20th June 2006
The next day we all packed up out stuff, an eternally difficult task for me as I had bought quite a bit and had made myself quite at home in my hotel room. I then went down to breakfast and exchanged email addresses and contact details with my fellow tour mates, before climbing on the bus for the last time and heading for the tomb of Phillip of Macedon at Verginia. We arrived at an impressive mound with a concrete entrance and as we walked inside, I noticed that this whole place had been turned into a museum. Objects found in the tomb were on display in Perspex cases around the entrances to the tombs that were inside the mound. We toured around and observed an unknown tomb, the tomb of Roxanna, Alexander IV and finally the impressive tomb of Phillip. We were not allowed in and even the entrance was covered over with Perspex. It pleased me to learn that the remains of Phillip were still inside, at last some respect, I thought. Antones explained to us all about the tomb and its discovery, and as the rest of the group filed out, I stayed until everyone else had gone, so I could be alone with the spirit of a great man. It was dark inside the cavern I was now standing in and the entrance to the tomb was dimly lit with a few scattered spotlights. Two giant pillars marked the entrance to the tomb with what must have been a beautifully coloured fresco painted across the top of them.
It was an awe-inspiring sight and feeling, standing there on my own in the dark in the presence of greatness, a similar feeling to when I had viewed the Egyptian Royal Mummies, although this somehow even more special, it was my own private moment with Phillip, and I did not have to share it with anyone. A part of me wasn’t there to see the spectacular tomb before me, I was there to pay my respects, the feeling was similar to what I would have felt visiting the graves of my own ancestors.
We then walked across the way to the sight of Aegehe, Phillips capital, we arrived and had to walk up a very steep hill. There were pretty women guarding the site and each had a stick. Antones said that there were many snakes at the site and the sticks were to fend them off. We got up to the site which unlike Pella, which is still being excavated, was very overgrown and I wasn’t surprised that there were snakes here at all. It was in ruins due to an earthquake and columns were placed haphazardly around the place. As we left, we looked into the stadium in which Phillip of Macedon had been murdered, which had once had a tunnel from the palace leading to it.
We then got back on the bus and continued on our drive back to Athens stopping twice along the way, once at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere. Instead of going to the loo and getting a drink I wandered off to see if there was anything of note around, which there wasn’t, although the stark landscape with only the lonely highway was really enough for me…..I thought that alone was wonderful. I got back on the bus, and we travelled for miles with nothing to see but nothing. I listened to Wherever I may Roam by Metallica a few times and thought, that song will always remind me of this. I sang it to myself all through lunch and all the way back …and the road becomes my bride, I have stripped of all but pride, so in her I do confide, and she keeps me satisfied, gives me all I need….
On the way back we stopped at another site, we did not get off the bus as it was right on the busy and dangerous highway. It was Thermopylae, the battle ground on which King Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans had lost their lives defending Greece from the Persians in 410BC. A bronze statue of the great king stood on a platform, a memorial honouring the intense bravery and virtue of the three hundred and one great man. I took a picture through the window and thought what a great way to end the tour.
We continued our drive back to Athens and when we arrived, we started dropping people back at their hotels, Steve and his family got off at the same stop as me and we said goodbye to everyone, which was very sad, I had gotten to know these people and now I would never see most of them again. We had shared some of the greatest experiences, seen the oldest of things and felt things we never thought we could feel together and now it was goodbye. I thanked Antones profusely for being such a good tour guide and he wished me good luck with my career. Then the bus drove off and I said goodbye to Steve, Melissa, Mary Ann and Kristy, kissing them all warmly on both cheeks, they really had been my adoptive family and as I left them and walked back into my hotel, the Arethusa, I missed their company already.