From Galaxidi we crossed the mighty Rio-Antirrio bridge which connects mainland Greece with the Peloponnese peninsula. We drove right past Patras as we were headed to the tiny village of Katakolo, some 120 kilometers away. While this might seem like a short distance, the small inland roads and reckless driving of some people made it an interesting journey.
Our hotel in Katakolo was located on the hill behind the village. To get there we had to drive through the centre of the village, which is basically just one stretch of road past. In the US it would be called “Main Street”, in Katakolo this was basically the only street. It was a little after noon when we drove through the village and we were surprised to see hundreds of tourists browsing the shops and strolling down the street. At the far end we saw the reason for the disproportionate amount of tourists compared to the size of the Katakolo. There, in the harbour, a huge cruise ship was anchored, just a minute walk from the shops and restaurants.
The hotel was everything we had hoped for. It was quite new, stylishly furnished and almost completely empty. From our balcony we could see the whole bay and the harbour and watch the constant stream of people from the cruise ship. That afternoon, the cruise ship left the harbour, and the village of Katakolo basically came to a halt. All the shops closed, main street stood empty and at the restaurants, the proprietors were the only other customers. We had been told to expect that.
The next day we drove to ancient Olympia, which was just a 30 minute drive and the main reason we had stayed in Katakolo in the first place. The historic site of ancient Olympia is a lot bigger than I had remembered it to be. This didn’t help since the sun that day was quickly becoming unbearable, so much that we’d basically only stop walking once we had reached the next shady spot beneath a large tree. Next to the entrance of the site, we saw archeological tents and people excavating what looked like a large courtyard. Even with the large area already discovered, they are still make new discoveries every day, something I found inspiring.
The rest of the site was impressive yet a little monotone. Olypmia is probably the worst example of ancient Greek sites with fields of columns and blocks of concrete stone lying around with no apparent structure. Landmarks like the stadium and some of the buildings were easy to recognise, but between them, fields of square rocks were the norm. It was still an interesting visit and another must-see. Just a short walk from the archeological site, we visited the museum. It housed all of the smaller discoveries, like pottery, weaponry, bust, and statues. Here, the amount of items was simply overwhelming, though they were presented in a modern and well organised way. The village of Olympia was a little touristy, but still very laid back and nice enough for us to get some proper Greek sweets.
Back at our hotel we stopped at the reception to talk with the receptionist. He was a young Greek who was very enthusiastic about his job and in love with his country. We would chat with him whenever we got back from the beach or the village, and he’d have many ideas on what we should do and where we should go. The last time we saw him he gave us a map he had annotated with directions and photos of a place we should definitely visit on our next leg. We were grateful and also a little impressed that he had used his free time to compile this mini guide just for us. A few days later we’d go there as well.