There are two options if you want to enjoy the lake. One is to go around the promontory, that is to make the small round. The best way to do it is on foot. It is only 7 kilometers and I suspect the locals have done it many times. On the way you will meet people walking, children playing and others sitting on the shore peacefully holding their fishing rod. The boats on the lake are either professional fishing boats or long ones rowed by athletes. The willows and the plane trees bend their branches to touch the water protecting the narrow road that circles the headland along the lakeside with their refreshing shade. Pelicans, herons, cormorants and ducks dive into the water in search for the daily food. The road at points is so narrow that I wondered what would the fate of the bus be if another car came in the opposite direction. I suppose they have found a solution....
Riding a bike is also a good way to go around.
There are seats, restaurants and coffee shops on this lakeshore road giving you the options of a cup of coffee or a nice meal with the wonderful views of the verdant surroundings.
The other option is to go around the whole lake in a car stopping at the villages around it and visiting the points of interests, like churches and stone bridges. Try the local specialties on the way!
The fur industry has been the most profitable occupation for the people of Kastoria. It has developed since the Byzantine period when many young men came to learn the skill and their trade had spread to faraway places, being the major factor of the flourishing economy of the place. Nowadays it has declined a lot, for ecological reasons at first and now because of the recession. Still many rich people come even from abroad to buy a fur coat,. Russians are the most common clients today. Furs make a lot of money for the merchants but it is an unacceptable practice for the animals, for the environment and for the workers because they all have severe lung problem after a few years. I wish it stopped some day and never came back again. I don't understand how a product of destruction can be carried proudly on a woman's back and be considered as beautiful...! The synthetic ones are equally beautiful... They have already made the beaver extinct a century ago because of this. I think that men lose their heads when in seek of money and women in seek of vanity...
Old mansions have been restored and stand proudly in their beautiful gardens. Most of them were built in the 17th and 18th centuries.
They are called "arhontika" and they are found mostly on the promontory along the lakeside road, in Apozari. They usually have two storeys and are nice architectural samples of the time when the city was thriving. The rich people of the city used to live in them, usually the fur merchants. One of them has been turned to the Kastorian Museum of Folklore and contains many of the same items the original owners used.
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The lake, with its lakeside forest, has been declared “Monument of Natural Beauty” and is protected by the programme “Nature 2000”. It preserves more than 200 species of birds, some in danger. It also has interesting flora like the hydrophilic trees, and of course a lot of different kinds of fishes.
Nice cafes and restaurants with tables right on the lakeshore attract all walks of people. They leisurely enjoy the refreshing atmosphere and watch the birds flying happily over the clean, waters. The people of Kastoria have made a great effort for the protection of the environment and wildlife.
However, they are protesting because their lake is not in a very good condition. Maybe a visitor is difficult to see this, but they say it is polluted by agricultural run-off, it stinks at places and has been overfished.
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A very pleasant park stands along lake Orestida. It has well shaded areas and moreover, you can get a fresh beer at one of the tables showing on the left of the photo!If you visit in summer, it will give a pleasant rest after wandering in the streets of the old city for a while!
The entrance into this house has a a very simple double wooden door. Each door has a triple diamond shape carving.
The engraving on top (second photo) says that it was built in 1863. After the date, there is the letter “phi” and a 5. Does that means 5th of February 1863? May be!
In the narrowest passages, the corbelled part of the house nearly touches the front of the house on the other side! It is convenient when it is raining or snowing not to get wet! In some cases, like on the photo, the logs that sustain the corbel are masoned and not apparent.
The second photo shows the whole passage with its irregular stairs
As the sharpness of the photos are greatly reduced for VT, you might have not noticed on the first photo of the previous tip that there was a stork standing on its nest, right in the center of Kastoria. This is not really a surprise as lake Orestida and nearby area covered by reeds makes a perfect habitat for storks. Moreover, European storks, when they migrate in autumn to warmer climates fly either over the Gibraltar strait and this is the western route, or over the Marmara sea and this is the eastern route. Storks living in Kastoria in summer will undoubtedly follow the eastern route.
n several Arab countries like Morocco, some of the windows are added by a wooden “moucharabieh”, an oriel window enclosed with carved wood latticework that allows to se outside without being seen. In Kastoria, some structure might at first sight considered as moucharabieh but they actually have been built for another purpose.
The first photo shows one of these structure and the second photo is a close up. This is a metal structure and it seems that it is made with plain iron rods designed for reinforced concrete (second photo). This seems to be actually a protection against theft and nothing else.
The third photo shows a more elaborate one but which obviously has the same purpose.
In the narrow passages of the old city, many houses have a typical Balkanic aspect with the second level corbelled and supported by long curved logs as can be seen on the first photo.
The second photo shows that the tiled roofs that project largely over the passage.
The third photo shows several houses with a corbelled second level in the Doltso neighborhood, where stand most of these mansions.
Most of these houses were built in the 18th and 18th when Kastoria was under the Turkish rule. Though many are not now in very good condition, the inside was really luxury with paintings on the wood panels. Some of them are being repaired.
This is another of the 84 small Byzantines churches in Kastoria. On its southern side, it has a gallery with a twin double arch. Though this gives it a distinct style, I have not been able to find the name of this little jewel. Anybody knows ?
I feel this church might be the church of Hagios Nikolaos Kasnitzis. It is a small single-aisled church with 12th century wall-paintings. Unfortunately, as most of the 84 small Byzantine and post Byzantine churches in Kastoria it was locked and we could not visit the inside. If this was actually the church of Hagios Nikolaos Kasnitzis, it has inside scenes from the Gospels , a row of full-length figures of saints, scenes from the life of Saint Nicholas, whom the church honors, and representations of the donors, Nikephoros Kasnitzis and his wife Anna.
The church of the Taxiarchis (Archangel) of the Metropolis stands amid modern buildings, near the cathedral. It was built in the 10th century as a small triple-aisled basilica with a narthex.
It has wall paintings from 1360 on two sides. They are not in very good condition but though remain very interesting as they are a distinct style from what had been painted at the same time in larger cities.
Since very long ago (may be for a thousand years!), Kastoria has been involved worldwide in the fur manufacture and trade. The guild of furriers of Kastoria was famous for ruling the trade and working for the fame of Kastoria’s furs. It was first awarded its power by patriarch Jeremiah II Tranos "the Great" around 1600.
Furs are nailed on boards and dried outside, along the smaller streets.
During WWII and until the 60s, many Kastorians migrated to Canada where they now manage most of the fur trade.
The oldest part of the city, has a distinct character. It does not look like what most visitors expect from Greece. It has definitely a central Balkanic look.
The first photo shows one of the typical houses of Kastoria with corbelled verandas.
Second and third photos: Some of them are not in good condition and let us hope that they will soon be repaired.
However, that shows that only the basement is made of stones while most of the house was built in wood and coated with plaster.