Edessa to Vergina
Phillip II tomb
As the bus from Edessa to Veria did not leave until 11am, we could sleep in. Not that this has ever stopped me in the past.
When we got up, the clouds above were packed in and the sky had opened up. To top it off, there was a fog almost everywhere that was more rain than mist as well.
Making it to the bus station in time, we got our tickets and boarded the bus. As Edessa is built up on the side of a hill there were sections of the trip right out of town that looked out over the plain. Yesterday you could see into the far distance. Today it was a wall of white. Not that interesting, and the rain chased us all the way to Veria. This is where we would have to change buses to go out to the archaeological site. Again the bus wound its way through very small narrow streets filled with too many cars as it made its way to the bus station. The bus station is an inner courtyard of a 5 story building. It was amazing that they could fit one bus in here let alone the three that were there. We got our tickets for the bus out to Vergina, but it would not leave for another hour and a half. This could have been a great time to take a wander through this town, but with the rain and our decrepit shoes, we did not feel up to it. Instead finding a small coffee shop to while away the time. It felt as if an age had gone past before it was time to go back to the station, but we got there. Now, after almost a year and a half of travelling, waiting for buses is almost a form of torture, as we seem to spend most of our time waiting for this bus or that.
Still, we got our bus. This was a bit funny for us. None of the buses had any signs up, and one of the buses parked against the back wall started up at the right time, so we wandered over to it, as we had done with some others to ask if it was the right one. Turns out it was, and we thought we were the only people catching it. The bus backed itself to where the ticket office was and stopped. Then the destination went out over the loud speaker and everyone that was waiting rushed towards it. We felt a bit like idiots, but we had also managed to snag the front two seats, so it was not all that bad.
This trip was only about 14km or so, and we still didn’t have much of a view, what with the fog and rain. It did ease off in places and once we saw a patch of blue sky. So there was hope. There is always hope.
Arriving at Vergina, we exited the bus in what we thought was the main square. There was a sign straight ahead for the royal tombs and palace, but the bus was turning right. Thinking we could find the station later and it would cut down on our walk. As we got started, someone called out to us. Stopping to see what they wanted, we were happy to find that he just wanted to give us directions. It is a bit sad to say, but we have seen more beggars in Greece than the last 5 countries put together. Granted that things are not good here, but it is still shocking.
The directions our kind man gave us were contrary to the signs, but he lives here right? We followed the direction he pointed down a walking street. It turns out to not be a walking street, just supposed to be. A few cars whizzed past us as we were walking. At the other end we saw a sign pointing to the tombs in the opposite direction as before? We decided to follow this one (it was still in the direction we had been told) even if it was now going backwards… Turns out this one is right, and we came across the museum shop. This does not mean anything, as the museum shop at Pella was at least 2km from the museum, but just a bit further was the ticket office. We paid our 8 Euro each to get in and approached the funeral mound. We had a person to scan in our tickets, and another half dozen hanging around doing nothing. It even took 5 minutes to get some one to put our bags in the cloak room. Maybe Greece should get rid of the dead weight here, and put one or two of them in the Tourist Information offices. Could be more useful this way..
The museum is under the tumulous hill that was created for the royal tombs. When excavating they probably removed the entire hill before building this structure and recovering it. The museum deals exclusively with the goods recovered from two tombs. One that had been raided in antiquity with very little left, and the other supposedly from King Phillip II, father of Alexander the Great. I say supposedly, as they never presented any proof that it was his tomb, however fine, and nothing was recorded on the walls of the tomb itself that we were told of. It probably is Phillip’s tomb, but we would have liked to know how they identified it.
My biggest grip is that it is so dark in the whole museum. It made reading the text very strenuous on the eyes, and hard to make out the details on the intricate and well preserved artefacts. We were also not allowed to take photos. Still, there is an amazing trove of items on display. We got to learn that the King was cremated along with a lot of pieces, animals and other goods then stored in a little gold box put into a sarcophagus that we could not see. The armour was fantastic. The iron was oxidating a lot and causing it to come apart in large flakes,but still very well preserved, and then there were the grave goods that were buried with him. These were mostly in perfect condition, except for the wood that had rotted away. We took our time in wandering around the exhibition. There was some amazing silverware that even today would be the centrepiece of any royal collection. The gold was fantastic. The details immaculate and even more so when you think that it is all from around 300BC! before going down the stairs to see his tomb. Here we were a little disappointed as you can only go down to the closed doors and all you see is the outside of the tomb. Then we went to Tomb IV (There are four tombs under the hill). Again, you can only see the closed entry door. Even the Thracian tomb in Kazanluk Bulgaria had a reconstruction you could visit.
We then found a video room that we thought would shed more light on this. IT basically went over all the things we had been reading about, without adding any extra details. Disappointed and thinking we were done, we headed out. Trying to get our bags back took a while, as all the staff were now holed up in a room out back talking. There must have been 15 people in there, and no one was willing to get up to give us our bags. When we finally got them, we started out, wondering where the other two tombs were. Finding a map, we saw that we had taken a wrong turn in the complex and skipped the left hand side. Heading back in, we found tomb 1. This had been destroyed a long time ago, and only four pillars were left. Then there was tomb 2. They think this was raided when the hill was being built over Phillips tomb. There was also the remains of a small shrine here. That was it. The only reason to go back was so that we did not feel as if we had missed anything.
Back outside we followed the path around the hill. So disappointed that we didn’t even take a photo of it! The path ended at one of the domed graves that would have made up the bulk of the necropolis the hill was the centre of.
This is our only photo of the place:
Stopping at the ticket office to find out about the Royal Palace. This is currently closed for excavations. It gave us the perfect excuse not to go. Even in the rain, we probably would have gone if it was open. There are other things to see in the area, but these were all closed as well, so we headed back to where we were dropped off to catch a bus back. It was only a two hour wait. One bus did go past, but as we were at the cafe instead of the broken and not waterproof bus stand, it did not stop for us. Learning our lesson, we went over to the stand. Its roof was cracked and mostly missing, but there was a small section where we could remain dryish. We got the bus finally. At Veria we went to buy our ticket back to Thessaloniki, to find out they don’t sell them, and that we had to go to a ticket office at a different section of the building. Even though the bus stops there. It was only a five minute wait for this one at least. Back in Thessaloniki we managed to catch the bus into town with only another small wait as well. We were shafted on the tickets though! The ticket selling guy was closed for the night, so we had to use the machine on the bus. The tickets are only 90 cents each (10c tax for getting it here) from a machine on the bus. I only had 2 Euro coins, so thought I would be able to get two tickets. Turns out you can only get one at a time. And the machine does not give change!
So we are back where we started. Warmer after a shower and a hot meal.