Tuesday Travels: My Funniest Most Painful Memory of Europe

While my brain is urging me to write about our trip to Europe in chronological order, my gut is telling me I must tell the funniest, most painful story first.  That takes us to the middle of our trip as we set off to explore the ancient ruins of Olympia, Greece.
Gates to Olympic Stadium.  Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
It was a beautiful day with the sun shining brightly and the temperature rising through the afternoon.  We had cruised into port early, and had joined our tour group of 40 other English speaking tourists to visit the popular ancient site.  The bus ride was filled with incredible information provided by our tour guide, past and present, including explanations of the large piles of trash on the roadside due to the economic woes of the country and the recent trash collector's strike.  This left us curious to see the attractions and excited to be almost there.

As soon as we arrived, we all exited the bus and started down the hill.  This is when Steve and I learned one very important travel lesson: You do not and should not stay with your tour group if that's not your thing!  As some lit up their cigarettes and others marched at their own, very slow pace, Steve and I became more anxious to get to the real stuff!  We marched ahead and gave up the wonderful commentary for our personal space and freedom to roam.  It was marvelous.

We saw the Zeus Temple, the Stadium field, the Entrance Gate, the housing area for the athletes, and we read every sign before us on the history of the remains.  We learned about the past, but also learned about our present world, including a lesson that was reinforced almost everywhere we went... Much of what we see today is a recreation of what is believed to be of the past.  The more we saw the evidence of this fact, and the more we heard tour guides discussing the "rebuilt" this or "reconstructed" that, the more disappointed we became that we'd fallen for so many stories of history, when in reality, we don't really know the truth.
Temples to the gods.  Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
Temple of Zeus Remains.  Photo (c) by Michele Luck.

New Archeological Dig Site. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.

Digging to reconstruct the past. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.

Closed dig site. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.

Reconstructed stadium area. Photo (c) by Michele Luck.
The more we walked, and as the sun rose higher into the sky, the hotter I got.  Finally, as Steve was determined to set out to the furthest locations at the site, I confessed that I needed a break.  We spotted a rock bench off in the distance, and I headed over to relax while he continued exploring.  No sooner than I'd sat down to catch my breath, I saw two elderly women coming my way.  They were loudly speaking Italian, a language we'd become quite familiar with on our cruise to Greece from Venice.  One of the ladies seemed to be feeling the same as I, so she was struggling along as the other led the way.  I scooted myself to the very end of the rock seat, with my bottom only taking up about 6 inches, working to allow room for the two ladies.  What happened next has left me with the funniest, but most painful memory of our entire trip...

The first woman took her place on the bench with plenty of room for her friend.  But instead of allowing all three of us to share the bench, she instead swung her hips to the side, knocking me fully onto the ground, butt in the dirt.  She looked down at me, a smug look on her face, and then turned to her friend, offering up the plentiful space now available.  My pride was so hurt that I quickly rose, ran off toward Steve while dusting off my shorts, and tears streaming down my face. 

When I finally caught up with Steve, he placed his hands on my shoulders to ask what was wrong.  Concern was all over his face, and I was struggling for breath to speak.  Finally, the words came out... "The old Italian lady bumped me off the bench!" I cried through short breathes as I continued slapping the dirt from my tuckus.  And then, hearing my own words, I burst into laughter.  "Are you hurt?" he asked.  No, my bootie was fine; it was just my pride that was bruised. 

As we made our way back to the bus, we laughed and joked about my butt-busting experience with the older Italian lady.  At that point, we were so tired of the pushy Italians and their "take what they want" way of doing things.  We'd been on the cruise ship for 3 days with majority Italians, and we'd been shoved at the breakfast buffet, refused seating in the lounges, cut in front of at the dinner line, and talked over so many times that we were simply tired of the "Italian way!" 

Now I must clarify on our views of the Italian culture!  I LOVED Italy.  It was a country filled with beauty and there were people that were as great as they were evil.  This same description could be said of the French, British, Germans, Greeks, or even Americans (myself included) that we've met along our travels.  However, the Italian culture, which we now much better understand, is one so different from our own.  They grasp for personal space, they speak loudly for emphasis, and they demand rather than request.  And this is what we love about the culture... as much as we hate it! 

So, when we remember our trip to the ancient ruins of the first Olympics, what will I think about first?  Not the amazing columns still standing, the incredible archway where great Olympians once walked, not the fortresses built to honor the gods; I will instead think about my bruised ego - on both ends!

Happy Travels,

Michele Luck

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