DSC_0380So when you travel to Greece you have a certain amount of flexibility built into your itinerary. The sites and museums wait to hear from the government to decide when they will open and how late they will close. April is supposed to mark the beginning of the high season, or summer season, when they will stay open later to accommodate the influx of tourists. However, Greece is in the middle of a financial crisis and (for better or worse) even the historical sites are feeling the crunch of austerity. They have cut back on their personnel which means sites close earlier than they have in the past and we can never be quite certain what that schedule will be.

DSC_0580Today we benefitted from our gracious hosts at the Hotel Evridiki. Roula was kind enough to call the museums we visited today so we had the most up-to-date information available. We were able to start our day the way I like, in the “best” museum in Greece (according to me). The Museum of Aigai holds rich treasures amazingly undisturbed by the ingenious grave robbers who usually reach these sites before the archaeologists. There are four tombs in the museum which were hidden from pedestrian view by a covering mound of dirt and debris (the “tumulus”), but Manolis Andronikos, the archaeologist who discovered the tombs in 1977, excavated the site and realized one of the tombs held the remains of none other than Phillip II!

A museum now stands underneath the tumulus where you can wander underground and view the incredible tombs and their holdings. Any one of these discoveries would be the featured artifact at other museums but here you are almost glutted with incredible finds. Gorgeous golden diadems with hundreds of fragile gold leaves and acorns, chryselephantine pyre couches, larnax, and silver banquet utensils flood the museum. Unfortunately no photos are allowed in the museum. You’ll just have to come to Greece with us!

DSC_0585In my opinion, however, the greatest treasure found in the Museum of Aigai is the three-part mural of the Rape of Persephone – showing Persephone being abducted by Hades, her mother Demeter on the “mirthless stone,” and the three fates spinning, weaving and shearing the threads of life. According to mythology the goddess of nature, Demeter, had a bewitching daughter by Zeus – Persephone. One day Persephone was out with friends picking flowers when she caught the eye of Hades, god of the underworld. Hades grabbed Persephone and carried her, screaming, to the underworld. Demeter immediately went into mourning and with her all the world, bringing perpetual winter. Zeus was alarmed and demanded Hades return Persephone to her mirthless mother. Before complying Hades tricked the girl into eating a single pomegranate. Eating in the underworld meant Persephone would forever be doomed to spending four months out of the year with Hades, which is why we have winter.

DSC_0622Tearing ourselves away from the incredible sights in Vergina, we made the 2 hour drive to Philippi. Founded by our friend Phillip II, this city is also famous for its connection to the Apostle Paul who was beaten and imprisoned here (according to Acts and the Epistles to the Philippians). Paul met the gentile God-fearer Lydia here and converted her household. He was punished for bringing illegal teachings to the Philippians and jailed. There was an earthquake while he was imprisoned and when the jailor saw that the doors were broken he began to fall on his sword … only to be stopped by Paul, Silas, Timothy and the rest of the prisoners. “We are all here!” said Paul, at which point the jailor fell to his knees and asked how he could be saved. Paul converted this jailor as well. There is a tradition that Paul was killed here in Philippi and buried under a church which carries a 4th century inscription dedicating the church to the “Elder” Paul, not the “Apostle” Paul.

We then drove back to Vergina and enjoyed a dinner of lamb, souvlaki, salad and (of course) bread drenched in olive oil, all while partaking in a grand view of the city of Beroia. These evenings are very special and can last hours – chatting about the day, about the world, and about our hearts.