In Vergina & Environs
The arched roof of the Royal Tombs Museum re-creates a sense of the Great Tumulus itself, as does the passageway leading into the tomb area. A helpful video (Greek and English) is shown throughout the day. Each of the tombs is protected by a glass wall, but seeing the tombs this way is the next best thing to standing inside them. Give your eyes time to get accustomed to the darkness, then enjoy the decorative paintings on the sculptured facades of the templelike tombs and the spectacular gold objects found in the frescoed chambers. Most Greek (and fewer non-Greek) archaeologists think that the gold larnax (box) with the 16-pointed star held the bones of Philip II of Macedon, that the small ivory head is his portrait, and that the bronze greaves -- of different lengths, just like the king's injured legs -- were part of his armor.
The monumental tomb paintings here are among only a handful to have survived from antiquity. Don't miss the dramatic scene of Hades's abduction of Persephone. Hades carried the maiden off to live with him in the underworld, but Persephone's mother Demeter persuaded the evil god to let her daughter live in the world for 6 months of each year. The ancient Greeks believed that this was the origin of the seasons: When Persephone is in Hades, barren winter rules the earth; when Persephone is aboveground, crops grow and flourish.
In Veria -- Don't feel bad if you don't have time for Veria's small museums; you'll have much more fun wandering the streets of this old town, with its Turkish remains and old Jewish quarter. The synagogue (in Greek, sin-ah-go-gay), not open and not easy to find, is in the Barbouta district, off Kentrikis and Merarchias streets. At the corner of Anixeos and Pasteur, the 1930s Vlachoyiannis town house displays the collection of the restored Museum of Modern History and Art; it also has a cafe. If you combine visits to the museum exhibits with a stroll past a cluster of nearby 20th-century houses, "eclectic" in style, you'll get a sense of how people in Veria lived in the first half of the 20th century. Nearby, the Byzantine Museum is in the restored Markos mill on Mylos Markou Street (tel. 23310/25-847). Admission is 2€; official hours are Tuesday to Sunday 8:30am to 3pm. Only the truly devoted will wish to visit the Archaeological Museum, 47 Anoixeos (tel. 23310/24-972), which features finds from local sites. Admission is 2€; hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30am to 3pm.
The Naoussa Vineyards -- About halfway between Veria and Edessa, on the slopes of Mount Vermion, you'll see roadside signs for several vineyards open to the public. At Naoussa, a region famous for its wine, Stenimachos Winery, run by the well-known Boutari vintners, offers tours (sometimes in English) of the winery most work days. For information, call tel. 23320/41-666 or go to www.boutari.gr.
The Dion museum is a heartening example of a well-funded and well-cared-for provincial museum. An English-language video and the English-language museum labels help foreign visitors understand the importance of what they are seeing, while models of the ancient site make the Dion of Philip and Alexander easy to visualize. Exhibits include statues of the children of Asclepius (lined up as though posing for a family photo), grave monuments, votive offerings, mosaics and, best of all, a wonderful copper water organ probably made in the 2nd century A.D.; today it would be the hit of any music hall. A 1st-century-B.C. music critic described the tone of water organs as "sweet and joyful."
In July and August, the Olympos Festival (tel. 23510/76-041) presents concerts and plays at the ancient site.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.