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Κυριακή, 27 Ιανουαρίου 2013

Katakolon Cruise Port near Olympia

Ships call at the sleepy port of Katakolon at the western edge of Greece's Peloponnese Peninsula, because it's close to the archeological site of Olympia, where the ancient Olympic Games were held. Otherwise, Katakolon is pretty much a one-horse town with a big pier. We highly recommend you visit Olympia on a tour with an experienced tour guide. You can get there on your own (the cab ride is about $50 roundtrip), but will miss the commentary about what you are seeing, which really adds to a visit of the site. Most tours last a half day, including a little time to poke around the town of Olympia (where there's also a small museum dedicated to the modern Olympics). You return to Katakolon with plenty of time to enjoy lunch at a cafe and poke around the shops there.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money 
Euro. Some shops may also accept U.S. dollars. There is an ATM machine in town.

Best Souvenir
Jewelry, both gold and silver, in classic Greek and modern designs. You can also pick up Greek worry beads, honey, olive oil, handicrafts and artwork, and souvenirs of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. We recommend you skip the touristy shops and head straight to the Art Gallery Periplus on the main street. There you will find bronze sculptures and other works by Greek artists. All come with a description of the artist, and the prices are reasonable and far less than you'd pay in, say, trendy Santorini.

Where You're Docked 
The pier is right in Katakolon, with the town's main street a five-minute walk away.

Hanging Around 
A favorite pastime is sitting at an oceanfront, open-air cafe eating Greek favorites like Tsatziki (yogurt with cucumber and garlic) and fried calamari, washed down with a cold beer or Ouzo. A recommended spot is Mouragio (look for the dark blue awnings on the oceanfront walkway) which happens to be owned by a ship pilot.

Getting Around 
You can walk into town, which really consists of just the oceanfront walkway and one main street (try as we might nobody seemed to know the name of the "main street" but trust us: you'll find it!). There are usually a few taxis at the pier to take visitors to Olympia (although we recommend you book a shore excursion) or the beach -- the nicest beach is in Agios Andhreas, a $10 cab ride away.

Watch Out For 
Aggressive jewelers. Some jewelers hang outside urging people to come in their shops, but once you do the games begin. Expect major haggling. You may get a great deal but you also may have to work for it.

City Attractions
The sanctuary of Olympia is the big deal attraction. The 40-minute drive from Katakolon takes you through some of the most fertile areas of Greece, where most of the country's fruit and vegetables are grown. Once in Olympia, the tour buses pull up to the archeological site at the foot of Kronos hill. The Olympic Games originated here in 776 B.C., although the Sanctuary of Olympia dates to the 10th and 9th century B.C. This is also where the Olympic flame of the modern games is lit (using sunlight and a lens).

All the buildings at Olympia were built either for the early games or to celebrate Zeus and the other gods. Visitors today see the remains of the temples, changing rooms, gymnasia and other buildings, as well as the outdoor stadium where the competitions were held.

Competitors in the ancient games had to be Greek, born free (not slaves) and without criminal convictions. The oldest contests were foot races, but eventually the challenges grew to include warrior games, a pantathalon, wrestling and chariot races. As with the modern games, revived in 1896, the original games took place every four years. But in the ancient games all competitors were male and competed in the nude. The winner's reward was an olive oil branch and a wreath said to be from a tree planted by Hercules.

Don't Miss

Best Choice for History Buffs: Take a half-hour bus ride to Ancient Olympia for a walking tour around the ruins of the amazing site of the ancient Olympics, with commentary by a local guide. There is also usually a stop at the nearby Archeological Museum to see important ancient works of art and other items recovered from the site. These include Winged Victory and Hermes of Praxiteles. Duration: About 4 hours.

Best Choice for Repeaters: Visit Mercouri's Vineyards & Winery, located about a half-hour ride through pretty countryside. The Refosco grape was planted by the Mercouris when they came from Italy. The family built a winery and distillery in 1930 (it was updated in 1990). Taste three locally produced wines. Duration: About 3 hours.

For More Information
On the Web: www.greektourism.com
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Europe
The Independent Traveler Message Boards: Greece

photos on this page is from internet from different sites 

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