Patras and Olympia

View from nearby my hotel in Olympia
View from nearby my hotel in Olympia

Today, I drove from Galaxidi to Olympia, my first overnight stay on the Peloponnese peninsula. Actually, my first two nights stay on the peninsula.

According to Apple Maps (more on why I’m using Apple Maps below), that drive is almost three hours. Because I don’t particularly enjoy driving, I didn’t want to do it in one stretch. My guidebooks didn’t recommend anything on the way. So I looked on the map for dots representing towns on the route that looked promising based on location.

I then used TripAdvisor to check if there was anything worth seeing there. I settled on two stops: The Venetian Castle of Nafpaktos and The Archaeological Museum of Patras. The former is north of the bridge to the Peloponnese peninsula. The latter is on the south side, on the Peloponnese peninsula.

As I got close (I think) to the castle, I learned something extremely disconcerting. Apple Maps is trying to kill me. Seriously.

A couple of times, Apple Maps told me to “turn left” or “turn right,” but doing so would send me flying over a cliff. On the screen beside the dashboard, it counts down the metres to where it wants me to turn and provides an arrow with the direction I’m supposed to turn. So I don’t think I misunderstood. But there were no turnoffs anywhere close to where it wanted me to turn.

When I went past the murderous turn, Apple Maps rerouted me back to the same place and tried to kill me again.

Eventually, I gave up. I removed the castle as a stop and had no further incidents, making The Archaeological Museum of Patras my only intermediate stop.

I don’t know why Apple Maps is trying to kill me. I’m a good Apple customer. I’ve had a few different iPhones and I still use one. I’ve also had a few different MacBook laptops and iPads and still use versions of each. Plus, I’m on my second Apple TV box. And I have a premium Apple subscription that gets me Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple News+, additional iCloud storage, and one or two other things I don’t use.

With all the money I’ve spent on them, you’d think Apple would try to keep me alive. Apparently not.

Wait. I know what it is. I don’t have an Apple Watch. If I had an Apple Watch maybe Apple Maps wouldn’t try to kill me. The Apple cult is unforgiving.

Why Apple Maps?

I live downtown and got rid of my car a few years ago. I walk almost everywhere. So I don’t drive much. Until this trip, I used Google Maps for navigation on the few times I did drive. I also use it when I need walking directions.

But my rental car has Apple CarPlay. If I use Google Maps, I can hear Google’s instructions. Those instructions flash briefly on the car’s screen as text when spoken by Google, but CarPlay displays Apple Maps’ map on the screen. It shows me where I am, but doesn’t display Google’s route or detailed turn information, even though I’m using Google as the active mapping app.

I learned this because I used Google Maps for the first leg of the driving portion of this trip, from Piraeus to the Monastery of Osios Loukas. It was problematic. Without the route or detailed turning information on the screen, I missed a few turns and had to double back.

Consequently, before I left the Monastery of Osios Loukas, I switched to Apple Maps and have used it since. Perhaps that’s it. It might not be because I don’t have an Apple Watch. Maybe I hurt Apple Maps’ feelings by not using it all along. Now it’s trying to kill me and I don’t know how to get on its good side again.

All that notwithstanding, as you probably guessed based on the fact I wrote this, I survived. Frazzled, but very much alive.

The castle, which according to TripAdvisor, is interesting and has great views, remains unseen by me.

The Archaeological Museum of Patras

Relics at the Archaeological Museum of Patras
Relics at the Archaeological Museum of Patras

I get the sense that if you dig anywhere in Greece that was in any way accessible to the ancients, you are more likely than not to find an ancient ruin or relic. That’s probably an exaggeration, but only because archaeologists and looters have already excavated a lot of sites.

I’m sort of joking. The ruins and relics probably aren’t quite that thick in the ground here. But I’ve already seen a lot of archaeological sites and museums on this trip. And that doesn’t account for everything that went missing because of plunderers.

Excavated base of an ancient villa in Patras
Excavated base of an ancient villa in Patras

Patras, on the northwest corner of the Peloponnese Peninsula, is no exception to the riches of relics and ruins rule. According to the information in the Archaeological Museum, Patras was quite a wealthy place in Roman times. The relics in the museum demonstrate that.

The oldest of the museum’s exhibits date from before the Romans came to town. The first text in the museum talks about the time from the 17th century BCE. The earliest relics date from 3000 BCE and include various types of clay vessels.

Moving up in history, in the first exhibit hall, the excavated bases of two buildings from the area, a villa and a farmhouse, I believe from the Roman era, are laid out on the floor.

Statue at the Archaeological Museum of Patras
Statue at the Archaeological Museum of Patras

Other relics include statues, jewelry and quite a few beautiful floor mosaics. The museum places some of those floor mosaics on the floor, with appropriate low barriers around them to keep people from walking on them. But a lot of the floor mosaics are mounted on walls and other vertical surfaces.

Another section of the museum is the cemetery. (Not an actual cemetery, just displays of related archaeological finds.) It exhibits burial offerings found in tombs, sarcophagi, crypts, cremation urns, some skulls without the rest of their skeletons, a couple of complete skeletons, and some items related to funereal rituals.

2nd Century floor tile with an image of Aphrodites
2nd Century floor tile with an image of Aphrodite

The museum was almost empty of visitors when I was there. I think I was the only one. The museum has a couple of large halls divided into a few areas. In each hall, I had a shadow. And I don’t mean the type cast by lights.

One of the museum staff, a different one in each hall, followed me at a respectable, but not at all discreet distance as I walked through.


View from the balcony of my hotel room in Olympia
View from the balcony of my hotel room in Olympia

My hotel in Olympia is near the top of a small mountain or a big hill, I don’t know which. My room has a small balcony overlooking the hotel’s pool and some beautiful scenery beyond that. I took the accompanying picture from my balcony a little before sunset. The time of day accounts for the orange and pink hues beginning to tint the sky.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I took that picture, I walked into town. The woman at the front desk told me it takes about fifteen minutes to walk there. I took a few minutes less than that.

The person at the reception desk also warned me to expect it to take a little longer to walk back because, “Remember that steep hill you drove up to get here, you have to walk back up that.”

Down was easy, except that gravity wanted me to walk a lot faster than was probably advisable to avoid losing my step and tumbling. I fought against gravity and won. It’s not just Apple Maps that wants to kill me. Gravity is in on the plot too. Physical forces and technology are in cahoots and I’m their target.

Going back was a much more strenuous climb.

Because I didn’t have much time today after I arrived, I just wandered around and went into a very small, but very enjoyable museum. I’ll visit the main attractions—the archeological site, archaeological museum, and the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games in Antiquity—tomorrow

The Town of Olympia

Main drag in Olympia
Main drag in Olympia

Unless it extends well beyond the main commercial district I visited this afternoon, Olympia is a small town. The main commercial street runs for about ten blocks or so (I didn’t count them). It’s a very pleasant avenue. The street is constructed of interlocking brick, not asphalt. And the wide sidewalks are paved with paving stones.

Shops and restaurants line the street. Some of the restaurants have outdoor tables.

Another similar street intersects diagonally with the main drag. However, the commercial section of that street is only a few blocks long.

The Museum of Ancient Greek Technology

I intended to visit the Archimedes Museum. I don’t think I did, but I’m not sure.

Even though I walked there, I used Apple Maps rather than Google Maps to get me to the Archimedes Museum. The place it directed me to was on the main street of Olympia. Shops and restaurants were at the point Apple Maps directed me to, but I didn’t find a museum. I walked a couple of blocks on either side of that location, but found nothing that resembled a museum.

Model of the crane that built the parthenon
Model of the crane that built the Parthenon

I switched to Google Maps. It told me the Archimedes Museum was a few blocks farther along the main street. It was. Or probably not.

Two banners out front proclaimed “Archimedes” on each banner. The woman at the front desk said it was the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology. It emphasizes Archimedes, but is not exclusively dedicated to him.

The entry for the museum that one of my guidebooks calls the Archimedes Museum says it “shows off replicas of ancient Greek technologies.” A couple of exhibits the guidebook mentioned are exhibits I saw there. So I thought the Archimedes Museum and the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology were the same thing by different names.

However, when I googled “Archimedes Museum” so I could provide a link here, the picture of the museum on the returned museum website did not look at all like the museum I was in. The website says it’s located in the centre of ancient Olympia. Maybe I’ll see it when I go to the archaeological site tomorrow.

Model of an automated holy water dispenser (with a reflection of my torso on the glass in front of the model's cutaway section)
Model of an automated holy water dispenser (with a reflection of my torso on the glass in front of the model’s cutaway section)

The crazy thing is that the website has a couple of pictures of the exhibits it displays, and I saw them in the museum I was in. Although, the museum I was in displayed working models of ancient technologies, many, but not all, of them were invented by Archimedes. Maybe the Archimedes Museum has original artifacts. I don’t know.

That website provided an “Also visit the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology” link. That took me to a website for the museum I was in.

But if what I was in was not the Archimedes Museum then both Apple Maps and Google Maps are wrong. AppleMaps sent me somewhere where there was no museum in sight. Google Maps sent me to the Museum of Ancient Greek Technology” when I searched for “Archimedes Museum.”

So, I don’t know.

One thing I do know is, I’m so confused.

None of that tells you anything about the museum I visited, whatever it may be.

A model of the world's first (according to the museum) door alarm
A model of the world’s first (according to the museum) door alarm

It is small, just one small room. It contains models of, well, you know. Ancient Greek technologies.

Some of Archimedes’ inventions are represented there, including Archimedes’ screw. But there are also models of inventions by other ancient Greeks, including a model of the crane used to build the Parthenon.

Other non-Archimedes ancient Greek technologies were a lot more fun. For example, the museum has a working model of what it claims is the first door alarm. When the door is opened, a string attached to pulleys pulls on a device that manipulates air and water to make a bird-call sound. The person working at the museum demonstrated it for me.

There is also a model of an ancient automated holy water dispenser with a coin collector. When someone deposited a five-drachma coin in the slot, the dropping of the coin opened a conical valve, releasing some holy water. I’m surprised the priests’ union didn’t have anything to say about that. Then again, maybe it did. I don’t think churches use that device, or a modern version of it, today.

A model of an ancient watered wine dispensing robot
A model of an ancient watered wine dispensing robot

Another fun display was a model of a robot invented by a contemporary of Archimedes, Philon. The robot had a humanoid shape, with articulated arms. The description of how it worked is too long for me to transcribe here, but the robot contained two air-tight vessels inside it, one with water and one with wine. Tubes ran from each vessel to the robot’s hand. When a cup was placed in the palm, the weight moved the arm down and released some wine through a tube into the cup. When the cup was half full, that weighted the hand down some more, which caused the flow to be diverted from the wine vessel to the water vessel, thereby watering down the wine. A robot for cheapskate barkeepers, I guess.

It seems the ancients were pretty clever. If they had developed Apple Maps maybe it wouldn’t try to kill me.


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