If you are about to answer a lion and wine, you will be surprised. Because Nemea is much more than its legendary lion and the famous wine- which, of course, is still one of the best in Greece, no doubt in that.
To begin with, the lion that comes in mind is the famous Nemean Lion that was the first of Hercules twelve labors. King Eurystheus asked Hercules to kill it but after the kill Zeus took pity on the poor animal and sent its body to the sky. It still remains there, as the constellation of Leo. The temple, though, of its protector remained in Nemea.
The archaeological sight of Nemea has two entrances, 200 meters away the one from the other. The one leads to the ancient stadium that was hosting the games long before ancient Olympia becomes famous throughout the world. “Nemeia” was the name of the Nemean games that were hosted there for the first time in 573 B.C. The entrance of the gigantic stadium that you will enter, is a dark “tunnel”, from which the athletes used to enter 2.500 years ago. What you will see as you come out at light is truly remarkable: the vastness of the stadium is measured in 178 meters of track and a capacity of 40.000 spectators. The natural landscape that spreads around it is truly beautiful.
The second entrance of the archaeological site leads to the Museum of Nemea and Zeus Temple, the towering columns of which are the first thing you see as you enter Nemea. The size of the temple, might not be so easy to conceive now but it was enormous: it reached 45 meters on the one side and 22 on the other. The columns you can see today are the restoration project, to which Stephan Miller, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Berkley in California, dedicated his life. He lives in Nemea since 1973 and speaks about the archaeological site in fluent Greek to anyone that cares to listen.
Inside the museum, there is a maquette, wisely placed next to the window that sees directly to the Temple, and it will explain to you what was where: where was the dormitory that was accommodating the athletes that were coming from all over Greece to participate in the Nemean Games, the bath houses that they met each other and they were socializing (like a café of the era), the houses of the residents and the road that led from the Zeus Temple to the stadium.
I bet you didn’t know that the biggest vineyard of the Balkans is in Greece- and more specifically in Nemea- or that it spreads 25.000 entire yards. Well, now you know. We will not leave you though, with the mere encyclopedic knowledge of this: You will pass by some wineries of Nemea that are all open for visit, to learn all that you wanted to know about wine, but didn’t know who to ask, and of course, you will try some of the best wines in Greece at the place of their production.