Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Northern Greece

My last weekend in Greece was spent up north, visiting many different sites. Here is my reflection of the weekend if you are interested in reading it. 

Our journey to Northern Greece began with a long car ride to Kalambaka.  We arrived at Meteora after driving around a bit to see the town. After driving to the top of the cliff, we got to look down at the town. It was an incredible view from so high up. We also were able to see many of the different monasteries in the area all situated on different rock formations. One of the coolest monasteries we saw was one that needed you to take what looked like a ski-lift to get up to it. 
We began our trip at the Grande Monastery, with a long hike up stairs to get to the top. Once at the top, we did not have skirts on, but were able to borrow some from the front reception area. We put on our skirts and began walking around. The first thing we saw was a room full of skulls and bones. Tom explained that for Greeks, what they do is bury bodies and then dig them up and preserve the bones in the monastery. This was news to me, because at home this is not what we do at the different cemeteries, because it is unheard of to dig up bodies once they are buried. We looked in the room a bit and then proceeded to go upstairs. The monastery was decorated with a lot of Byzantine art and it was interesting to read about different painting and objects that were located inside. One thing I saw at this monastery, and at the next, was a large piece of wood used to summon people to prayer or for meals.
Once we reached the top, we took in the view. Because we were so high up, we had a great view of the area and town. We also noticed a lot of different artifacts located at the top. One thing that stuck out to me was a cannon, that seemed to be a little odd being located in a monastery. After finishing walking around, we left and went to the next monastery. 
The next monastery was much smaller, but just as elaborately decorated. We got in, and learned that this monastery was one for nuns. We saw many women walking around during our time there. The inside of the church was elaborately decorated, with gold figures and design everywhere. As with every church we've visited, there were candles that people were able to lite on the way in.
After an early night in the hotel, we woke up the next morning and were off towards Thessaloniki. Our first stop was the valley of Tempi, which we stopped to take a short walking break and see the sights. We walked through what seemed to be a very strange tunnel, to arrive into a marketplace. We walked up more stairs and got to a river, which was where the valley was located. After crossing the river, there was an area to walk down to a small stream that feeds into the river. At this point, we learned that the water in the stream was so clean that you were able to drink it. There were also different caves that you could walk into and that had the candles outside to light. 
Our next stop was the archaeological Site of Dion. We got to learn more about the sight from Tom, including a lot of information about Macedonia and the Macedonians. My favorite spot in this location was the theater. The theater was huge and is still used today for different performances. It also had the great view of Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. 
We were able to walk around and look at different spots of the old city. What was cool about this site is that some of the areas were not blocked off, so we were able to walk closer to these things than we were able to in the past. We saw different churches and decorations and even were able to see a row of columns on the ground. We got to see an ancient bath/pool area that was huge. Although it was very hot out, we got to spend a lot of time walking around the site to see everything. We also went to the museum and saw different pottery, money, jewelry and statues that were found in this location. We also learned about how common it is to find ancient ruins in the area when people begin digging. 
We arrived at Thessaloniki at night and were able to spend some time exploring. A few of us were able to walk around to see the different statues. We also decided to walk down to the water, and walked along it. The water was very different than most of the water we've seen in Greece, it was filled with waves and a different color even. We walked down the boardwalk area to see different building and get a feel for the area.
Sunday, we went driving to explore the area some more. We visited Veria, to visit Saint Paul's Vema, which was a very interesting spot for religious reasons. It was interesting to see the depiction of Saint Paul in this location, because it was much different from Catholic versions of Saint Paul that I have seen. He was very tall and lanky and was less serious than what I am used to seeing. His proportions were different and the style in general was just very different. We also saw some other things at this area, including the elaborate shrine dedicated to Saint Paul. Right down the street,  we were able to walk through an old Jewish neighborhood where Tom told us different information about how Jewish people assimilated into Greece.
The next stop was one of my favorites of the day, Aristotle's school. Upon arrival, there was a statue and a small gated off building. Thinking this was the school we began reading the information. Then we learned that the school was actually down a ways. We walked up some stairs, and through a tree filled area. We came upon a small opening with another sign and building, but this was still not it. We walked up more stairs and arrived at a cave! We were able to walk into the cave and discuss Aristotle's ideas and how the cave became his school. It was also nice that inside the cave was very cool and shaded. We then went to Edessa, which was where a huge waterfall was located. We began walking towards it and got closer and closer. Then we noticed that there was actually a path that you can take to walk behind the waterfall, so of course a few of us took off and were able to walk the path and experience that! 
After lunch, we got to Pella, the capital of Alexander the Great. Although the city seemed very small in size, we were reminded that most of the remains were the main city, with the church and important building in the center, while the other building of the city were built around it and obviously were not as well preserved. We also learned about the drainage system, and how important it was to keep the city running. There were beautiful mosaics on the grounds of different building depicting different scenes. We also had just enough time to walk through the museum and see more statues and things found in the ruins.
On Monday, we were off to Vergina, which as I jokingly said, the town had a case of the Mondays. The museum did not open until noon, so that gave us some time to kill before we could go in. We drove around, but nothing in the town seemed to be open. We were able to find a small cafe where we ordered some coffee. Next door was a small gift shop that we walked through. The woman that owned it seemed a little nervous about having all of us in there, but I assume it was because she was not used to having that many people at once. 
We were able to go into the museum at noon and it was well worth the wait. It was definitely my favorite museum that we've been to in our time in Greece. The museum had a cave-like feel to it with only spot lights on different things. What was also very cool about the museum is that it was literally built around/ on top of the Great Tumulus, the royal tombs of Macedonia. One of the tombs was of King Phillip II as well as a prince that was between 14-16 years old that was a prince. It said that he was the son of Alexander the Great and was appointed King after Alexander died. It said that it was not uncommon to have someone appointed king at such a young age (as a baby) with people to help them make decisions along the way. 
 I learned many different things at the museum, including the logic behind putting armor in mens tombs. It explained that the weapons showed status and were important in the culture to include. One cool fact in this museum was that in most cases, two spears and possibly a helmet would be put in the tomb. However, in this tomb, they actually uncovered four full suits of armor, which was a first at that time because it was so extravagant. We watched a different movie about the finds, and there was a quote from the archeologist. He explained that they had guessed/ assumed that the tomb was that of King Phillip II but they were entirely sure when they found it. He went on the say when they actually opened the tomb and found the remains, he was so excited to find that it actually was the King that he has originally hoped. You could just tell from his words how excited he was to find it. 
The movie had a lot of great information in it about the discovery of the tomb. It also explained the importance of death to the culture. Death was not something to be sad over, or not to forget. It explained that to remember someone is the most important thing, because their legacy lives on. This is why the ancient Greeks/ Macedonians created such elaborate tombs to remember the dead.

Byzantine Churches wearing our skirts! 

Our hotel pool the first night as the sun set! 

cannon at the monastery
monastery art! 

Archaeological site

Aristotle's school!!!

last stop of the trip, to see the ancient statue! 


  1. Your trip sounds so cool Lizzy...thanks for the educational "tour" of Greece and its culture. BTW, you look great in the skirts! Keep bogging and keep on enjoying this wonderful experience! Love you and miss you Liz. Be safe! Chrissy

  2. HHey!

    Awesome recap and photos. can't wait to see everything together when you get home! We love you and miss you!


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