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 and if you are one of those people who believes he has a moral obligation to protest the slaughter of animals for the garment industry you will find yourself with plenty of targets for your wrath because just about every street has a business associated with the industry.
If you are one of those people who thinks its a shame to kill animals for coats but there are a lot worse things to be pissed off about then you will find the area interesting. If you are a person who regularly wears fur coats and believes they signify class and status, well, you are probably not reading this and you would be happier in a fur shop in Mykonos or Athens. But for those of us who fall somewhere in the middle there are plenty of interesting things to see in Kastoria with or without the furs which are a fact of life.
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 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.
You can get to Kastoria by car, bus from Athens and Thessaloniki or flights from Athens.