Greece was marvelous. This is the verdict that will unabashedly color the rest of my accounts of the ten day trip our class took to the area of the Gulf of Corinth.
We took two buses down the Italian peninsula to the coastal city of Bari, where we made a brief stop at the church of St. Nicholas, which contains his relics and a Russian Orthodox chapel donated to that Church by John Paul II. Not much later, we were on a gigantic ferry heading over to the Greek port of Patras.
As it happened, we hit the stormiest weather on the way that any UD class has seen within the memory of the current faculty. This made the ride very amusing and interesting - for the about 10% of the group who didn't get violently ill. I spent lots of time out on deck, a little inside reading, and felt fine. There were two enormous water spouts that passed within a mile of the ship, and that was pretty entertaining to see. It's also very amusing to stand out on deck and let yourself fall forward into the wind: generally, it's strong enough to entirely support you.
We stayed overnight onboard and didn't land until 2:30 p.m. because of some delays due to the storm. More bus rides followed until we finally made it to Olympia, ancient site of (you'll never guess...) the Olympic games. The hotel was nice, the food was good (probably the most Greek that we'd get over the course of the trip).
Our next day was devoted to exploring the museum and archaeological site just on the outskirts of the rather shabby and obviously not wealthy town. Olympia had been a major pilgrimage site in ancient Greece, and its Temple to Zeus was one of the largest in the ancient world. There would have been bath complexes, multiple temples, treasuries, etc. - the games had a religious origin, and preserved this connotation far into the later years of ancient history. In early Christian times, the site was combined with a Christian shrine, and remained something of a pilgrimage site until an earthquake leveled everything in the time of the late Roman empire. The stadium is still extant, and the best part of the trip was when we got to race three times there: one men's race, one women's and one mixed relay.
The prettiness of the area completely validated our decision to come in the spring. There were daisies, bright red wild poppies, and some type of unfamiliar purple flower all through the ruins. Also, I ought to observe that olive trees are remarkably pretty and are everywhere.