Abandoning Paradise

Chapter One     Paradise


Olympia has a history that goes back to well before the birth of Christ but those who measure time have become very coy lately and have been dropping references to Christ. Instead they refer to time before the Modern Era but this has a drawback in that hardly any non-scientist knows when the Modern Era started. So, we know Christ was born a couple of thousand years ago and Olympia’s history goes well before that.

My main purpose was to see Olympia but I also wanted to make a video of the visit. This didn’t start out as well as it might have as I didn’t realise it was necessary to buy a ticket to enter the area of the ruins. The police stationed there took a bit of a dim view of this but Cat thought it was hilarious. The problem was quickly settled and I went through the gates to Olympia.

The presence I felt on going to the ruins at Olympia was surprisingly moving to me and it even brought tears to my eyes. Even though there is nothing at Olympia apart from the trees, the ruins, and strolling tourists, the depth of the history is a privilege to experience.

Going to a sporting event in modern times is usually a matter of parking, finding one’s seat, and enjoying the game, hopefully without being pounded by soccer hooligans. However, the athletic field at Olympia is only part of the overall complex. The picture shows the arch under which the athletes walked before going out to the field. Every athlete of any significance in the ancient world must have passed under this arch. There was an enormous sensation for me of what it must have been for so many before going out onto the most important sports field in the world.

The age of these columns is clear in how much they have weathered over the centuries. They have been standing for millennia and, given the importance to Greeks of preserving their history, they will likely be standing for quite some time to come.

I can’t give you an informed tour of the ruins as it was my preference to walk through them in silence. It was much more important to me to feel the place than it was to know the specific purpose of each part of it. Even without knowing purpose, one can sense the grandeur of it from the size of the columns still standing.

If it’s your preference to be guided through the ruins, there are people who will help you and most are conversant in multiple languages. They’re not at all intolerant of anyone’s inability to speak Greek as they understand it’s a difficult language for foreigners to learn.

The age of these inscriptions may be known to scientists but what was remarkable to me was their similarity to the modern Greek alphabet. However, there is one letter in the middle of the fourth row that looks like a leaf off a tree so that story is anybody’s guess. The text was intriguing to me as it’s quite raw relative to the precision of the carving elsewhere. It seems much more than simple graffiti but perhaps not.

Perhaps you wonder what is Paradise about any of this but I see a place where for thousands of years the fundamental philosophy was that states or nations could come here in peace for the sake of sport. When this is possible simply for a track and field event, surely it is possible in the larger context of relationships between those states. Nowhere else had ever considered this possibility and the hope that began in Olympia lives to this day.

The Greek reverence for history and what it gives us is a beautiful thing as their knowledge is not simply for impressing tourists. My friend, Harry, enjoyed telling me of the early history of Katakolon when a city named Pheia was in generally the same location until it was destroyed by an earthquake in the Sixth Century. He told me that much of Pheia is now beneath the Mediterranean Sea but the water was relatively shallow close to shore and one could still see the ruins even if just snorkeling.

You can also find octopi in those waters and snorkelers would often catch them to fry them and eat them on the beach. If you watch what is needed to prepare an octopus for cooking, you may wonder how in the world anyone got the idea to get them but Greeks eat octopus quite a lot. You can even get it in various forms in the market.

Despite the sometimes catastrophic effects of earthquakes, Greece is Paradise now and it has been for millennia. There are traces of human activity in Greece that go back for about thirty thousand years. Many people will come to visit Olympia specifically but they do it on cruise ships which don’t stay in the Katakolon port for more than about eight or ten hours so they really don’t get much of an opportunity to feel what it is to be in Greece.

One of the most beautiful times is after the cruise ships leave as the crowds are gone then and life in the cafes on the waterfront takes a very different turn. The cafes serve as bars, restaurants, and family meeting places. It’s perfectly natural taking children to them as I never saw anyone who was obviously drunk. My personal favorite was the Kastro-Bar which was two kilometers outside of Katakolon and it even had what was essentially a private beach. Look for Makis. He doesn’t know much English but he runs the place and he’s one hell of a good guy. Harry introduced me as his friend so that made Makis my friend as well. From then on he would invite me to sit with him when I came over there.

All of this relates directly to Olympia as modern history is to Greeks simply a continuation of a very long history. Greece has its troubles now but it has had troubles before and it will find its way through them just as it has in the past.

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Ein Tour in Olympia in Griechenland
Walking Tour of Olympia

The walking video tour of Olympia was the first time I saw the ruins or any significant ruins anywhere. The experience was highly-emotional and some of it was even funny. The video was made for Cat in Germany because it was the only way I could take her with me. There are multiple videos I made for her like that and one got me into substantial hot water when I recorded a night ride on the scooter that might have been a bit (i.e. a lot) unsafe.

So it is in German ... but my German is not very good so she probably didn't understand it either. It may not even be important to understand my words as the ruins speak a much larger language.

Copyright © 2014 Silas Scarborough - All rights reserved