Myths, Museums, Monuments, and Majesty

Christiana, our tour guide on this Greek leg of the trip, is a demonstrative and delightful lady;1 Christiana describing the riches of Philip's tomb (640x630) she has told us on more than one occasion that everything in Greek life has a parallel in mythology.  As we began our day, she wanted us to know how blessed we were with the gorgeous sunshine and warm temperatures (After all, this IS January!), so told us we were in the middle of Alkyone Days (Halcyon days for us non-Greeks).  As she told us the myth of Alkioni, I was reminded of experiencing Indian summer while growing up, a similar phenomenon, only in a different season.  (Check at the end of today’s post to read the myth of Alkioni.)  We certainly enjoyed the blue skies, pleasant temps, and warm sunshine all day, no matter the name for such great weather, and no matter if there was a mythological back-story for it.  It was plainly and simply lovely.

While we drove from Thessaloniki to Vergina, Jeff continued to unpack the life of Paul for us, giving us new insight into this man whose letters and journeys form the backbone of our trip.  Jeff’s passionate and entertaining teaching style keeps us engaged and makes the information he shares memorable.

Our first stop was a museum built atop the 1977 archaeological dig/discovery of Philip of Macedon’s burial site.  We spent over an hour exploring the area and the artifacts; the most striking, Gerry and I agree, are the gold leaf crowning wreaths found intact in the tomb.  Very cool!

Left to right:  The entire museum is underground, having been constructed immediately over the actual tombs, ivory carving of Philip's features, gold leaf crown.

Left to right: The entire museum is underground, having been constructed immediately over the actual tombs, ivory carving of Philip’s features, gold leaf crown.

A short distance further down the road is Berea, the city whose believers received amazingly high praise from Paul.  Visiting the monument built near the place it is believed

Top to bottom:  praise of Berean believers; mosaic of Paul preaching to the Berean believers.

Top to bottom: praise of Berean believers; mosaic of Paul preaching to the Berean believers.

Paul addressed the Berean believers provided an opportunity for us to hear the appropriate Scripture passage and Jeff’s thoughts on the event.

Some of the seminarians in our group enjoyed dramatizing Paul as well:

Seminarians being like Paul (640x492)

Lunch in Berea’s cafes and/or bakeries was a treat, followed by an even greater treat, that of driving to and seeing the Meteori Rocks.4 The rocks of Meteora (640x538)  Since we have our own resident rock specialist (who was –can you imagine? — genuinely excited about these outcrops), we got the down and dirty data.  Upon hearing about the monastic communities that established monasteries on these rocks, we were awed to see some of them clinging to the cliffs and promontories.4a The rocks and monasteries of Meteora (640x480)  We were fortunate to visit St. Stephens Monastery, now a convent, where we were able to tour the interior of the Greek Orthodox church on site.   Our full day ended with good food shared in great company at a remarkable place — can’t beat that!

[As promised, the Myth of Alkioni:  According to mythology, Alkioni was the daughter of Aeolus (the god of winds) the goddess Aigiali.  Alkioni was married to Kyika, the son of Eosphoros, the king of Trachina.  They lived together so happily that they dared to compare themselves with the divine couple of Olympus and even called themselves Zeus and Hera.  Zeus was so angered by their arrogance that he transformed them into the birds Alkioni, an impressive seabird with beautiful feathers, and Kyika, the seagull, and condemned them to live separately.

Halcyon bird

In sadness, Alkioni laid her eggs at the sea shore and her nestlings were taken away and lost by the waves. One day, Zeus, feeling compassionate for her, changed his mind.  He decided to send 14 sunny days in the midst of winter for her to hatch her eggs, while he ordered Aeolus to withhold his winds for that period. These sunny and serene days are usually in the second half of January and are known as the Alkyone days.]

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