When your AirBnb host shows you the town

IMG_0487
Kostas, our AirBnb host in Olympia, Greece. The town has a permanent population of 700 residents, he told us.

…to share his enthusiasm for Olympia

As with all three of the towns we have visited so far in Greece since we left Skopelos Island, there is more to the towns than just the historical sites. For example, Delphi is a quaint Alpine-style village full of shops and establishments that cater to the tourist market that is always in town, at least in the summer months.

Mycenae is also a sleepy little village just down the mountain from its own historical site. There are a few tavernas, a mini-market, a bus stop, and a few other businesses that keep the town humming along.

Olympia is much the same.

When we arrived there a few nights ago in a taxi, we saw from a distance our AirBnB host, Kostas (another Kostas, not the one from Mycenae) standing in the middle of the street in front of our flat waving his arms at us. We pulled up, paid the driver, and lifted our bags from the trunk. Once we all shook hands, Kostas showed us our small studio apartment and gave us an impromptu history lesson about Olympia.

Standing inside our apartment, he showed us the laminated map below. He proudly explained several things to us in a deep, warm voice: how the ancient Greeks counted years by the Olympic games, details about the sculptures found at the site, and how the games were used by the Greeks to unite people and solve differences.

IMG_0709

A history buff, it’s obvious that Kostas loves his town and its prominent place in world history.  In fact, he reminds me of the enthusiastic Venetian tour guide I met a couple of weeks ago.

And then Kostas walked us downtown and over to the archaeological site so we would know exactly how to get there the next morning. When I say walked us downtown, I really mean that we walked down a series of steps from our studio to the main retail street that connects the modern town to the historical site.

IMG_0712
The door to our apartment is on the far right. The main street is right at the bottom of these stairs.

The main retail street, as one would expect, is full of tourist shops, clothing stores, jewelry shops, restaurants, tavernas, a grocery store, The Archimedes Museum (a free museum dedicated to the inventions and discoveries of Archimedes) and the town hall.

The three of us did make one stop along the way to the site. Kostas asked us to wait outside the little super market so he could go inside and buy a can of dog food. He wanted to feed a dog that lived inside the Olympia site.

Kostas told us that several dogs live around town that the locals look after. Once we crossed the bridge and neared the edge of the park, Kostas let out a distinctive whistle. Suddenly, we saw a white and black-spotted border collie mix bound out from the monument grounds. It sprinted for Kostas, who peeled off the lid of the can and flung the food out on the road for the dog to lap up.

Wow, I remember thinking, this is a nice guy.

IMG_0610
A jewelry shop owner snagged us inside with a tale of his brother who carried the Olympic torch during the 2004 games. He wanted to take this picture of us. I wish I had taken one of him!

After our history lesson and our tour about town, Kostas bade us farewell, asked us to contact him if we needed anything over the next two days, and took off back to his home.

At that point, we went back to our apartment and collapsed. It had been a long afternoon of bus riding from Delphi, through Itea and then along the edge of the Gulf of Corinth to Patras, and down to Pyrgos, where  we missed our connecting bus by about ten minutes.

IMG_0479
Once we made it to Patras, Greece’s third largest city, we barely made it on this connecting bus to Pyrgos. For some reason, the ride took longer than it was supposed to and we had to taxi to Olympia. Still don’t know what happened.

In a few hours, however, hunger called and we walked across the street to Kostas’ recommended taverna, Taverna Orestis. He told us it was where the locals ate since it was off the main street. He was right. By 11 o’clock p.m., the outside seating area was chock full of people.

IMG_0489
On our first night in town, I took this picture from our balcony right after we got back from Taverna Orestis, located across the street from our flat. Kostas recommended it as a non-touristy choice since it wasn’t on the main tourist street. We ordered grilled sardines, dolmades, Greek salad, and tzatziki with bread. It was excellent and fun to see the locals socializing.

There were two large groups of about twenty each, several couples, and a family or two with children. I was surprised by how busy they were and so late at night! Our sleeping and eating schedules are so vastly different from those of the Europeans.

IMG_0664
We found this taverna right in the center of the main district. It was so quaint and also had the misters running in the afternoon, so we decided to enjoy the place with some cappuccini.
IMG_0666
Mitch had a freddo cappucino (iced) and I had a regular hot one.
IMG_0612
After a morning of sightseeing at the Sanctuary of Olympia, we took a break for gyros and sodas at another local taverna. Then we headed back during the hot afternoon to the air-conditioned museum. See this post for more about the archaeological site.
IMG_0705
During our second night in Olympia, we opted to eat in with food from the market on the main street. We bought some toasts, gouda cheese, a freshly-picked orange from a tree, some salami, and Greek olives. 

 

 

IMG_0711
Another view from our balcony.

IMG_0708

The morning after our visit to the archaeological site, we asked Kostas to confirm for us the time of the first express bus back to Athens. It’s very difficult to find current bus schedules and to know that they’re right.

At left is a screenshot that Kostas sent us via the AirBnB app so we would have a current schedule. We took the 9:30 express  along the southern edge of the Gulf of Corinth and made it back to Athens by 1:30 p.m.

Olympia is small and comfortable. It’s busy when loads of buses drop off tourists, but after they leave for the day, it’s a very quiet town. In fact, there are several unoccupied hotel buildings scattered about town. I’m not sure if that’s an after-effect of the 2004 Olympic Games building boom or not. Regardless, the town is a winner and was definitely worth the three bus rides and a taxi to get there.


Thanks for reading! Click “like,” leave a comment and follow my blog for more stories from Greece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “When your AirBnb host shows you the town

  1. Donna Douglas July 2, 2019 / 8:40 pm

    Love reading your blog–almost like I am right along with you

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s