Although at the edge of the Salonika, its vast bus station reminds you why the city is the vital centre of Macedonia: 24 different platforms with buses leaving to destinations from Albania to Athens.
With all international trains into Greece victims of the IMF cuts, bus travel has become even more important for Greek Macedonia.
My trip to Veroia and onwards to Vergína took a comfortable 1h 30min passing through the vast alluvial plain of the three rivers Loudias, Axios and Aliakmon. Ah, sheep grazing by the highway 15 mins out of Salonika!
A donkey in a poppy field! You won’t see those around Athens.
I arrived at the Unesco site of the Royal tombs of the Macedonian dynasty to find it shut for the day. No way was I returning next day, so several phone calls, letters, printed emails and invocation of contacts later, and I had my own private inspection of the museum. I am indebted to Mr Yannis Graekos for his hour-long tour within the burial hillock where four stunning royal tombs were discovered in 1977. One belongs to Philip II (Alexander the Great’s father) and one of Philip’s seven wives and another to Alexander’s son with Roxanne, Alexander IV.
This is a site in par with Olympia and Mycenae, yet far off the tourist trail. Not only is it of historic importance, but it also contain some fantastic works of art, in gold, silver and ivory. Not only does it offer frescoes with perspective (no, it wasn’t discovered by Dutch painters in the Renaissance), painted tomb fronts (no, classical buildings weren’t white) but it also displays the coat of armour of Philip II (25 centuries old), solid gold ossuaries and the two kings’ lifesize golden wreaths. And how many ancient Greek pieces of cloth have you seen? Some of the artefacts are displayed in the Ashmolean in Oxford this summer, so dash off to see them. I don’t often get gobsmacked but this was a revelation.
I also spent some time in Veroia, leafy, sleepy mountain town built on a slope with a wonderful promenade and where every house a view of the eastern plain. Its most striking sight is the modern church of the Aghion Anargyron, Cosma and Damian.
That small detour made me miss the express bus back to Salonika so I had to settle for the local one that passed every tiny village on the way. And, ahem, this part of the Macedonia is rather densely populated..
It is not worth staying over in Vergina. For options in Thessaloniki see my recommendations.
There are hourly buses from Salonika to Veroia (1hr 30min), return ticket (which must be re-confirmed at Veroia) €9. From there, regular buses go to Vergina for €0.90, or you can get a taxi for €15.
There is a supermarket opposite the Vergina bus station where you can buy sandwiches and drinks. There is also a traditional Cafe where you can have Greek coffee waiting for your bus.