August 13, 2011 – the coming of the last full moon of summer was being celebrated throughout the whole nation. Museums all over Greece had free entrance. We took advantage of this free-entrance event to go to Petralona Cave, in Halkidiki. We traveled on a warm afternoon from Thessaloniki and driving through the highway towards Halkidiki first leg had been easier. That’s because alot of people are going back to the city, while we are going to a place 50 – 60 km away from where we live.
Before we reached Petralona cave, which is in Katsika mountain, we passed through dry fields, wineries, and olive tree plantation. It is a different scene when you are driving along the highway. But since we are inside the little towns and villages, I saw a different side of Western Macedonia. The heat is bearable that day. It didn’t feel unpleasant, nor I heard my husband mentioned how annoying it is. We arrived at our location, parked, and walked almost a kilometer to get to the footsteps of Mount Katsika – the entrance to Petralona Cave.
The residents were preparing for the night program. We passed them quietly and took the stairs to where the cave’s entrance is supposed to be. It was a nice spot for my frapee` and afternoon nap. And if it weren’t for my husband and in-laws – as well as the other strangers-in-waiting, I would be taking an afternoon nap already.
We have a few minutes to wait for the previous visitors of the cave to come out, then it will be our turn to come in. So to kill time, my husband and I took some photos of kittens and cats around. Then when our time came, I have to turn off the flash of the camera. I will not abide to all rules of “To take or NOT take photos” whichever establishment I am. Yes, I’m a naughty cat, as my husband calls me. Thankfully, our guide said that it’s actually OK to take photos, but if we can do it without flash. That made things easy and legal, isn’t it? Hehe.
So we went inside. We were greeted with glass boxes of fossils and pre-historic tools. I saw something and I wanted to have one of those “little daggers” as an amulet. As we went into the abyss, it’s amazing how cool is the inside. I thought it would smell moldy, but it didn’t. It actually smell somewhere between salty-cool-mud- uhm, I am not sure how to describe it, sorry… But I was sure it wasn’t nasty. The first time I saw a huge stalagmite or stalactite is definitely inside Petralona Cave. It was fascinating! I couldn’t help myself to take photos. These things hanging and protruding on the ceiling and the floor of the cave formed dramatic shapes. Sometimes I look at them like a huge teardrop. Like a teardrop of a Goddess after her lover left, then frozen for hundreds of years and it will defrost only if her true lover comes back. Aha, wait, erase that last thing I said because it would be raining stalagmites or stalactites if these things start falling from the ceiling.
As we kept going deeper, our guide kept talking about the cave. Because I understood nothing from what he’s saying, my husband became my translator. He said that this cave has hundreds of fossils. They also have found a 37 layer of life within it! That’s how long life has been here. Later at the Anthropological Museum, we will see what that layer looks like. You see, the cave itself is also an artwork. You see some weird shapes like that of a Mexican Hat “sombrero”. They also call it “sombrero” in Greek because they don’t have a Greek word for it. I also remember the stalagmite wall art that looks like wild trees from Amazon or Tropical Asia. But they were actually formed from the reaction of the different forces of nature happening during that time. Like the trunk of the trees, were formed due to the force of gravity. And on the horizontal line, you see the cloudy shapes that looked like full tree leaves, are actually the opposite force of nature fighting against gravity. You can look at it from my photo above, left side. Sometimes I thought I am seeing sharks and whales – molded on the walls. At some point I was looking at random images of skulls and bones. I have to admit to husband that I wasscared. We were also shown a part of the cave with a collapsed portion of its ceiling and its remains a few meters below it. Stalagmites grew on them already. BUT most of the time, these stalagmites protruding upwards – to me, they look like eggplants or penises. Just to be honest. And that’s why I cannot help myself but laugh at the thought. Forgive me, whoever is reading here.
To continue our journey, our last stop was at the ‘supposed-to-be-the-place’ of the oldest skull in Europe was found, the “Archanthropus”. It’s 700,000 years old Homo Sapien. If there’s ancient Greece, then this is the ancients of ancient Greece. We took some photos here and there. And tall men , including my husband had to be careful with their heads because the path became narrower and the ceiling , shorter. It became humid inside with most of us stock in one spot. On the way out, I touched the stalagmites on the wall and they felt cold!
Ah last, we were out of the cave! A few meters away from it, is the Anthropological Museum. This is where we saw the rest of the fossils that were found in the cave. There were lions, elephants, dogs, rodents, rhinoceros, bears, and many more. More than 50 species to a hundred had lived there for hundreds of thousands of years. Then there were many stones also. I am not a stone-freak so I wasn’t interested. But I was interested on the wall art of the museum. It is about the 37 layers of life found inside the cave. In the photo above, you can see it.
Other things we found inside the museum were the different skulls of pre-historic men. They are all copies and the original ones are somewhere else.
When we left Petralona, sunset was almost out of sight. Nevertheless it was a beautiful day. The things you can do in Greece are too many so this once a year chance is worth a try. Remember, in August, Greeks celebrate the night of the coming of the last summer full moon. Check out blogs and newspapers for places to visit with free entrance. After we left the village, we went to the cafe area of Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum where a concert of two men from Turkey that played almost-ancient music was being held. Their concert finished at the sight of the Last Summer Full Moon. It was a dramatic night.
Petralona Cave Info: Here