Kastoria, Macedonia, Greece Kastoria, the capital of the prefecture of the same name, is one of Macedonia’s most picturesque cities and is in fact regarded by the Greeks as one of the most beautiful towns in the country. Built on the an isthmus on the shores of lovely lake Orestiada and surrounded by mountains, it is a city of old neighbourhoods, narrow lanes, stately mansions and Byzantine churches.
The city flourished, both culturally and economically, during the Turkish occupation, particularly in the 17th century and afterwards when large numbers of Jewish furriers came to the area because of the abundance of beavers. Unfortunately the beaver population was wiped out in the nineteenth century and the Jews not long after that during the Nazi occupation. Since that time, the people of Kastoria have dedicated themselves to working with furs and embroidery. Even today, the city boasts a large number of very profitable fur and textile shops and factories.
Kastoria has more than 70 Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches, dating from as far back as the 9th century up to the 19th. Most of their walls are filled with frescoes of exceptional quality. The city’s famous mansions of the 18th and 19th century are well worth seeing. They are usually three-story edifices with large windows, enclosed balconies and projecting ‘sahnisia’. Their interiors are spacious and sumptuously decorated with woodcarving and wall paintings.
Don’t miss a visit to the Kastorian Museum of Folklore housed in one of the 500 year old mansion which belonged to the wealthy Neranzis Alvazis family.
Lake Kastoria, Macedonia, GreeceLake Kastoria is especially beautiful in autumn and spring, the best seasons to get to know the town. At various points round the lake you’ll find restaurants, tavernas, rotisseries, and cafes for gazing at the lake and reflecting on what you’ve seen. There is a 9 km road the follows the promontory and the lake is home to frogs, turtles and a great many spieces of birds.The road begins by the hospital and passes the Moni Mavriotissas, the 11th century church of Agia Maria and the 16th century Church of Saint John the Theologian. There is also a free campsite on the grounds of the Monastery. There are hotels of every catagory and plenty of reasonably priced restaurants.
Places to visit:
Tour the lake
The best way to explore the city is taking a little tour around the lake starting from the southernmost side up to the northernmost. Take a stroll on the narrow pathway along the lake’s coast; you will be overwhelmed by its idyllic beauty and tranquility. The promenade shaded by beech and plane trees as well as the neighbouring forests exude a mystical atmosphere and make an excellent shelter for all kinds of bird species. Orestiada Lake is home to a 200 different species, among them, some rare and some endangered. Local fishermen find themselves in competition with waterfowls for the lake’s fish. During your walk don’t forget to make a stop by the Dragon’s Cave, where you’ll get to see seven underground lakes and rooms with astonishing stalactites.
If you want to admire the city from above, follow the lush and green path towards Profitis Ilias Church and continue even higher up to Agios Athanasios viewpoint.
Tour the neighbourhoods
At a short distance from the lake you’ll encounter the old neighbourhood Doltso, a picturesque corner of the town where buildings date back to the 17th and 18th century, when the city’s economy blossomed due to the fur treatment and trade. Lots of buildings have been converted into museums, such as Neratzi Aivazi mansion that houses the Folk Art Museum, Emmanouil mansion lodges the Costume Museum etc. Second oldest neighbourhood with an aristocratic allure is Apozari; you will absolutely fall in love with the byzantine churches and the beautiful mansions, which are typical examples of Macedonian architecture.
Discover Byzantine Treasures
In Kastoria you’ll get to visit more than 60 Byzantine and post-Byzantine Churches, dating back from the 9th to the 19th century. Almost all of them are of the Basilica type, apart from Panagia Koumpelidiki which got its name from its characteristic dome (koumpe). The Monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa (1802), located by the lake, has really impressive murals, depicting Byzantine Emperors. Pass by the oldest monuments of the city, Taxiarchon and Agion Anargyron churches located in Doltso and Agiou Stefanou, Agiou Panteleimona and Esodion Theotokou in Apozari.
Make a stop by the Byzantine Art Museum (in Dexameni square), where artifacts from the Byzantine period are showcased; over 700 well preserved byzantine sculptures, murals, paintings and icons from temples from around the city.
Don’t miss out on
– enjoying the beauty of the lake and the panoramic view of the city on board of a tourist boat that goes around the peninsula.
– visiting the largest freshwater aquarium of the Balkans, where common lake and river fish species and some at risk of extinction find shelter.
– admiring the famous fur art of the furriery workshops and showrooms of Kastoria’s Fur Center (EDIKA).
It’s also worth visiting:
– Dispilio (7 km SE of Kastoria). At the site Nisi, an artificial island in Lake Orestiada, a Middle Neolithic lake settlement with wooden structures has been excavated, dating back to 5600 to 5000 BCE. Near the site an impressive park has been erected, recreating the lake dwellers’ settlement and providing information about the life of its Neolothic inhabitants.
– the traditional village Nestorio (28 km SW), where each summer on the banks of the Aliakmonas river the well-known River Party takes place with the participation of many art celebrities.
– the village Nostimo (17 km SW), famous for its 20 million age old petrified forest.
– the Koresteia villages on the south of the district. Though most of these villages are ruined and have been abandoned, they stand out for their unique atmosphere and their special mud-brick house constructions, called ‘houses of mud.’
– the Vitsi ski center, near the picturesque village Polykeraso (22 km NE) for skiing and snowboarding.
Where to eat
From melt-in-the-mouth pork with prunes to towers of aubergine and smoky cheese, every local speciality is cooked with panache (and served in generous portions) .
Enjoy a circus show of clacking pelicans from this colourful waterside fish taverna. Kymata’s seafood, some from the Aegean and some sourced right from the lake.
This stylish northwest waterfront bistro has some of Macedonia’s most inventive cuisine.
This north-side lakefront taverna is worth the 20-minute drive. Featuring well-prepared Greek specialities, it has impressive stone arches, ambient lighting, lake views and wistful rembetika .