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Archeological excavations at Philippi

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Tuesday 07 June, archeological excavations at Philippi

It is cloudy and fresh this morning. And we have no electricity, so no tea, no coffee, no shower, no internet, because everything works here on electricity. Therefore we quickly go to the excavations at Philippi, a few kilometers from Lydia, the village where we stay. We can probably get some coffee there and fortunately, the electricity works there. I have a t-shirt with a satirical text: Greek crisis, with underneath 3 checked boxes with the statements - no job, - no money, - no problems. The waitress looks at it and does not seemto understand the humor of it. She looks angry and almost throws the coffee on our tray. But the coffee tastes fine.
Gate at the Filippi theater Basilica A in PhilippiAfter the coffee we enter the extensive and impressive site. The city was founded by settlers from the island of Thassos around 360 BC. but 4 years later it was already taken by Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great. He renamed the city of Krinides to Philippi, so after himself. The city lies at the foot of Mount Lekani on the edge of a large plain and is built on a very strategic location. Thrace in the North and the Mediterranean Sea are largely separated by the Rodopi Mountains and the plain here is the only place where you can cross without having to go through the mountains. it was also close to the trade routes between east and west where later the Via Egnatia would be constructed.
Basilica B in Philippi Basilica B in PhilippiAnd then there were the gold mines in the area, it can never hurt to have that as a king too. A lot of gold was needed to keep the great armies of Philippus and his son Alexander marching on, from looting alone they would not do their jobs.
In Roman times the successors of Julius Caesar defeated on the plain here his murderers, Brutus and Gaius Cassius. Both committed suicide. Less than a century later, the apostle Paul came by and the first church was built here. There are still some impressive remnants of later basilicas.
The agora of Philippi Rider in PhilippiThe city was inhabited all those centuries and only in 619 it was largely destroyed by an earthquake. Because it was still a strategic place, the remains were still regularly occupied by troops of all kinds of nationalities: Byzantines, Bulgarians, Franks (the crusaders) and Serbians. In the 16th century, according to the French traveler Pierre Belon, only ruins were left that were used by the Turks only to get building blocks for their cities. On the site you can now see relics from all eras that the city was inhabited, from the Greek theater to the Byzantine churches.
Tombstones in Philippi The excavation of PhilippiIt is a vast area and there have been several excavations in the 20th century and it seems that archeologists are still excavating here today. Most of what you can see now was covered with sand and debris, so that it has been preserved. It is really a big area and since we have not had breakfast yet, we first go back home to pick up some food but there is still no power. So we make a few sandwiches and take them to the park at Philippi where we order some coffee and tea (with the same, still angry lady).
The Roman market of Philippi Mosaic in PhilippiThen we walk for a while over the extensive terrain. We do have a map of it but it is difficult to make an image in our mind of the city as it would have been in different times. There is some information here and there but it would be nice if they had made some models. But perhaps it is also still a puzzle for archaeologists. There is a small but beautiful museum on the site where a number of special finds are shown.
We are entering Drama We leave Drama behind usIn the afternoon we go to Drama, you must have been in a place with that name and we can not resist taking some pictures at the entrance of the town. This is not where the famous Greek drama comes from because in ancient times the place was called Hydrama that meant 'rich in water' because of the many water sources. There are a few museums but we skip them and go up the mountains towards Xanthi. We follow some brown signs to places of interest such as a castle, of which we have forgotten the name, but everything we find is closed. Elisabeth was terrified of the road to the castle because of the deep ravines along the narrow road, but fortunately we did not encounter any oncoming traffic.
Church in the neighborhood of Drama Church at KalyvaHowever, on our trip through the Rodopi mountains to the east we also encounter several nice church buildings. But nature is the most impressive thing here, wooded mountain slopes alternate with bare and sometimes steep rocks. Generally the road is pretty good but Elisabeth is right, there are also scary parts. And with the roads in Greece you never know, suddenly half of the road could have disappeared into a ravine because of an earthquake, we have seen that before.
Gate of the church at Drama A road that just stopsOr the road can of course just end! In the first year that we went to Greece, a highway was suddenly closed with barriers that were placed in the middle of the road, now there is a sign on the main road that the through road is a dead end and closed. Furthermore, there are no diversion routes, there was probably no EU money available. Or maybe the money was actually spent on completing the road in which they did not succeed and which will happen only when new funds are found. Strange characters, those Greeks. We just drive into a direction and program the navigation to a new destination. Sometimes we do not know where we are but we never get lost.
Macedonian tomb of Stavroupolis-Komnina The Stavroupolis-Komnina site has been closedWe skip the road to the waterfalls of Livaditis because we are almost out of petrol and there are not manygas stations around here. Then we go on to Stavroupoli, which must be the highlight of the day, for me at least: here a beautiful Macedonian tomb has been found and can be visited, according to the travel guides. Well, we could if we could climb over the fence but that is too high and the lock too strong. The whole site has been closed and it does not look like it will soon open again. For coming here we have made a detour of about 70 kilometers and I am very disappointed since I really looked forward to this.
And to make things worse, it starts to rain again and it gets colder. We have seen enough for today and via the highway we go back to our apartment. One consolation: the electricity is working again so we can turn the heating on but we still have to wear a sweater. But despite the closed Macedonian tomb we have seen quite a lot today so I can be satisfied. Now we only want to see a some better weather and the sun.


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