Monday, July 21, 2003

21 July 2003 – 5:47 PM GMT+2

Well, I'm behind, but now's a good time for me to catch up. I'm listening to "Weird Al" Yankovic, which accompanies everything well, like an excellent wine.

I last left us in Olympia, in the luxurious accommodations of the Best Western. Everyone eventually woke up, washed, ate breakfast, and we subsequently checked out and headed to the archaeological site at Olympia. Of course, as with 96% of the museums in Greece, the one there, too, was closed for renovations. Disappointed, but unvanquished, we bought tickets and walked the grounds. Highlights included:

  • The training area, in which Dad took a picture of Greg and I fighting
  • The hotel area, in which Teeps took a picture of the 'rents à la a picture taken earlier at the Best Western
  • The entrance to the stadium, through which Theresa ran through both ways, with video of her being taken both directions
  • A row of stone blocks on which Mom insisted there were really nice statues
  • The colossal columns, toppled like a stack of poker chips, of the Temple of Zeus, strewn across the ground. In this temple lay, long ago, a statue of Zeus, an Ancient Wonder of the World (#2!) (One column of it was being reconstructed.)
There were other highlights which required a little imagination, such as Phidias's workshop and a few buildings in which some of the official ceremonies took place, but the bulleted places were well-preserved, as was the stadium. The stadium was surprisingly interesting. Although simply a field of brown packed earth surrounded by some green hills (with very little shade, upon which the spectators would sit), it, if not how it was in ancient times, it could function as a stadium right now—it's just very well-suited to that sort of thing. It sounds corny, but I could imagine some event being held there in 2004—and considering everything, I am sure that the Greek Olympic™ Committee is seriously considering such a spectacle. Why not? Olympia, although distant and difficult to reach en masse, is a site well suited for at least one event.

And so we bid farewell to Olympia, and headed out of the Peloponnese, on what the Greek call one of their "national roads." Now, I was not around before the Interstate Highway System, but I have to think that the roads in the heyday of US Routes resembled the current situation in Greece, albeit with less crazy drivers. Imagine, if you will, a two lane road—one lane in each direction, plus maybe ¾-lane wide shoulders (in places smaller, in places larger). Now imagine traffic in both directions. Now imagine a truck PASSING another truck, and simultaneously a passenger car passing another Peugeot or some such nonsense. This is a regular occurrence on these roads. Why they don't widen them to two lanes in each direction (easy in most places) I don't know—but the sight of four cars fitting in a two lane road at high speeds (~90–120 km/hr) is slightly unnerving, especially so regularly. And we were behind a delicious-looking watermelon truck for a long while.

We stopped to eat lunch at a Goody's at a roadside oasis and while Mom ordered food I went next door to the gas station & got myself and Mucci a ➲ sticker, a ⊝ sticker, and for Mucci a Volvo sticker. This meal at Goody's was better than the previous—I had the club sandwich and some fries, and was satisfied. The environs were quite nice and had a bakery place along with the Goody's. I just asked Greg about recollections from the Goody's—he said he was still playing Golden Sun: Twilight of the Dawn at that time and thus doesn't recall anything.

The rest of the drive was a survey of all of the Peloponnese—we passed major construction projects building a number of massive tunnels into the cliff alongside the road, presumably for a new route; we passed right over the magnificent Corinth Canal without noticing; we drove on divided highways and on roads with maniacal passers as mentioned above; we saw cities big and small; we saw the sea and the sky, the rolling hills with mysterious piles of rocks that seem like the archaeological sites we'd visited, and by animals in fields, grazing peacefully. Then we hit Athens—a city intent on oozing out into that, in some ways, still-wild area, but confined by the slow, plodding bureaucracy and lazy attitude that preserves and destroys the country.

The highway met an expressway that met a tollway with toll booths placed far to close to the on-ramp. We paid our way and rode the magnificent new very-behind-schedule Athens Megacolossal Superüberhighway to a smaller road. With a little difficulty and a lot of construction, we made our way to our stop for the night, the coastal semi-resort town of Mati.

I say semi-resort because there was little on the beach for the travelers who stayed only briefly like ourselves. There was a pier with a multitude of boats owned by or on long-term rental from the townsfolk, a restaurant/bar in which we ate dinner but that seemed unprepared to serve food, and a number of what appeared to be condos. Our hotel was one of maybe two—not what I'd expect of most resort towns, but appropriate to a vacation retreat for people who lived in the larger city to the north.

As I said, we ate dinner after checking into our hotel (we were on the 5th floor—ugh) and walked to the pier after that. We stood looking at the small place for a bit, until we went back to the room, and got ready for bed and tomorrow, when we would fly to Santorini.