4.000 Years of Greek History and Civilization.
In Chalkidiki, in Petralona Cave, the remains were found of the first man to
inhabit Greece. He lived on for tens of thousands of years with stones as
his only tools.
Life took on another aspect in the Neolithic era. By then men and women were
born and died in sun-dried brick houses roofed with branches and reeds. They
founded settlements and cultiviated the earth. In their hands clay became a
means of making utensils and art. The small clay idols from Nea Nikomidia
(6.000 B.C.) and the clay heads from Drama (4.000 B.C.) reveal their
sensitivity and their attempts at self-expression. Around the year 2.300
B.C., new groups of people appeared in Macedonia. And the fate of the Greeks
can be discerned in their traces. Little by little they learned to use
metals, bronze to start with, later iron. Iron weapons, bronze jewelry,
decorative objects found in the funeral mounds at Vergina, indicate the
level of civilization that those people had reached. This is how the
“Macedonia Nation” began. During the Archaic period, colonies founded by the
Greeks of the south brought Macedonia into closer contact with the rest of
the Greek world. Pottery from Corinth and Athens traveled to Macedonia
along with architectural elements from Ionia. In the Classical era, the
influence of southern Greece became even more fertile and creative. To the
extent that King Alexander, a forefather of the Alexander the Great, took
part in the Olympic Games, which were closed to non-Greeks.
The palace at Vergina played host to philosophers, poets, painters and
musicians. Aristotle opened the way to European thought. Masterpieces
influenced by the creative works of the Ioanians took on a different form in
the hands of local artists.
Cities were built according to perfected plans. Painters gave us inspired
works on the walls of the palaces and royal tombs; Craftsmen did wonders
with gold. This art eventually spread to the far reaches of the East and was
assimilated by the populations there together with memories of Alexander.
The Great King lived on in hosts of myths lodged in the imagination of
mediaeval man and were passed on to Renaissance Europe. Christianity came to
Macedonia when it was still in its infancy, brought by St. Paul himself, who
traveled and taught on its soil. Thessaloniki became the second city of the
Byzantine Empire. Grand and magnificent civic monuments, churches and
monasteries were erected throughout Macedonia. The early basilicas were
followed by ecclesiastical architecture of all types. At Kastoria there are
dozens of churches whose interiors are decorated with the glowing portraits
of archangels, saints and donors; in Veria, the church of Christ in famous
for its colorful compositions; while nothing can compare with the jewels of
the monastic state of Mt. Athos. In Thessaloniki such monuments abound:
there are fifty-seven churches and forty monasteries and dependencies, where
the floors are decorated with mosaics and the vaulted ceilings with angels
trumpeting to the heavens. Everywhere you look there are examples of
Byzantine architecture and painting. In Turkish-occupied Macedonia,
everything came to a halt until the moment when the Greeks wereableto
acquire some control over the region’s economy in the 18th century. The art
of that era relied on the inspiration of the local craftsmen, whose superb
work can be seen in the carved doors, pottery, costumes, gold and silver
jewelry. You can see them in Macedonia’s old mansions and churches. The
icons painted then show such fear in the Virgin’s expression, fear for the
fate of the Babe that she holds, the fate of her enslaved people. The
conquerors swept through Macedonia, pillaging as they went, until the day
came when they were subdued by the effect of the civilization they
encountered, which always had something new to show them.
“And may she be named Thessaloniki”, said King Philip of his first daughter.
Later, Kassandros, Alexander the Great’s general who succeeded him on the
throne, married the young princess and gave her name to the city he founded
(316-317 B.C.). From here, St. Paul, the Apostle of the Nations, spread the
Word of Christianity (50 A.D.). And the Roman emperor, Galerius, made the
city his headquarters (300 A.D.). Here, too, Demetrios, a Roman officer, was
martyred, thus becoming Thessaloniki’s patron saint (303 A.D.). The wealth
and glory of Byzantium followed. Along with a succession of enemies (Slavs,
Avars, Saracens, Normans, Catalans and Turks), but each time, after each
invasion, Thessaloniki survived, clad in the Byzantine and ancient garb for
which she was predestined.
Her beauty was trumpeted far and wide. The magnificence of her landmarks:
The Arch of Galerius and the Rotunda with its mosaics. Aghia Sofia, the
Ahiropiitos, Ossios David, Aghioi Apostoli, the Vlatadon Monastery, Aghios
Dimitrios, Profitis Ilias, Aghios Nikolaos – churches representing every
phase of Byzantine architecture and painting – as well as Byzantine walls,
castles and towers. The White Tower, built on the site of an older tower,
and the other tower, its twin, the Trigonio.
The Archaeological Museum is a true surprise, the wealth and splendor of
its contents fixes us like a magnet, while the Folk Art Museum entrances us
with its lovely crafts from the 18th and 19th century. Not far from the
museum is a contemporary landmark, the International Fair Grounds, a
crossroads where people meet in friendship and cooperation, while above it
looms the University named after Aristotle. All Thessaloniki pulsates with
life. The streets are bustling with activity. The streets are allow with
cars. Spacious avenues, parks, squares, trees. Streets lined with shops and
alluring show-windows. Old, neoclassical houses next to modern apartment
blocks. And plenty of tavernas, ouzeris, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs,
bars, “bouzoukia” (Thessaloki was where rebetika, the Greek “blues”, was
born), cinemas, theaters, cafes whose chairs and tables fill the pavements
and the piazzas.
Little dives and cellars specializing in Macedonian treats. Places to “hang
out” and have an ice-cream cone or a “submarine” (a spoonful of something
sweet dipped in a glass of ice water). And places where you can just be
quiet. Another world after the brouhaha of the city. The Upper Town with its
poetry and charm. Old neighborhoods with narrow alleyways and gardens.
Courtyards draped with laundry. Wide-open doors and carefree children
playing. Rebetika melodies and the scent of exotic flowers waft through the
air. With your every step you glimpse the heart of Thessaloniki. An immortal
heart, a perpetual beat. An inseparable companion in joy and in sorrow.
Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos are the three peninsulas that make up
Land and sea. Tranquility and eternity.
Forests of beeches, chestnuts, willows, cypresses, plane trees. Beaches and
beguiling coves. Golden sand. Picturesque villages. Potidea, Olinthos,
Stagira, Aristotle’s birthplace. Each town has its own history and its own
ancestral glory. Mt. Athos, the Holy Mountain of Orthodoxy.
Here tradition – ever present in Macedonia – is still vibrant in the
villages. Women’s rule at Monoklissia, Fire-walking at Aghia Eleni,
Dionysiac dances at Gazoro.
Seres, the prefectural capital, is a modern, bustling city, with broad
streets and open squares. The new town blends pleasantly with the old. In
its northern sector, on the piney hill of Koula, the ruins of the ancient;
acropolis and the Byzantine castle bear witness to a history stretching from
the depths of time. There is also a 14th century church here, dedicated to
St. Nicholas with beautiful mosaics. At a distance of 12 kilometers, in a
gorge stands the monastery of Timios Prodromos (1270 A.D.) with frescoes of
More antiquities are to be found at Amfipolis, 62 kilometers from Seres,
once an Athenian colony, founded in 437 B.C.
Outside the village, near the bridge over the Strimon river, the famous Lion
of Amfipolis was discovered, a 4th century B. C. funerary sculpture. The
pieces were reassembled and now the Lion guards the bridge.
Sidirokastro, near the Bulgarian border, is a pretty town built on the banks
of the Kroussovitis river. It took its name (Iron Castle) from the
stronghold on the imposing rock, 155m. above it, that once offered sure
protection. The town and the surrounding area are almost overwhelmed by
greenery and richly endowed with streams, waterfalls, bridges, churches and
Neolithic settlements, royal tombs with frescoed walls, gold caskets and
gold wreaths and crowns, waterfalls, rivers, high mountains, verdant
villages and endless plains are some of the things Imathia has to offer.
Veria is the prefectural capital, a modern town that still has several
traditional neighbourhoods. In Byzantine times it was a major center, one of
the chief cities of Macedonia. Its past importance is reflected in its 51
Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches, many of which contain wonderful wall
It is only 12 kilometers northwest of Vergina, which gained world-wide
renown with the discoveries made by Professor Manolis Andronikos there in
the late 1970s. The incredible wealth of the site’s finds led to the
conclusion that Vergina was actually the first capital of the kingdom of
The excavations brought to light the acropolis, well-preserved sections of
the walls, foundations of Hellenistic houses, the palace, theater, a temple
and, to the north of the ancient city, the cemetery.
However, the most important monument at Vergina is the complex of royal
tombs, which were unearthed in 1977-78 in the present-day village. The
largest of them belonged to Philip II, a smaller one to a young prince,
perhaps Alexander, and the third – square in shape – to a woman.
Many funerary steles were found in the vicinity, bearing invaluable
inscriptions, all of them in Greek.
Philip’s grave yielded a marble sarcophagus in which a solid gold larnax had
been placed containing the ashes of the dead man and his golden crown. Round
the box lay weapons, various vases and utensils bearing the royal seal.
Here, too, was buried one of Philip’s seven wives. Her bones were also
gathered in a gold larnax, in which there was another gold crown, one of the
most beautiful pieces of ancient jewelry ever found, and a gold-weave purple
cloth decorated with flowers and birds, which is on display along with the
other funeral gifts in the Thessaloniki museum. However, something else,
something utterly unique was also discovered in the grave: a painting of a
hunting scene on an Ionian frieze. It is a masterpiece the like of which had
only previously been seen in works of the Italian Renaissance.
The Prince’s tomb is very similar to that of Philip. It, too, contains a
painted frieze as well as a bed with gold and ivory ornamentation, surely
one of the most elegant creations that has come down to us.
Finally, the cist tomb yielded a brilliant fresco depicting Pluto’s
abduction of Persephone; this and the hunting scene are the only original
works of any great painters of antiquity that have survived to the present.
Southwest of Veria, on the slopes of Vermion (18km.), lies the village of
Kastanies, which is usually snowed-in during the winter. This is the site of
the monastery of the Panagia Soumela, founded by refugees from the Pontos.
At Kato Vermio (26 km. from Veria), all that snow is put to good use at the
Seli ski center (1.400 m. alt). A town noted for its waterfalls, its wine,
its fruit and its Carnival customs is Naoussa. Siltuated 19 kilometers from
Veria in a green, well-watered region, it is very picturesque with
traditional houses and the Arapitsa River running through it. Near Naoussa
is the village of Lefkadia, where Macedonian tombs and the remains of
Hellenistic buildings have been found.
Finally, 9 km. northeast of Veria at Nea Nikomidia, excavations have
revealed traces of a Neolithic settlement of the 7th millennium B. C., which
is the oldest agricultural settlement along with Sesklo in Thessaly. The
terra – cotta woman – shaped idols, as well as many frog figurines made of
steatite are among the most interesting exhibits of the Veria Archaeological
This is the region where you can combine your mountain holiday with a
vacation by the sea.
Not only will you find the Thermaic coast enchanting, you’ll also admire
Olympos, the mountain of the gods. Pieria is thickly forested, with plane
trees, pines, poplars and firs on Olympos.
The capital of this prefecture, Katerini, lies between the plain of Pieria
and Mt. Olympos.
Some 32 kilometers southwest of Katerini, the village of Aghios Dimitrios is
built on a plateau where there are water and trees galore.
The road to Siena tis Petras, the pass to Thessaly, is truly exciting, as is
a walk up the impressive Olympos Gorge.
At Dion, 17 kilometers south of Katerini, archaeologists have brought to
light the extensive ruins of the Macedonians’ sanctuary of the gods.
Amidst the lush vegetation and springs of the Pierian plain, just before the
ascent to Olympos begins, one can see the ruins of the sanctuary buildings –
the temples, two theaters and a stadium – while next to them, to the north,
the remains of the ancient city of Dion stretch out. It was closely
associated to Zeus as its name implies (in Greek the god is called Dias).
Thousands of Macedonians used to flock to this place for the festivities and
games dedicated to the god, which grew in importance after the 5th century
Among the sacred buildings, the following are the most notable: the
sanctuary of Demeter, two temples dating to ca. 500B.C., the Asklepieion,
and the whole shrine dedicated to Isis, with its idols still standing on
their bases. The city of Dion was well fortified by the wall erected in the
4th century B.C., and it had a splendid layout. The excavations have exposed
flagstone streets, public buildings, shops, workshops, and houses, as well
as the orchestra, stage and lower seats of Dion’s large theater. In the vast
cemetery, to the north and west of Dion, there are four subterranean,
brick-roofed Macedonian tombs.
In the 5th century A.D. violent earthquakes brought an end to the city’s
Nevertheless, enough remains of it to give today’s visitor a good idea of
the beauty of the town with its ample public spaces, theater, numerous
statues, and impressive fortifications.
To come back to the present, Leptokaria (23 km. from Katerini) has a lovely
beach long enough to attract crowds of Greek and foreign tourists each
summer. Other seaside resorts are Methoni, Nea Agathoupoli with its splendid
fishmarket, Aghios Panteleimonas with its Venetian castle, Platamonas with
its sandy beaches, and Makrigialos with the ruins of ancient Pydna.
Finally, on the slopes of Olympos, is the small town of Litohoro (24 km.
from Katerini), an old summer resort and the starting point for those
wishing to climb the legendary mountain.
The enchanting valley of Enipeas with its river coming down from Olympos is
The town of Kilkis is the capital of this prefecture. The hill of Ai-Giorgis
dominates the town, which is spread out at its feet. The post-Byzantine
church of Aghios Georgios graces its summit; built in 1832, it contains
unsual wall paintings.
On the hill there are a tourist pavillion, amphitheatre, Hero’s monument and
a war museum commemorating the 1913 battle for liberation from the Turks.
Picturesque Goumenissa (44 km.), built on the slopes of Mt. Paiko, has
quaint, narrow alleyways and charming old houses.
Just 6 kilometers southwest of Goumenissa are the village and archaeological
site of Europos. The ancient kouros found here and on exhibit in the
archaeological museum numbers among the most important finds of the region.
Also worth a visit is Palio Ginekokastro, where there is a ruined Byzantine
fortress erected by Andronikos III Paleologos (1328-1341).
In the northern part of the prefecture is one of its jewels: Lake Doirani, a
natural wonderland. One can swim in its waters and enjoy the idyllic hamlets
built along its sandy shores. The tavernas at Doirari village serve
delicacies fished from the lake.
Here you will also find a Customs office, GNTO office, foreign exchange
facilities at the National Bank, as well as a marina for fishing boats and
The western section of the prefecture is mountainous. The ascent of Mt.
Paiko (1,500 m. alt.) brings much to marvel at: thickly wooded slopes,
rushing brooks and streams and delightful little villages, such as Griva,
Kastaneri and Livadia.
You can also visit the village of Skra, where there is a monument to those
that fell in the battle of Skra - Ravine on 17 May 1919, and the splendidly
situated Hilia Dendra (4km. from Doirani village). Finally, at Kolhida, you
will see ruined tombs from the 4th century A.D. and an Early Christian
settlement (6th century).
Gorgeous scenery, fascinating historical monuments, superb beaches, plus all
the services and facilities accompanying sound tourist development await the
visitor to Kavala, one of the gems of eastern Macedonia.
A city with a distinguished past, Kavala occupies the site of ancient
Neapolis. Its buildings rise like the tiers of an amphitheatre up the slopes
of Mt. Simvolo, overlooking the picturesque harbour. The area has been
settled since Neolithic times (3.000 B.C.), while Antisara, covering the
present vilolages of Kalamitsa and Kipoupolis just outside town, was founded
in the 5th century B.C. Neapolis, of somewhat later date, knew great
prosperity thanks to its strategic location in the region: its proximity to
the gold mines on Mt. Pangeo, on the one hand and its position on the main
trade route uniting East and West, on the other. Much later, in
commemoration of St. Paul’s visit, Neapolis was renamed Christoupolis.
Over the course of time, the region of Kavala had a turbulent history of
invasions, wars and oppression before evolving into the important commercial
center it is today. Besides having an active port, Kavala is the capital of
the tobacco industry in Greece.
Although a modern business center, Kavala, is amply endowed with charms to
attract and captivate any visitor, for it has managed to hold on to many
features of its former appearance, resulting in a graceful balance of old
and new. The spacious squares, contemporary constructions, shops and
warehouses on the West side of the city blend harmoniously with the old
houses with their gardens and enclosed balconies that jut out over the
flagstones of the narrow alleyways on the east side. Traditional and modern
meet and merge both in Kavala’s architecture and its layout. Furthermore,
its up – to – date facilities for tourists, its nightclubs and its tavernas
provide all the amenities while offering endless possibilities for a most
Kavala’s harbor is particularly beguiling, filled with dozens of brightly
coloured fishing caciques bobbing up and down at the quay before they set out
at twilight, lamps lit for the night’s adventure.
The emerald island of Thassos – mythical land of the Sirens – rises out of
the sapphire waves like a jewel in the Northern Aegean.
Brimming with history and tradition, the island delights the visitor with
its natural beauty, the constant interchange between green and blue that one
meets at every comer and cove. Its lush vegetation – woods thich with plane
trees, oaks, cedars, chestnuts and pines – never ceases to astonish, and the
terrain, rich in marble, takes on shapes and contours encountered nowhere
In the northeast, the scenery is wild; its steep, green glues and amazing
coastline contrast sharply with the serene landscape of the southwest part
of Thassos, where land and sea join in unruffled shallow bays. After the
pleasant boat ride from Keramoti or Kavala, the traveler disembarks at
Limenas, the starting point for getting to know the island.
Limenas or Thassos, the island’s capital on the northern shore, stands on
the site of the ancient city. The island’s illustrious past has left its
mark in the marble ruins and monuments that can still be seen today on the
outskirts of town.
Among the most interesting are the ancient Walls, which encircled the entire
city (7th – 5th century B.C.), the Acropolis, the Agora, the Theater, the
Temple of Pythian Apollo and the Choregic Monument in the garden of the
Sanctuary of Dionysos, to mention just a few of the attractions. Also worth
a visit, the Archaeological Museum contains pottery of various periods,
statues, architectural components and coins, among other exhibits. The Vayi
Museum in Potamia is also open to the public.
One of the first things that strikes the visitor on setting foot on Thassos
is the islanders’ intense devotion to tradition. This is immediately
apparent in their buildings but also in their way of life, and particularly
noticeable in the mountain villages of Theologos, Prinos, Panayia and Paries.
Here looking at their houses or observing a few of their daily customs or
part of a religious festival is like peering into the past. The houses with
their high thick walls and flower gardens are turned inward, shutting out
the rest of the world, a hold over from the days of pirates and other
marauders. On the other hand, the enclosed wooden balconies and slate roofs
are authentic examples of local folk architecture with several elements
borrowed from Epirus and Macedonia.
Beautifully in tune with their surroundings, the islanders keep up their age
– old legends, manners and customs. The festival held in the village of
Limenaria, on the third day after Easter, is just one example of how the
traditional ways are carried down from generation to generation. The
villagers celebrate by dancing a local dance in costume, the men wearing
breeches and black twin � peaked caps, while the women are decked out in
long silk skirts, silk shawls and fur-trimmed pelisses.
But Thassos has many other surprises in store for the visitor: Drives past
enchanting coves, opportunities for all kinds of excursions – whether to the
sea or to the mountains – promising peace and relaxation in a splendid
natural environment. The beaches at Makriamos (5 km. from Limenas),
Archangelo, Aghios loannis, Limenaria, Potos, Pefkari, Aliki, Kinira and
Skala Marion lure one for a swim in their cool, refreshing waters, while the
islet of Thassopoula makes for a charming jaunt by cacique
Florina, the prefectural capital, is spread out over a hillside covered with
wild chestnut trees.
Aminteo, a modern market town, lies 41 kilometers from Florina, while 6
kilometers from there, on the shores of Lake Vegoritis, there is the
picturesque village of Aghios Panteleimonas, where an ancient settlement and
cemetery have been excavated.
Nimfeo (53 km. from Florina), on the slopes of Mt. Vitsi (alt.1,350m.), is
both a winter and summer resort, with delightful houses built in the local
Further up the mountain in the village of Pissoderi (alt. 1,420m.), where
are Viglaski center is located. The part of this prefecture that holds the
greatest interest for visitors, whether Greek of foreign, is its two lakes,
which form the natural borders of Greece with Albania and the former
These lakes, Mikri and Megali Prespa are situated 850 meters above sea level
and are separated by a narrow strip of land.
The shores of the smaller lake are filled with reeds that every year provide
shelter for many kinds of birds. Looking as though it is floating in the
middle of the lake is the islet of Aghios Ahilios, with both ancient and
Byzantine ruins; its rocky coast harbors caves once used as shrines, whose
walls are decorated with religious paintings.
On the shores of Megali Prespa, which may be either steep or rocky of flat
and lush, there is a delightful little village called Psarades, which is
very reminiscent of an Aegean hamlet with its characteristic architecture.
Here, as well as at Aghios Germanos, where there is a Byzantine church
dedicated to St. Germands with excellent frescoes, one will find tavernas
serving freshly caught fish from the lakes. Niki (17 km. north of Florina)
is one of the country’s exit-entry posts.
The capital of this prefecture is Edessa, built in the foothills of Mt.
Vermion, with a view over the plain, lush greenery, flower – filled gardens
and plenty of water. Edessa’s celebrated waterfall is to be found to the
northeast of town, in a thickly wooded area with a stunning view. Under the
largest cataract there is a small cave with a chapel dedicated to the
Ascension (Analipsi). Five kilometers from here is the village of Agras,
which took its name from the Macedonian warrior Tellos Agras. One of
Greece’s biggest hydroelectric plants is located here. The lake that feeds
the plant, which covers an area of 1,000,000 sq. m., has become a habitat
for wild ducks and swans.
A town famed for its fruit and red peppers is Aridea, while Skidra is
considered among the largest fruit-producing centers of Greece.
Another town with an abundance of water is Arnissa, built on the lower
slopes of Kaimaktsalan, in front of the lake Vegoritis.
Finally, we have Gianitsa, the biggest city in the prefecture and an
important agricultural and animal breeding center.
The villages of Palia & Nea Pela lie just 4 kilometers away, with the ruins
of ancient Pela spread out between them. It was here that during the reign of
Archelaos (413-399 B.C.) that Pela became the capital of the Macedonian
kingdom. He built a new palace and invited Zeuxis, the greatest painter of
the day, to decorate it. Both Philip II and Alexander the Great spent some
By the 4th century B.C., the new capital had become the most important
political, economic and administrative center of the Macedonian Kingdom.
Excavations here have unearthed portions of the walls, the palace, the
sanctuaries of Aphrodite, Demeter and Cybele, the marketplace, cemetery and
several houses. In two of these houses, which date to the late 4th century
B.C., mosaic floors of exceptional quality have been found; they are perhaps
the finest examples of the art yet discovered (on display in the museum).
Valleys and mountains. Alpine refuges and ski resorts. Glorious forests.
Flocks of birds. Fertile soil, endless tobacco plantations. Caves with
enormous multicoloured stalactites. Rivers that burble gently. Lyrical
waters. Magical scenery. Hospitable people with warm smiles. The prefectural
capital bears the same name, Drama. It lies at the foot of Mt. Falakro,
which the locals call “the mountain of the flowers”.
This mountain of remarkable beauty boasts ski slopes for winter sports
enthusiasts and four well-equipped refuges for climbers. The town, drenched
in greenery and flowers thanks to its abundant water, looms above the valley
filled with tobacco fields as far as the eye can see.
Why not take a hike through the wonderful forest of Elatia (70 km. north of
Drama), where amongst the pines, oaks and willows, the red fir grows, a very
rare tree in this country whose height often reaches 50 meters. Southeast of
Drama (10km.) is the pretty market town of Doxato, with facilities for
tourists and a reputation for fun and high spirits.
The Bounar-Bassi springs, a corner of Paradise with running streams and
enormous trees, are just 3 kilometers away at the foot of Kouslari, a low
Kozani, a picturesque town set 710 meters above sea level, is the
The town has several interesting churches, some with beautifully carved
icon-screens, some with lovely frescoes, as well as a few 19th century
mansion houses. Kozani’s pride and glory is the Kouventarios Municipal
Library, which contains 69.000 volumes and a large number of manuscripts.
Also worth a visit is the Analipsi Monastery, a bit to the north of town,
where the weavings, rugs and embroideries made by the nuns have won
Those wishing a more traditional atmosphere will want to go to Siatista (28
km. to the southwest) on the slopes of Mt. Siniatsikos (alt. 920 m.). Thanks
to its fur industry, the town prospered in terms of both commerce and
culture in the 18th and 19th century, and the churches, schools and mansions
built during that era still stand. The interiors of Siatista’s houses are
beautifully decorated with carved wooden ceilings, stained glass windows and
The market town of Velvendos lies 30 kilometers southeast of Kozani.
Surrounded by plane and poplar woods, peach orchards and hazelnut stands
near the Aliakmon River, it too has retained many of its old mansions. In
addition, many new buildings are designed in the traditional style.
Other villages where old Macedonian architecture can be seen and admired are
Pentalofos, Katafigi, Vlasti and Tsotili with a picturesque arched bridge.
Servia controls the pass over the mountains to Thessaly; here there is both
a Byzantine fortress and several Byzantine churches with superb frescoes.
Finally, at Perdikas, near the town of Ptolemaida, the anthropologist Aris
Poulianos discovered the bones of a prehistoric elephant. One of the oldest
specimens of the kind ever found in Europe, it lived in the region some
three million years ago.
If you’re in the mood for quiet, clean mountain air, forests, mountain
climbing, skiing, riverfishing, then surely this is the place for you. For
Grevena’s extraordinary natural beauty not only astounds but captivates the
visitor, though one should not expect luxurious accommodation or riotous
The prefecture capital is Grevena, built 543 meters above sea level on the
banks of the Grevenitis river, a tributary of the Aliakmon.
The town possesses restaurants, tavernas, rotisseries, a cinema and an
open-air theater. Every summer the theater hosts concerts, plays performed
by the State Theater of Northern Greece, and appearances by Greek and
foreign folklore ensembles.
You can visit the villages in the district by bus, or if you have your own
car, proceed with caution.
One of these villages is Zakas, 23 kilometers from Grevena, set at an
altitude of 900 meters.
There are two caves worth visiting, one at Mt. Orliakas and the other near
the village named Spileo (cave), which stands on a cliff. At Paliouria (47
km.), don’t miss the Byzantine monastery of the Virgin Evangelistria and the
monastery of Ossios Nikanor founded in 1534 not far from the Aliakmon River.
The frescoes decorating its main church resemble those in the Varlaam
monastery at Meteora and are most probably the work of the same painter, the
famous Frangos Kastellanos.
One place of exceptional loveliness and a good place to spend a summer
holiday, is the village of Perivoli (45 km. from Grevena).
Samarina, another charming village, is built on the slopes of Mt. Smolikas,
1.450 meters above sea level. Here the lush greenery and spectacular scenery
cannot fail to please.
Other villages that deserve a stop – all of them overlooking forests of
firs, pines and willows – are Kipourio, Krania, Deskati, Avdela, Polineri,
Smixi and Alatopetra, to mention only a few.
Kastoria, the capital of the prefecture of the same name, is one of
Macedonia’s most picturesque cities. Built on the shores of a lovely lake,
it delights the visitor with its old neighborhoods, its 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. Since that
time, the people of Kastoria have dedicated themselves to working with furs
and to embroidery. Even today, the city boasts a large number of very
profitable fur and textile ateliers 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 also a sight to
see. They are usually three-storey 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 Folk Art Museum, housed in one of the mansions.
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, tavern as, rotisseries, and cafes for gazing at the lake and
reflecting on what you’ve seen.
Argos Orestiko (10km. from Kastoria) is fast developing into a boom town,
thanks to the opening of weaving and fur-processing factories there.
There are many pretty villages in the district, perched on hillsides,
surrounded by firs and willows, as well as lakeside settlements with
tavernas specializing in fish from the lake.