For the next 3 days & 2 nights we toured the land in which Alexander was born, raised, conquered the world (as they knew then) and then finally buried along with his father Phillip II. We based ourselves on the large, open and free car park at Vergina. Using the motorbike to visit Pella, Veroia and surrounding countryside. The weird weather pattern continued with torrential storms in between the odd bright sunny spell, so timing our bike rides was fun. The car park was very quiet with lovely views of the surrounding hills, so it made for a perfect spot for us to park up.
Wild Camping GPS position Vergina, N040.484357, E023.32267
Sign posts in and around the area are not the best, so planning your journey and knowing where to go is a must. Otherwise you will end up totally confused as we did several times. Collectively the 3 sites, the surrounding area and a vivid imagination for some of the ruins made for a great little historic trip.
Pella, Vergina and Veroia will outlive us all. Over two thousand years of war, invasion and savage attacks are etched into the ruins, burial mounds and tombs. And still they remain, partly due to fantastic excavation works and archaeological digs headed up by passionate people like Manolis Andronikos. It’s a region built to last that represents the Hellenistic era of Greece.
Why here and so far away from the Capital, Athens – well, that’s a really great story, the story of Alexander the Great.
Alexander is the son of King Phillip II both of which were born and raised in the village of Pella. In 338 BC King Phillip of Macedon conquered Greece from the royal palace at Pella, the capital of Macedon. Back then the landscape was quite different when the palace overlooked both the plain and the channel down which ships sailed. Supplies from around Europe arrived in the bustling harbour but now, the waters have gone and the inlet dried up. The view from the hill of the dusty landscape is very different but still, it is a great view of the vast landscape surrounding the ancient capital.
The modern museum at Pella has outstanding mosaics and collections but the Palace ruins and birthplace is closed to the public. As you exit Pella, the city ruins of the once capital can be seen from the roadside. Standing back admiring the whole complex is probably the best vantage point because up close and personal with the ruins doesn’t really tell you anything. It certainly is a case of the sum of the parts are greater than the individual when viewing Pella.
The hill town of Veroia reminded us of Sao Paulo, a sprawling jumble of houses, buildings and telegraph poles randomly places on the hillside. Once inside, you discover the labyrinth of cobbled alleys, wooden houses and dozens of tiny Byzantine churches. It is a maze and full of hidden little treasures of the past (click to enlarge).
All around the countryside and on the slopes of the hills are vine yards. Tucked in between the vines are more ruins, in fact, no matter where you look you can see ruins and remains. If you are in to archaeology then this place will certainly tick your box.
Vergina palace was the second home of King Philip and were he died 336 BC. Preliminary excavations suggest that the palace was enormous but the whole excavation area is fenced off and closed. Driving around the perimeter of the site on the motorbike, it would appear its been closed for sometime. The road signs for the royal palace from the large car park lead you up a dirt track and on to a dead end leaving you scratching your head as to whether you missed it or lost it! During our 3 day stay we watched many a person wander by, following the signs only to return confused and perplexed. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to remove or cover the signs until the site is ready for viewing then not to confuse the majority of Vergina visitors.
Vergina known as Aigai in ancient times is the most important of the royal Macedonian sites. The museum built inside the burial chamber known as Great Tumulus contains some of the most spectacular gold objects found in ancient Greece. Inside, the domed roof of the museum you get a real sense of the scale of the tombulus with passageways leading to the tomb areas. The temple like tombs are closed but you can walk down the passageway to the entrance. Outside each tomb a model of the chamber with a description of what they found. The decorative paintings, ornaments, jewellery, tools and objects on display. Inside you are not allowed to take photographs but we managed a sneaky quick click when no one was looking (no flash).
At a young age of 23 Alexander became king and marched all the way to India, conquering everything in his path. Alexander the Great fulfilled his father Philip’s plans defeating the Persians in Asia and creating a vast empire that extended to India in the east and Egypt in the south. Alexander returned to pursue Darius and then in to Bactria before he died under mysterious circumstances at the young age of 33. His body was returned to Vergina to be buried alongside his father.