Our third day in Northern Greece involved a day outside the city. We began by visiting the Pella Archaeological Museum and Site. Pella is best known as the ancient capital of the kingdom of Macedon during the time of Alexander the Great. I loved seeing the beautiful pebble mosaics that were on site under large coverings and then the reconstructions in the museum. Typically when we visit a site all the sculptures and finer details are removed and put into the museum so it was a treat to see these works of art still in their original locations. Our next stop was to the Lefkadia Tomb, also known as the Macedonian Tomb of Justice. Discovered in 1954 and restored in 1998 this tomb is fascinating with its painted depictions of Greek gods and is believed to have belonged to one of Alexander the Great’s bodyguards. This is the first underground tomb that I have seen with such an intricate facade. Even though none of the elements are structural, I found it interesting to see Greek architecture interpreted into their beliefs of the afterlife.
Our next two stops included the School of Aristotle and the Nicholaos Park in Naoussa. While it can be debated as to whether or not Philip II actually hired Aristotle to tutor the young Alexander and it can be questioned as to if this was actually where they held their lessons, the site was beautiful and filled with happy stray dogs. We walked along a path following the stream to visit some small caves and enjoyed the sunshine before moving on to our final stop of the day. The Nicholaos Park in Naoussa reminded me of an American summer campsite with all the wooden structures and small river running through the area. We ate lunch outside at a restaurant with a lovely wooden deck. I ordered the “πέστροφα” or trout that was the perfect freshly cooked meal to enjoy at the park.
Our fourth day was unique because we were able to choose which itinerary we wanted to follow. I selected a tour of Thessaloniki’s history through the Ladadika Quarter and the Port where we learned about one of the city’s preserved neighborhoods that is now filled with restaurants, cafes, and bars. Featuring Dutch architecture the Ladadika used to be where sailors arriving in the port would go for food and company. The tour of the port featured a look at the first pier which has turned warehouses into museums and restaurants, similar to other cities whose shipping industry has died down in the past century. With the afternoon free I climbed up the White Tower, one of Thessaloniki’s most recognizable monuments, for a view of the waterfront. For dinner, we tried an Armenian restaurant that we all loved. While it was similar to Greek food, different spices and herbs were used to flavor the food that made it different from our usual fare. We tried their kempaps, cheese, Armenian bread and salad. All delicious.
Our final day involved a strenuous bus ride back to Athens. We first stopped at Vergina to look and the ancient tombs, supposedly of Philip II and Alexander the Great’s son, but our professors begged to differ on these identifications. Nonetheless, the underground tombs were amazing to see along with all the ancient artifacts that were displayed. Our final stop was at Thermopylae, the site of the battle of the 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas against the Persians. While the coastal pass used to have the sea come up to the hillside, the water level has since gone down and is now a few kilometers away from the site. Finally, we completed our final bus ride back to Athens exhausted from our week of site seeing in Northern Greece.