Greece - Ancient Olympia

This part of the botanical journey through Greece brought Karl to the Peloponnese peninsula, where the first Olympic games were held. Although time hasn't been kind to the architecture of this historic site, it's landscape is as beautiful now as it ever was. The ruins in a sense amplify the romantic notions of a time when civilization was in its infancy.

Establishment of the Olympic games added to the culture of this already flourishing society. The first and only event that was held was the stadion foot-race(one length of the stadium track, 600 feet). Its victor, Koroibos of Elis,  began the tradition of recording each Olympiad, thus giving us a chronology of the Greek world.

Other events were added over time, and at its peak, 18 events were held over a period of 5 days. Despite the addition of events like the discus, javelin, and boxing, the standion remained the most important event. Not only did the victors win glory and admiration, they won a crown of olive leaves and an olive branch cut from a sacred grove! I knew there was a way to tie plants into a history lesson. 

March 26th at Ancient Olympia

I feel so fortunate to be able to devote this much time to exploring the Peloponnese peninsula. So many tourists try to see "all" of Greece in one visit, but that means lots of time traveling from place to place and no time getting to know the details along the way. Today started with an early visit to one of the most historic sites then a leisurely trek up and over the mountains to finish on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth. I saw spring start, then a taste of winter and now back to the glory of the Mediterranean climate....all in one day!

The site of the first Olympic games back in 776 BC...such a special spot in history! Today the remains of this grand fountain have been enveloped with native wildflowers, much like what was here before the hand of man turned the earth.— at Ancient Olympia.

The site of the first Olympic games back in 776 BC...such a special spot in history! Today the remains of this grand fountain have been enveloped with native wildflowers, much like what was here before the hand of man turned the earth.— at Ancient Olympia.

It wouldn't be Greece without a healthy smattering of Orchid goodness! Deep in the tall grasses was a solitary specimen of Orchis militaris with its delicately spotted petals of plum perfection. — at Ancient Olympia

It wouldn't be Greece without a healthy smattering of Orchid goodness! Deep in the tall grasses was a solitary specimen of Orchis militaris with its delicately spotted petals of plum perfection. — at Ancient Olympia

The grand shrines were collapsed by numerous earthquakes before finally being abandoned. It wasn't until the late 1800's that this site was excavated and the pieces put back in place to tell the story of what happened here thousands of years ago. To be here this early in the day and year means you get to explore the solitude without buses of tourists crowding the paths. — at Ancient Olympia

The grand shrines were collapsed by numerous earthquakes before finally being abandoned. It wasn't until the late 1800's that this site was excavated and the pieces put back in place to tell the story of what happened here thousands of years ago. To be here this early in the day and year means you get to explore the solitude without buses of tourists crowding the paths. — at Ancient Olympia

After departing the ancient site a quick stop at a mountain village for refreshment exposed this exuberant Australian wattle. Acacia dealbata is a winter bloomer and the chilly mountain air kept its favourite season in the grips of Jack Frost. — in Kallithéa, Greece

After departing the ancient site a quick stop at a mountain village for refreshment exposed this exuberant Australian wattle. Acacia dealbata is a winter bloomer and the chilly mountain air kept its favourite season in the grips of Jack Frost. — in Kallithéa, Greece

Established in the 13th century this sleepy little mountaintop village had a tumultuous history! It was once taken by the Byzantines and later resisted an Ottoman siege in 1826. Perched high on a cliff overlooking the gorge, it's as picturesque as one could imagine today. — in Karytaina.

Established in the 13th century this sleepy little mountaintop village had a tumultuous history! It was once taken by the Byzantines and later resisted an Ottoman siege in 1826. Perched high on a cliff overlooking the gorge, it's as picturesque as one could imagine today. — in Karytaina.

On the backside of the village was a field of Anemone coronaria in full bloom. Locals were out harvesting wild asparagus while I was eyeing the carmine blossoms as they danced in the chilly wind.— in Karytaina

On the backside of the village was a field of Anemone coronaria in full bloom. Locals were out harvesting wild asparagus while I was eyeing the carmine blossoms as they danced in the chilly wind.— in Karytaina

As we rounded the twisted and tiny roads a dark stand of pines protected this solid stand of Viola caped in the most regal shade of violet-blue. The soft scent as I stood staring simply stole my heart.— in Karytaina.

As we rounded the twisted and tiny roads a dark stand of pines protected this solid stand of Viola caped in the most regal shade of violet-blue. The soft scent as I stood staring simply stole my heart.— in Karytaina.

Emerging from the darkness was a mountainside cloaked in the shining purity of Erica arborea. Standing at a full 6' tall, these shrubs were illuminated by the gleaming light of the sun. — at Gortynia

Emerging from the darkness was a mountainside cloaked in the shining purity of Erica arborea. Standing at a full 6' tall, these shrubs were illuminated by the gleaming light of the sun. — at Gortynia

The next postcard village was spread across a mountain stream with a lovely clump of Euphorbia rigida on a rocky outcropping. — in Stemnítsa, Arkadhia, Greece.

The next postcard village was spread across a mountain stream with a lovely clump of Euphorbia rigida on a rocky outcropping. — in Stemnítsa, Arkadhia, Greece.

The snow melting off the mountains fed numerous streams and created a plethora of moist spots for Primula vulgaris to thrive. The soft chamois flowers emitted a delicate scent which kept me in one spot for much longer than I needed to capture their beauty on film. — in Kastaniá, Korinthia, Greece

The snow melting off the mountains fed numerous streams and created a plethora of moist spots for Primula vulgaris to thrive. The soft chamois flowers emitted a delicate scent which kept me in one spot for much longer than I needed to capture their beauty on film. — in Kastaniá, Korinthia, Greece

A drive higher up the mountains to the melting snow reveled a glory of spring just beginning to emerge from the frosty earth. Native Crocus sieberi ssp.sublimis were about as low to the ground as one could get....and what a contrast to the majestic mountain peak in the background!! — at Mount Kyllini.

A drive higher up the mountains to the melting snow reveled a glory of spring just beginning to emerge from the frosty earth. Native Crocus sieberi ssp.sublimis were about as low to the ground as one could get....and what a contrast to the majestic mountain peak in the background!! — at Mount Kyllini.

And finally back down to sea level on the eastern side of the Peloponnese peninsula to stay the night in a traditional hotel set right in a grove of Citrus. This mighty Platanus sets the tone for the stone buildings...all with a view of the mountains that were just explored today. — at Semantron Hotel

And finally back down to sea level on the eastern side of the Peloponnese peninsula to stay the night in a traditional hotel set right in a grove of Citrus. This mighty Platanus sets the tone for the stone buildings...all with a view of the mountains that were just explored today. — at Semantron Hotel

-By Shem Ruszczyk
-Content courtesy Karl Gercens