KASTORIA | MAINLAND GREECE | MACEDONIA
The city that flourished during the 19th century due to fur trade is built on the shores of the beautiful lake Orestiada, surrounded by imposing mountains.
A pleasant excursion for those interested in year round explorations of little known areas unspoiled by tourism. You will enjoy the routes leading you to the various sights and will experience precious moments of peace far from the crowds and the crush.
HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURE OF KASTORIA
Inhabited from prehistoric times, this area where the small Macedonian state of Orestias once flourished has been the target of many invasions. Today, one can see mansions impressive for the high aesthetic standard of their architecture, influenced by that of Macedonia and Northern Europe. The lower floors are of masonry, with narrow openings, and the ground floor is of stone reinforced by horizontal half-timbering. The top floor is of wood, in the lath and plaster technique, with a projecting roofed loggia and overhanging enclosed gallery with wide glass panes to allow maximum light. The steeply sloping roofs successfully deal with heavy falls of snow. The interior is richly decorated with wall-paintings, carved wood-panelling on the ceilings, skylights withcoloured glass panes, and the rooms in general are cosily arranged for comfort. The mansions are usually three-storeyed and most of those in Kastoria were built in the 18th and 19th c.
KASTORIA IN BRIEF
The town is known for its fur workshops which have constituted its principal source of wealth and also for its Byzantine churches. It has 50,000 inhabitants and is surrounded by glorious mountain scenery. The town stands at the neck of a small peninsula on the west bank of the lake.
It used to be renowned for its mansions’ unmatched architectural style and although nowadays concrete constructions have spoiled its unique aspect, the area’s natural beauties still draw many appreciative visitors.
Also renowned are the more than seventy Byzantine and Post-Byzantine churches, dating from the 9th to 19th c., nearly all basilicas. The more noteworthy of these have splendid frescoes of great historical and artistic worth.
Kastoria is first mentioned in the 6th c. in the time of Justinian and may derive its medieval name from the beavers (“kastoras” in Greek) inhabiting the lake. In another version, the name comes from Kastoras, son of Zeus and mythical hero of Macedonia. In the course of its history, the region was overrun by a series of invaders, the Ottomans being the last, from whom it was liberated in 1912. Workshops for the production of fur garments developed in the town from the 17th c. on, as did also the arts of devotional painting, gold embroidery and weaving. Furs from Kastoria were exported to Vienna, Budapest, Paris and Moscow. The town thrived intellectually in the economic boom and generated famous schools with eminent teachers.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN KASTORIA
To visit the churches, ask for the keys at the Byzantine Museum, tel. 0030 2467026781, on Dexamenis Square.
A triple-aisled basilica. The older frescoes, of the early 10th c., are in the narthex and side apses, the later ones in the medallions of the central nave and the more recent on the upper part of the same.
A cruciform church with a round dome and three apses. The interior of the main church and the older narthex are adorned with 13th c. frescoes, while those of its exterior were painted in 1946.
Basilica with three aisles. It has striking 11th and 12th c. frescoes.
Taxiarchis tis Metropolis
Triple-aisled, the burial place of the hero of the Macedonian struggle, Pavlos Melas. Take particular note of the 13th c. fresco of the Virgin and Child above the entrance and the external 15th c. wall-paintings of men, women and children buried in the church.
Agios Nikolaos tou Kaznitzi
Single-chambered, with a wooden roof and a narthex. It was donated by the high official Nikiforos Kaznitzis who is depicted, with his wife Anna, on the west wall.
Tel. 0030 2467027771
9 am-5 pm, closed on Sundays and holidays
This is a permanent exhibit, one of the world’s biggest, where you can see and buy furs all year round.
In May an international fair takes place which attracts buyers from all over the world.
CIRCUIT OF THE PENINSULA (KASTORIA LAKE SHORE ROAD)
Do not fail to take this enchanting route through scenery of lush greenery by the lake. There are
ducks and geese there, while on Sundays you will encounter many people fishing. Make a stop at
the monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa (open from sunrise to sunset). The nave has remarkable 12th c. frescoes. Next to it is the little church of Agios Ioannis o Theologos with frescoes of 1552, combining local traditional and Cretan School techniques.
Lake Kastoria (or Orestiada) is a remnant of the bay which once penetrated into Macedonia and separated it from Thessaly. It has a depth of 10 m, altitude 620 m and its perimeter is 20 km. The water is drinkable and there are all sorts of lake-fish as well as eels in it. If you have time, it is well worthwhile making its circuit.
FOLK ART MUSEUM
Archontiko Nerantzi Aivazi | Doltso Quarter
Tel. 0030 2467028603
10:30 am-12 noon and 4-7 pm, closed on holidays
The exhibits include objects of daily use, implements for the dressing of fur, reproductions of interiors of old dwellings of Kastoria and local traditional costumes.
APOZARI AND DOLTSO QUARTERS
These are joined together by the lakeside, untouched by the intervention of decades of indiscriminate concrete-jungle building. The family mansions of the Tsiatsapas, Mantzouras, Sapountzis, Broumidis, Emmanouil, Pouliopoulos, Scoutaris, Papaterpou and others are significant examples of Kastoria’s architecture.
Dexameni Sq. next to the Hotel Xenia
Tel. 0030 2467026781, 26649
Summer 8:30 am-6 pm, winter 8:30 am-3 pm, closed on Mondays and holidays
There is an interesting exhibition of 12th to 17th c. Byzantine and Post-Byzantine icons, exceptional specimens of local devotional-painting.
Only some ruins of the Justinian wall remain to the west as well as some, probably of the 11th c.,
to the east of town.
FREE TIME IN KASTORIA
Visit the Kastoria Skiing Association’s (Syllogos Hionodromias Kastorias) ski resort on Mt Vitsi, at an altitude of 1800 m. Information: Tel. 0030 2467024884
CRUISE ON THE LAKE
The tourist boat conducts daily cruises. Information: Tel. 0030 2467026777
VISIT TO THE PETRIFIED FOREST
Over 15 million years old, situated near the village Nostimo
SAIL AND WATER SKI ON THE LAKE
Information from the Kastoria Yacht Club (Naftikos Omilos Kastorias), tel. 0030 2467028956, 29400.
From the local boats called “plaves” specially built to navigate amid ice in winter.
KASTORIA FESTIVITIES AND LOCAL EVENTS
● The Ragotsaria is a local carnival which begins on 6 January and ends on 8 January.
● On the last Sunday of Carnival there is the Boubounes with games over bonfires.
● The Furs Fair is in May.
● Cultural events take place in July at the Christopoulia and Kastorian Emigrants’ Week (Evdomada Apodimon Kastorianon).
● On 15 August there is a representation of a local traditional wedding.
KASTORIA TIPS & INFORMATION
HOW TO GET TO KASTORIA
Ideally by your own car for mobility on this trip.
By air from Athens, El. Venizelos airport, with Aegean Airlines.
HOW TO GET AROUND
As the sights on this trip are scattered about, your best bet is to travel by car or motorbike.
BEST SEASON TO VISIT KASTORIA
All year round.
WHAT TO BUY IN KASTORIA
Kastoria is famous the world over for its excellent furs. You can pick the coat or jacket of your dreams at a good price in the shops or the permanent exhibit.
KASTORIA USEFUL TELEPHONES NUMBERS
Kastoria Town Hall 00302467022312, 00302467028914
Kastoria Tourist Bureau 00302467026777
Kastoria Police 00302467022100
Kastoria Hospital 003024670 28341
Kastoria Taxis 00302467082100
Kastoria Tourist Office of the Municipality 00302467024484