I know what comes to mind when you think of the Olympics, athletics, athletes, different flags and faces from all over the world. But do we really stop and think about the scene of the first Olympics? I know what I had envisioned in my mind and what was actually explained was in no way shape or form expected. I couldn’t keep a straight face and I just kept picturing butt naked men covered in olive oil, olive oil and dirt, and more olive oil. So let me back up and explain how I got to this vision in the first place.
As always we were up with the rising sun to beat the extreme heat, while I was always thankful for this, I really did need one day to just sleep in until 9. And since I sat on the patio outside the hotel half the night and went and sat on my balcony for another few hours as the smell of garlic floated across the clouds, it was almost 1 am before I went to sleep. I needed some coffee this morning, and yes I needed it with lots of cream and sugar. Back on the road, smaller and smaller roads, bigger and bigger bus, by now I just realized that I was either going to survive this trip or I wouldn’t, I could not control the roads, Ernesti’s driving or the size of the bus. Let it go and live Nyri, so I decided to let it go and just ride.
A short hike, as usual, leads us to an area that looks like a very small village that may have been destroyed by an earthquake or buried underwater. Many of the structures have portions that are intact, some are sections of rubble, columns are visible but may be in pieces and a big field that opens up beyond the ruins. We meet our guide Ms. Olympia is what I will call her because I can’t remember her name, but what I do know is she was full of character!
Ms. Olympia was a petite woman with a short salt and pepper hair, a deep distinctive voice that had the magnificence of a James Earl Jones but also very feminine. As soon as she opened her mouth it was all eyes on me and listen. She welcomed us to Greece and was very excited to share that her son was a graduate of Georgia Tech and now a Doctor living in New York. So let’s get down to business.
It was ah Mess!!!!!! This was her opening, It was ah mess! The games were an opportunity for you to take and show pride in your city, the strength of the men, the beauty of their bodies, the sheer athleticism they possessed and maybe just maybe a win. To show off, men were scraped with some very interesting tools, cleaned and covered in olive oil. They competed in the nude, covered in oil, covered in dirt and oil. So in a sense, yes this was in fact AH MESSSS!
The looks on the faces of everyone, priceless, we were all trying to process butt naked men, covered in oil competing in athletic events. How did that work? The whole scene was quite comical. Ms Olympia told us to pay close attention to the artifacts on display at the museum and read the explanation of usage, everything she said had some element of comedy and extreme pride woven into history. I loved her ability to paint a picture and take us back in time with facts, yet making us laugh with the vivid descriptions.
Winners were identified by the red tie on the arm and leg. When they arrived back home after a win in Olympia they were welcomed via horse drawn chariot, a public feast, exempt from taxes and fed at the expense of the city for life. Other cities provided monetary gifts, some worshiped winners as heroes in death.
The remainder of the morning was spent reading at the site, and in awe of the artifacts on display at the museum. A quick walk across a beautiful garden opens up into an outdoor restaurant with a small shop full of olive oil products. After a lovely lunch of roasted lamb, salad and fresh cherries, restroom break and a quick purchase of books, and back on the bus.
This was the view that opened my heart completely to all possibilities of pursuing the passions that drive my existence. Welcome to Delphi!
Blessings and many messy olive oil covered experiences~Ny