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Monday, 25 October 2010

Budget Greece Tour - Page 2

Written by Stephanie Hiltz
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In the city of Sparti, there are many stories about the Spartan clan, most well-known for their aggressive nature and devotion to their city. There is even a monument marking the spot where 300 Spartans, along with 700 other Grecians, fought an estimated one million Persians (this war was recently highlighted in the movie “300”, starring Gerard Butler). The city of Sparti comes alive at night with lots of restaurants, café’s, and shopping.

Mystras, a fortified town on Mt. Taygetos, overlooks the ancient town of Sparta. In Medieval times, during the 14th and 15th centuries, Sparta flourished and served as the capital of the area. Our entire tour group walked to the top of this mountain although the summer heat outside was intense, marveling at the preserved city composed of a church, a palace, city streets and water ducts. It was inhabited through the Ottoman period and was abandoned in the 1830s when the new town of Sparti was built.

Coastal Greece is mesmerising: The water is royal blue, and driving around the coast past mountain ranges, fishing farms and olive groves reveal how the Greek people have learned to live off their environment. I was under the impression that Italy had the cornerstone on the olive market, but olives are big business in Greece. Each olive grove is named after the city in which it resides. For example, the popular dark aubergine Kalamata olive often used in Greek salad grows in the city of Kalamata. On the way to Delphi, we passed a grove containing 13 million olive trees.

Olive oil has long been considered sacred; it was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples as well as being the "eternal flame" of the original Olympic Games. Before medals were provided to Olympic winners, victors in ancient games were crowned with olive tree leaves.

The original Olympic grounds area is a vast space now in ruins in the Greek city of Olympia, and held in honour of the Greek God, Zeus. Part of the ancient Olympic grounds consisted of a large temple for Zeus, which housed a massive statue of the God to watch over the games. It is one of the great seven wonders of the ancient world. Unfortunately, only the Great Pyramid of Giza is left standing out of the original seven wonders.

The exact start of the Olympic Games is shrouded in myth and legend, but records show they began in 776 BC. The ancient Olympic Games continued until AD 393, after which it was moved to different cities around the world. The torch tradition was always done in front of the Goddess Hera’s temple and continues there before each modern Olympics. There were much fewer sporting events held during the ancient Olympics, and originally only free Greek men were allowed to enter. Many sports consisted of gymnastics and were completed naked. The Greek etymology of the word ‘gymnos’ means exercising and competing in the nude.

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There are few modern wonders in Greece, but recently the Rion-Antirion Bridge was completed, connecting the Peloponnese with continental Greece, which is where the tour progressed towards Delphi. The bridge’s original vision was designed in 1889 and finally became a reality on Aug. 7, 2004 to the final tune of 770 million euro ($978.5 million). It is one of the only bridges worldwide built over a tectonic plate and therefore uses the latest technologies to hold up its length of 1.4 miles. The true glory of the bridge was celebrated the day after its completion as the Olympic Torch passed over the bridge on its way to Athens.

 

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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