OLYMPIA, Greece—“You’re still here? Why?” The shopkeeper was startled as we approached his souvenir stand for a second day in a row. Every day, he watches tourists peruse his collection of knock-off sunglasses and “It’s all Greek to Me!” t-shirts. Rarely does he ever see those faces again.
“How long are you guys here?” the shopkeeper asked.
“Three weeks. We’re taking a class.” I responded.
Olympia is that small. A scattering of souvenir shops and cafes cafés cluster around one archaeological sight, the main attraction. Mammoth tour buses flood the streets with eager tourists who snap their photos of Zeus’s temple before speeding off to their next location that same day. At first, I envied them as they uploaded their pictures to Facebook, crossed Olympia off their lists, and embarked on new travel adventures.
However, I am starting to think that three weeks here will not be enough. After a night spent at Zorba’s, our favorite (okay, only) local bar, we began the grueling trek up the hill to our hotel. As we reached the familiar curve in the path, someone casually suggested, “Let’s go that way.” A small set of stairs was barely visible under the overgrown brush. Maybe it was the adventurous spirit of the night, or, more likely, it was just Zorba’s cheap wine hitting us, but we mounted the stairs and made our way up.
We found ourselves in a gigantic amphitheater, which somehow felt bigger than the entire town itself. The stairs placed us in the middle of the stage, marveling at the magnificent stone stadium seats in front of us. We burst out laughing.
Every time I pass those obscured stairs, chat with the storekeeper on the corner, or make the trek to Zorba’s, I feel bad for the tourists racing away on their buses, missing the quirky spirit and hidden treasures of an incredible town.