Monday dawns and we have a long day ahead as we leave Thessaloniki for the Meteora mountains - a place we are told will be quite beyond words. Along the way we will visit Beroea (now Veria), and the very modern monastery of The Holy Monastery of St John the Forerunner, in total isolation a few tortuous miles beyond the mountain village of Anatoli.
|paddy fields and egrets|
We drive parallel with the coastline towards the site of Veria where
St Paul went after his escape from Thessaloniki in the middle of the night Acts. This would have been a long trip for him. But he was rewarded by
the people, Jews and Gentiles, who were all more open to his Gospel teaching than
they had been in Thessaloniki. Jews from Thessaloniki however heard of Paul's success
here and set out to incite trouble for him here, so again he moved on 17 vv 10-14
Now Verea is home to the largest wind farm in
Our journey out of
crosses a very large flat plain, with rice paddy fields as far as the
eye can see. There are plenty of bulrushes in wet
ditches and the pink Oleander is still lining the roadside. Lots of white
egrets in the fields stand motionless and upright - watching for food in the
water. We're crossing the alluvial Axios
Delta, known as well for its rich fishing, bird population and oyster farming
as for its rice fields.
|the Bema modern memorial|
We're soon approaching the mountains, appearing eerily in the distance through the haze across a patchwork of fields in the foothills. We cross the Loudias river. Its valley is fertile but the land is getting drier and the crops are changing to tobacco, potatoes, beans. Three labourers are hand-hoeing a huge field - hay is being made in another - and a road turns off for Veria.
|in commune with St Paul|
From the state of its attractive houses on the way into the centre of the village in our coach, Veria looks altogether wealthier than anywhere else we have seen. Mara confirms that yes they have done quite well for themselves. This is a very fertile area for apricots, almonds, lettuce, cucumber. Also there was a huge fire in the 1930s which meant that many houses had to be replaced. Saffron is produced in a nearby village and ornamental bay trees adorn the sides of the main street we are driving down - all very pretty.
|water melons for sale|
There are many significant Byzantine monuments to explore here in Veria for the tourist but we head straight for the "bema", the oracle's podium or steps on which
Paul is said to have addressed the people eager to
hear the Good News, set in a new memorial.
In the centre is the bema itself with St Paul, and to the left and right mosaics commemorating his Macedonian Call and his preaching here respectively.
|at the bema monument - minaret in distance|
For those with time to spare here, I understand that the
is a must, with its spectactular
frescoes from 1315. A coffee shop near to the bema serves the most excellent
cappuchino and a bargain at only 1 Euro! One is tempted to pay more. A tip is
welcome. Anastasis Church
|a colourful balcony in Veria|
We soon have to retrace our steps and move on - and before long are passing close to Vergina, known for some of the most important archaeological finds in Greece, unearthed in the 20th century, including the Macedonian Tombs (among which is that of King Phillip II of Macedonia) and the ruins of the lavishly decorated Palace of Palatitsia from at least the 3rd century BC, maybe even earlier - many treasures from here are in Thessaloniki's Archaeological Museum and much more is likely to be found.
We're back on the road in the direction of Mt Olympus and the Holy Monastery of St John the Forerunner.