 - "No, no, no son, we don't want any of that muck"
Lancs guy #1 - "we had steak and chips last night, we'll have the same again tonight and a bottle of of that Chablis (pronounced "ch" not "sh"). Oh and don't forget ketchup" and if course "make sure the steaks are well done"
After the waiter had gone they went on for quite a while about olive paste and the fact that they couldn't see the point in olives let alone making a bloody paste out of them. I was crying with laughter.
3rd July. Up early mainly because all the advice is to get to the Archeological sites as early as possible to avoid crowds and experience in relative cool temperature (35 degrees). Manager also gave me advice about my onward route to Mistras - a more scenic alternative than the standard one.
Spent about 3 hours walking through the Olympia site and then a couple of hours in the museum.
The site itself is picturesque, but the sheer quantity of ruined structures is incredible. The scale of the site complete with temples, gymnasium, stadium, quarters for the athletes and for the dignitaries does allow you to imagine what it was like in its heyday.
One interesting area is the council chamber , where before a great statue of Zeus the competitors took their oaths to observe the Olympian rules. These were not to be taken lightly: lining the way were bronze statues paid for with the fines exacted for foul play, bearing the name of the disgraced athlete, his father and city. There wouldn't be enough space for something like that nowadays.
The museum is also very interesting with a number of key artefacts. Most notably the head of Hera and the Hermes of Praxiteles , both dating from the fourth century BC.
Left Olympia to get to Mistras. took the route advised by the hotel manager - remote and wild Langádha pass. The first bit (down to Kalamata was pretty non-descript but the second part which takes you over and through mountains with spectacular gorges is fantastic. Mo would have hated it.
The sign warning of rock falls weren't just for show as I did spend a good part of the journey navigating around rocks on the very narrow roads.
Arrived in Mistras around 6 pm. Hotel (Byzantion) not up to the standard of the one in Olympia but dirt cheap and ok for one night.