Unique Places to Visit Near Thessaloniki, Greece: Vergina, Tomb of Philip, the Father of Alexander the Great
One of the most unique and fascinating museums in northern Greece – indeed, anywhere – is in a small village about eighty kilometers southwest of Thessaloniki called Vergina. The town only has about two thousand inhabitants and was little different from many other villages in the area until an important archeological discovery was made there: Manolis Andronikos, a Greek archeologist, unearthed a number of ancient tombs, one of which he claimed was the burial place of Philip of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great.
A well-paved highway takes you out of Thessaloniki and most of the way there, but when you near your destination you have to watch for the signs, because the final few kilometers are on smaller local roads. Then, when you arrive in Vergina, again you have to watch for signs, because it is not immediately apparent where the museum is. There is no tall building or ornate marble columns. It does not rear up in majestic grandeur like the Parthenon. The entire museum is underground, and apart from the entrance it looks like a dome-shaped hill.
Ambiance and Artifacts
The concrete entrance slopes downward into the heart of the hill. Within, the museum is in semi-darkness, which adds to the solemn atmosphere of the place. Only the exhibits are well-lit. There are four tombs, which are burial chambers of huge slabs of rock with ornate friezes. Stairways lead down to their entrances so that they can be observed up close. In addition, many of the treasures found in some of the tombs are on display in glass cabinets, including gold chests and crowns and wreaths, gold oak leaves and coins, and many other artifacts of gold and other materials. There are several rooms full of artifacts, all underground.
Wonder and Mystery
The experience of visiting this museum evokes a feeling of awe. The descent into the hill, the dim lighting, and the unique and fascinating artifacts themselves all contribute to the sense of wonder. You feel you are descending into the cradle of history.
This is a museum for museum-haters, for those who don't normally go to museums. Even kids who normally find museums boring find this one interesting due to the uniqueness of its location and its exhibits. I can say this through experience, as my family and I have visited it several times, and during each visit the feeling of awe and mystery is rekindled. There is controversy now over whether or not Philip himself was buried there, but as far as visitors are concerned, it shouldn't matter. It is still a very important archeological site, and a visit to it is an amazing experience. Try it.