I was trying to recreate the feeling of professor Andronikos as he first laid his eyes on every rock, object or artifact on place.
As I stood here in front of the heavy and imposing yet somehow elegant facade of king of Macedonia Philip the II’s tomb, it was like travelling back to two different eras, the nearest, a few decades ago, when the king’s burial tumulus had revealed its secrets with the help of the archaeological hoe, and the second one, thousands of years in the past, when Philip and his son, Alexander were ruling Greece and most of the then known world.
I followed the signs on Egnatia highway and I passed over a lake formed by Aliakmon River as he is travelling towards Thermaikos Golf – magnificent scenery right after the river exits the narrow gorge that separates Vernio from Pieria Mountains. I drove through some villages planted at the mountains foot before I reached Vergina
The Vergina museum and archeological site is a must see for those visiting the region of Macedonia in Northern Greece. As you walk through the small village by the same name it’s impossible not to notice the open excavations but don’t look for a formal building. The museum was constructed over the royal tombs and then covered with earth so as to look like a burial tumulus. There are just two narrow passages going in and out the halls where the treasures found on site are presented to the visitors. As you go down the narrow passages you got the feeling that you are entering into the ancient necropolis itself. It’s not just a feeling, it’s the reality.
Inside, one can see the barrel shaped macedonian tombs, some marble tombstones, the remains of the Heroon, a monumental structure dedicated to Heroes and admire almost all the artifacts that were discovered in the excavation and are now presented here.
Take a close look at the copy of the mural where the abduction of Persephone is depicted. It is a real masterpiece and it will take centuries before we see again such a work, in paintings of the early Renaissance. Pay attention at the intensity of the emotions on the faces of Persephone and her friend, the sense of perspective that give the proportions of the body and the position of the chariot of the King of Hades.
Notice the small sculptures allegedly depicting Philip, Alexander and Olympias, how elaborate it is, how faithfully depict anatomical details of the face or body.
Spend enough time in front of larnaxes both Philip and the Thracian little girl named Meda, the last king’s wife (one of the many) – a marriage in order to seal political alliances. Admire the incomparable art of golden wreaths.
Give yourself time and convenience and try to understand why the young queen was killed in order to follow her husband and master in his travel to world beyond.
As you are exiting the museum take a look at the silver utensils that were found in place.
Take your time, enjoy your visit. Besides, the wealth around you – and I do not mean things that one can buy – waited buried for almost two and a half thousand years and now it is exposed here, in front of you.
In the end, stop for a coffee under the tall tree or wander around the tumulus, pick a bench, a quiet corner and read the history of the site from a book which you can buy from Museum’s souvenir shop.
As I left Vergina and on my way to Veria, I could almost hear in my brain the words of professor Andronikos:
«If my suspicion, that the tomb belongs to Philip, was true – and the golden larnax was reinforcing this suspicion – then it was the larnax containing his bones that I held in my hands. Such a thought is so incredible that it seems completely unreal»
Yet, it was hard to imagine that from this humble place Alexander the Great set off to seek and find glory in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Info and trivia
- Vergina is located 488 kilometers North of Athens and 79 kilometers west of Thessaloniki.
- You may find nice hotels and rooms to let with the basic accommodation or you may look for more in the Veria or Naoussa.
- There are a lot of restaurants where you can eat local or fusion cuisine and plenty of coffee shops as well as souvenir shops.
- I recommend the museums café and shop
- The museum’s yard is the ideal place to relax and may be read a book about Macedonia, Philip, or Alexander.
- There are many places to explore in an hour distance the most from Vergina. You may visit Veria, Naoussa, Edessa.
- If you are a group, hire a professional guide to show you around the museum and the archeological site. You will learn a lot and you will really see (and not take a look at) the museum’s items.