The last couple of days in Katacolon started to drag and so we took the first opportunity of not un-favourable winds to push on to Cephalonia.
Thursday was the day. Light winds all morning with relatively light north-westerly winds off Cephalonia as we were to arrive in the afternoon. The earlier we set off the better and so we slipped from the town quay in Katacolon after lunch on Wednesday and went to anchor outside the harbour planning an early night and a pre dawn departure on Thursday. It also meant we wouldn’t have to avoid cruise liners arriving as we set off! The passage north was almost 60 miles, or just under 12 hours, and was calm almost the whole way there; we were moored on the Argostoli town quay by 4pm.
We have a week in hand now and plan to stay on the town quay throughout. We have spent time in Argostoli before, and our friend Keith did such a good job of showing us around Cephalonia we felt there wasn’t a lot of need to explore further. So we will just soak up life in Argostoli, celebrate our wedding anniversary and prepare for all our visitors.
Mauro and Adri are to join us,on the 7th then Valeria goes home with them on the 10th. Marisa comes out for a week on the 11th and then Valeria returns as Marisa leaves and brings Charlie and Ana with her!
Looking forward to busy month and as we’ll not be going far, perhaps some sailing!!
On Monday morning, 27 August, we were up quite early intending to beat the rush of cruise ship tourists to Olympia. There were three ships in the terminal in the morning and the suitably olympic sized car park behind the boat was full of coaches and taxis.
The train to Olympia is a small narrow gauge affair but I assume most of the visitors from the ships were booked on coach tours but even when we got to Olympia it wasn’t that crowded.
The site of Olympia is on the floor of a river valley below the hill named after the god Khronos. The area has been occupied since the Neolithic times, 3000BC, developing into a centre of worship and during the 2nd millennium BC the Myceneans founded the cult of Zeus there.
The origins of the games are lost in myths; the Gods held wrestling matches and running races in Olympia and so ‘games’ were likely a part of religious rites. They were possibly held as far back as the 11th century BC as fairly local affairs but were reorganised in the 8th century, the first Panhellenic Olympic Games being held in 776BC. The concept of the Sacred Truce, during which the warring city states stopped fighting, was instituted to allow peaceful competition.
Another myth of Mycenean origin has the king Oinomaos involved in a chariot race with a suitor for his daughter’s hand. Oinomaos had dreamt he’d be killed by his son-in-law and so, equipped with a pair of unbeatable winged horses from Zeus, challenged all potential candidates. The draw back was that the winner killed the looser! Pelos, arrived on scene and had been given winged horses by Poseidon; Pelos won, killed Oinomaos and had the Peloponnese named after him!
The athletes competed in the games for prestige alone, winning a wreath of wild olive leaves. However; anyone caught cheating had to pay a large fine which was used to dedicate a bronze statue to Zeus. These were known as Zanes and were displayed on the approach to the Stadium. These statues bore the name of the cheating athlete and the manner of his cheating as a warning to others!
The Games developed down the centuries much as they do now with new events being added at intervals, until 393AD when the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I banned them. His successor, Theodosius II then ordered the monuments burnt in 426AD and two earthquakes in 522 and 551AD finished the job. Although a farming settlement remained even that was abandoned by the 7th century and the site slowly disappeared under the flood plain of the Alpheios River.
When you bear in mind this is the birth place of the Olympics and the place where the Olympic Torch is lit before each Games they could have made a bit of an effort with presentation; it is rather overgrown in places and, as elsewhere, there is a dearth of information about the ruins. We had a guide-book but it was difficult to relate the text to the ruins especially as I now find we went around the site ‘backwards’! Some direction arrows could have helped !! There were some signs around the place but it is an extensive, complex site and a lot more wouldn’t have hurt; Audio Guides would have been fantastic; the wold even be a job opportunity for official guides! Despite that it is an impressive site and the sheer scale of some of the ruins give a hint of the enormity of the original.
Olympia is a fantastic place and well worth the visit but it could be an amazing experience with attention to presentation.
Katacolon was a small fishing village until a local boy made good shipping magnate decided that it would make an ideal cruise ship terminal for tourists visiting Olympia.
The village is about 700 metres long, at one end is the beach and the cruise ship terminal and at the other is the station for the narrow gauge railway to Olympia.
The village comprises the harbour front and two streets behind that. The harbour front is dedicated to restaurants, end to end. The next street back is home to souvenir and jewellery shops for the cruise ship passengers and the third street, well, the third street is behind the second. There are more ATMs per square metre than some islands we know.
We arrived on Friday afternoon in a ghost town, literally no one on the streets, tumble weed deserted. The town quay is in front of the largest and emptiest car park imaginable and on the other side of that is the railway station and the local church. They have a very loud set of bells and a loudspeaker system that broadcast the entire Friday evening sung service to the village. Happily that was the only one although the bells did get a bashing on Sunday morning as well.
Saturday was Valeria’s birthday so we spent a quiet day doing little and wandering along to a nice restaurant for a late lunch. We decided to leave the visit to Olympia until Sunday, not appreciating that the train wouldn’t run.
We did little on Sunday, waiting to visit Olympia on Monday, although I did take a walk over to the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology, which was fascinating. Everything from sundials and water clocks to self-loading cross bows and holy water vending machines. They even had a steam-driven device linked to the fire for the temple offerings. When the fire was hot enough the temple doors opened in approval! When the fire died down the door closed and the only way to get the gods to show their approval again was to make another offering! And of course numerous types of crane and lifting machines.
Katacolon really has little to offer visitors unless you are on a cruise ship, it is easier to buy jewelery or a leather coat than to buy groceries. Once the cruise ships leave there is little here at all. It is a useful stop over on the west coast of the Peloponnese and one of the few places with shelter. We planned to be ‘not sailing’ on Valeria’s birthday and to visit Olympia, but with those two targets achieved sitting waiting for the wind to change got to be a little boring.
We left Adama at 2 pm on Tuesday, 21 August headed for Porto Kayio, Methoni and Katacolon. This was a total of just over 200 nautical miles and, due to the settled weather we decided to do it in three days.
The first leg, Adama to Porto Kayio was the best part of 100 miles miles, or 20 hours and we did this as an overnight passage to arrive in the morning as other boats would be leaving. The weather was also predicted to be calm which was good. According to the Pilot Book the two easternmost fingers of the Peloponnese, Capes Malea and Matapan, should be treated with respect as far as the weather is concerned and can be subject to violent winds. We had a little taste on our way up here from Crete last year, but this time made the passage without much wind at all, the biggest challenge was all shipping using the Steno Elafonisou, the channel between Cape Malea and Nisos Kithera.
We made good time and were anchored by 9.30 am on Wednesday. We spent the day resting and swimming before going ashore for an early dinner. unfortunately it was not as good as we remembered and so leaving on Thursday was not such a chore.
Thursday saw us up at 6 and away by 6.30 heading for Methoni. Methoni has the ruins of a Venetian fortress occupying the entire headland which looked pretty impressive as we’d sailed passed last year so I wanted to visit. After a straightforward passage we anchored at 4.30, put the tender in the water immediately and went ashore. I had a look around the castle while Valeria supped wine on the beach.
The castle is Venetian and was built in the 13th century to control the east west trade routes around the Peloponnese. Although it looks spectacular there is little actually there apart from the round tower and the adjacent castle gate overlooking the old galley harbour. It passed to the Ottoman Turks who built the hexagonal tower, the Bourtzi, at the southern tip of the headland after they took the fort in 1500. This apparently had little defensive value but did help enclose the galley harbour.
After an hour or so hiking around the site, it is very large, I went back to Valeria and we went for a meal to Taverna To Kastro right outside the castle entrance. And what a fantastic meal, mini cheese pies, stuffed zucchini flowers and a delicious mousaka. Our intention had been to spend a day here looking around but we decided to push on so that we wouldn’t have to travel on Valeria’s birthday.u
So, at 6.30 on Friday morning we set off again for Katacolon. This is the small port and cruise ship terminal close to the ancient site of Olympia, the home of the Olympic games.