"Not allowed"

Monday 5 August 2013

Yesterday we spent a few hours walking around the ruins at Olympia, home of the Ancient Olympics since 776 BC. Little remains intact of the many buildings on this rambling unordered site which evolved over many centuries but it is another honey-pot attraction with visitors drawn to the stadium and the site of one of the Ancient Wonders of the World - the huge Statue of Zeus.

Stadium - unseated and thought to hold 45,000 spectators

Drawing of the Statue of Zeus - nothing remains here other than the temple base

It sits in a beautiful valley between 2 rivers and could be a peaceful and tranquil place but the sound of the guards loud shrill whistles is a huge distraction. Either they are extremely officious at this site or there are some real transgressors in amongst the thousands of visitors filing in daily duly paying their 9 ticket price.  No prizes for guessing which.....

This Oriental lady travelling alone was severely rebuked for trying to set up her Barbie pink compact camera on a lightweight tripod to take a picture of herself in front of the ruins - she was mortified. Dave waded in, offering to take the picture for her but not before questioning why this was such a crime. Official number 1, sticking to the rules, stated that tripods were forbidden as professional photographs were taken with them. There are visitors walking round with monster Digital SLR's and all the kit to take some stunning, and probably profitable, shots but they can't police that. Using common sense about this ladies predicament - impossible. Dave was a little riled by this!

Next we arrived at the base of the temple where the statue of Zeus was sited. The statue was a lofty 12.4m high so you can imagine the size of the temple. Little remains today and it is very hard to visualise the scale of the temple from the roped off cordon around it. There is a small viewing platform which is out-of-bounds. Dave walked up to another guard sat in the shade and asked if she spoke English to which she replied 'Yes' but in reality that was 1 of only 3 English words she knew. The other 2 were "Not allowed" which was the answer she repeatedly gave as to why we couldn't get to the viewing platform. Dave was becoming more irritated at this stage. He approached official number 3 who 'explained' it was cordoned off as it was under construction. A feeble excuse as there is little signs of any reconstruction since they reassembled a single column back in 2004 for the Athens Olympic Games. We walked away with the sounds of whistles all around us as people clambered on the fallen down columns for a better view.

Temple base

Huge columns still lying where they fell
This probably isn't allowed! Measuring for size.....

Old aerial view of the temple

Credit where credit is due when you buy your ticket you always get a mini-guide to the site, the information boards are, on the whole, excellent and the little museums holding artifacts found at the site are fantastic. 

Miniature bronze women dancing in a circle (...round handbags??)
Three dogs attacking a stag
Just amazing....cabinets full of tiny bronze animals from the Geometric period
Can't resist another lion spout photo - love the expressions on their faces!
Pediments from the temple - posing not allowed Dave!
But the tickets are not cheap and we have always come away really frustrated by our experiences. We have spent roughly the same amount of time in Greece as Turkey, have paid twice as much in entry fees but only seen half the number of sites. In Lagina in Turkey we wandered around freely and alone and on leaving the site were invited to join the site guardian for a complimentary cup of tea and a chat. Such a contrast.

All alone at Lagina, no ropes, no whistles, no charge!
Got the best seat in the house at Stratonikea
 A few more photos of our day at Olympia......

Palaistra - training centre for the athletes and lecture area
Philippeion - circular building from 4th century BC

Beautiful carved cross in Christian Basilica
The old seer (looks like he's on a mobile phone - like every other Greek!)
Dave on the stadium starting line
 There was no whistling in the stadium to start the race though because, oddly, that is allowed!!


  1. Replies
    1. Could he have seen into the future and sussed out one hand is for your mobile and the other for your Freddo Frapuccino?

  2. Greetings from Poland! I always loved wandering around Turkey's ruins practically by yourself at times with no guardrails in sight!

    1. Hi Joy - you're right, you can't beat a Turkish ruin. We've done quite a few in Italy and now Greece and it is often frustrating. We're not vandals, we respect the sites but we enjoy the freedom to wander rather than being herded around. The Greeks only allow you to wander freely on their sites when it suits them - either if they can't maintain it (broken gates or fences) or they have huge concerts in them like Epidaurus.

  3. Love the scale - the enormous and jaw-dropping and the teeny little details figures! Shame about the over-zealous control but I do envy your amazing travels. Axx

    1. The size of the statue is just amazing - in Britain we always get things compared to double decker buses don't we so it was about 3 double deckers!! That model was of Phidias, the designers, workshop - it must have looked stunning in place in the temple.