Athens to Corinth to Olympia Greece by Bus
Today it is March 16, 2018 in Greece. And each morning as we enter the tour bus, our guide says “kalimera” which means “good morning” in English. It’s fun to learn even just a few words when you travel to a new country. This morning we would leave Athens and take a journey through Greece by bus.
Our itinerary from the tour directory states: “Depart Athens via the scenic coastal road to the mighty Corinth Canal, dividing the Peloponnese from mainland Greece. Continue via Nauplion to Mycenae, the heartland of Greek mythology. Visit the Acropolis of Mycenae and the Tomb of Atreus, built around 1250 B.C. From here, drive through the Central Peloponnese Peninsula, whose major cities in classical times were Corinth and Sparta. Continue to Olympia, the birthplace of the first Olympic Games.”
Today we headed from our hotel in Athens to Corinth by bus with our eventual goal to reach Olympia this evening. Corinth is the place made famous in the bible where Saint Paul speaks to the Corinthians. I confess that I know very little about the bible, but I have heard on the occasions that I did attend church service where the priest mentions something about Paul and the Corinthians. Apparently, Saint Paul, in about the year 51 AD, on his second missionary journey from Antioch, visited Athens and established a Christian community in Corinth, the Greek seaport city about 60 miles from Athens. While Saint Paul was on his third journey, he learned that the community had become divided, as members began identifying themselves with different religious leaders. He wrote a letter in about 56 AD, pleading for Christian unity, and in response to various issues raised by the Corinthians.
We drove the highway from Athens until we reached the canal at Corinth. The canal is manmade and slices through the Corinth peninsula, connecting the Gulf of Corinth with the Aegean Sea. We unloaded from the bus and walked the few steps to a narrow bridge where we could get a better view of the canal. The view was amazing as we stood high above the 4-mile long swatch that had first opened in 1893.
I could feel the high bridge bounce and quiver as trucks and buses drove over it as I waited patiently for a train to cross a bridge that spanned the canal several hundred yards from our viewing point. It would have made for a terrific photo, but my patience did not pay off. No trains would come by here today.
March is the perfect time to see spectacular wildflowers blooming in Greece
I began my walk from the bridge over the Corinth Canel back to the bus and found a small hill that was filled with beautiful wildflowers. I stood below them along with several other passengers who found them irresistible and took their photo. As we photographed this wonderful display, an inconsiderate tourist decided that she needed to take a selfie while she stood in the middle of the massive natural bouquet. She trampled a pathway through the fragile bunches of flowers and then proceeded to pick a few! Those of us that had stood on the sidewalk and were photographing the wildflowers were stunned at her rudeness. I was furious and I told her, “Those are the National flower of Greece and they will arrest you if they catch you picking them!” (I had no idea if they were or not but I couldn’t hold myself back!) She quickly climbed down from the hill and walked swiftly away. Sometimes I just cannot understand people!
We were soon on the road again, heading toward Olympia. We stopped at a few ancient sites along the way.
About 4,000 years ago there was the bronze age here in Europe and as we walked among the numerous ruins, with their massive stones, I wondered how anyone could shape such large pieces of rock with simple copper/bronze tools. For that matter, how did they even get them here?
I think it was a toss-up of what I enjoyed the most on this particular portion of the trip. The beautiful wildflowers that grew everywhere or the spectacular ancient artifacts that were littered around them.
The beehive tomb, named for its shape rather than the hundreds of bees that buzz lazily around the inside of it (the black dots in the above photo are the bees).
Enroute to Olympia we stopped at the Treasury of Atreus or Tomb of Agamemnon, a large “tholos” tomb on the Panagitsa Hill at Mycenae, Greece, constructed during the Bronze Age around 1250 BC. The lintel stone above the doorway weighs 120 tons, with approximate dimensions 8.3 x 5.2 x 1.2m, the largest in the world. The tomb was used for an unknown period and was still visible in 1879 when the German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the shaft graves under the ‘agora’ in the Acropolis at Mycenae. The structure is actually shaped like a beehive, but extremely tall, and oddly, filled with buzzing bees that seemed to care little about you as they flew lazily around the interior of the tomb. I wondered how their ancestors may have gotten here.
Above, a fellow tour member graciously allowed me to photograph him as he provided perspective on the enormity of the beehive tomb entrance
The Bourtzi Castle (above) sits in the entrance of the Nafplion port
We stopped at the beautiful seaport, Nafplio, where we walked around a bit, took photos of the Bourtzi Castle that sits in the bay and then had pizza! It is a lovely town and despite having such little time to explore this place, we enjoyed being here immensely.
Above, a wonderful pizza at the Toportokali Cafe in the port of Nafplio
Above, antique door knockers on the entrance to Nafplion houses
As we entered the outskirts of Olympia we stopped at a quaint, unpretentious yet spacious and modern shop for some wine tasting and olives/olive oil tasting. This Kalamata region is known for its olives and olive oil and I was overwhelmed at how many different wines, olives and olive oil we were allowed to sample. The owners were so generous with the samples (just look at the table above!) and we bought a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine, a jar of olives and a container of olive oil. I was a slight bit tipsy from all the wine tasting but felt very, very fortunate to be here, in this wonderful place.
The friendly staff will make sure that you enjoy your visit and that you choose the right wine, olives and olive oil that you will really love.
It is not an easy decision about which product to buy. We tried many, many samples and found them all to be wonderful but the above olives were a particular favorite. In hindsight, we should have bought a case as they ran out within the first week we had arrived back home!
After our wine/olive/olive oil tasting, we were taken to our nearby hotel. It sits on a hill that overlooks the valley below and it felt so right! We had a small room, but it was very comfortable, and I wished that we could stay longer. Adjoining our bedroom was a small sitting room with a large picture window that opened and overlooked the valley and the gardens below. I could spend hours sitting here, sipping Greek wine and feasting on Kalamata olives!
What a great way to add drops in the bucket!
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