Friday, October 9, 2015

Going underground

[Photographic spoiler alert.] We woke up to Thessaloniki this morning, and it wasn't a spirit-lifting experience: grey and damp weather, grey and concrete city, the only colour coming from the graffiti sprayed over the rough walls of unfinished buildings. So we headed straight out of the city and spent the morning underground at the town of (careful, now) Vergina.
I'd apparently opted, to my faint surprise, for an excursion to an archeological museum, one that's located under the huge tumulus that was mounded up over many graves and some notable tombs, chief amongst them that of Phillip II. Who was Phillip II? I wondered, evidently alone on the coach amongst others far better informed. He was king of Macedonia in the third century BC, it turns out, powerful and particularly successful in battle - which was pretty impressive given that, even by the standards of his day, he was on the short side. The museum, modern, arty and well presented, has a couple of pairs of his greaves, which are bronze shin pads, and which wouldn't provide even me with much protection in a hockey game.
His tomb is there, and all sorts of relics from the ritual burning before his bones were broken and fitted inside a golden casket. I was quite horrified by the vicious, spiky, sharp bits that his horses had to endure in their mouths - but the casket was gleamingly gorgeous, though even so not as sheerly beautiful as the delicate 24ct golden oak-leaf wreath that was put inside the casket too. Sadly, there was no photography allowed inside the museum, which took us two brisk hours to work through.
Back in Thessaloniki, the sun had come out, the water was startlingly blue and clear, there was bustle along the architecturally-undistinguished waterfront, lots of people relaxing, men fishing, a busker playing a Greek version of bagpipes, there was an old tower, Argonaut party boats, and an equestrian statue of Phil's famous son, Alexander the Great. Who even I had heard of, and could name his horse. Bucephalus. Did you know that?

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