In the north of Greece, lodged between the mountains of Vitsi and Grammos, there is a destination that remains a well kept secret to most visitors. Kastoria, built like an amphitheater on the shores of lake Orestiada almost two thousand years ago, is a city of old neighbourhoods, narrow lanes, stately mansions and Byzantine churches. Kastoria, with its elegant beauty, will be one of the destinations in our Trilogy of Trips. Kastoria can also stand alone as a hip winter destination for travelers in the know.
The city is famous for its high-quality fur. It was in fact named after the thriving beaver (in Greek kastoras) population that once populated these shores but has since become extinct.
Years ago, however, in the Byzantine era and during the Ottoman occupation, the furs from Kastoria were considered a paramount symbol of wealth and were prized commodities among lords and princes. What made the fur from Kastoria so special was the skillful way in which the small pieces of leather were seamed together. This technique was a trade secret passed on from father to son for centuries.
Besides the fur industry, you will find other reasons to fall in love with Kastoria: the ancient Byzantine churches, the narrow stone paths and beautiful pathways by the lake, as well as the nature of its beauty. Brave the climb to the top of the hills to take in views of the intricate architecture of the Cathedral; and the view of the lake below will trully be worth your while.
One can wander for hours on the hiking paths along the shores and marvel at its crystalline beauty. Walk on the south shore next to the old mansions of wealthy furriers and you will experience some of the splendor of the Byzantine era; stop awhile in the cobblestone square to feel like a prince or princess lost in its fairytale-like setting; then walk back to the present as you arrive at the tastefully modern north shore. You won’t be alone in these explorations. Thousands of waterbirds, pelicans, frogs, turtles and other members of the animal kingdom have found refuge in this stunning wetland making it a paradise for lovers of nature.
The lake itself is the jewel that so fittingly adorns the majestic lady that is Kastoria.
Whatever your expectations are as a traveler, this small town in the North is a destination bound to fulfill them.
Prepare to be enchanted by this coy Lady of the Lake!