It is really an amazing place! Explore Kastoria city to see the secrets!
Some history: Kastoria (Касторья) (Greek: Καστοριά ) is a city in northern Greece in the region of West Macedonia. It is the capital of Kastoria regional unit. The prefecture of Kastoria is run through by Aliakmonas river and its fertile plateaus are protected by mounts Grammos and Vitsi where nature is still virgin.
The city of Kastoria is built on the peninsula that penetrates the picturesque lake of Orestiada and is one of the most beautiful ones in Greece standing at 620 meters above sea level. It is a modern city that has kept quite a bit of its character and traditional architecture. The co-existence of the city and its inhabitants with the lake is an exciting fact and it is also a place where one can observe wild birds up close.
We call Kastoria ‘Byzantine mistress’ as it stands proud next to its lake, Orestiada. Tradition says that around 800 B.C., at the site where the city is now, used to be the Aeolian colony of Keletron. One version says that its name was taken from the word to describe what the fisherment used at the lake, kilithron, kalathron, keletron (kalathi=basket).
Neither when the name of Kastoria was established nor can its origin be scientifically proven. The view that holds most credence says that during the first Christian centuries, the lake and by extension the city took their name from the beavers (castor) that once lived there.
While we can only speculate about the name, the existence of organized life in the area, since the Neolithic age has been proven by excavations which brought to the light remnants of a lake settlement in the area of Dispilio.
Around 200 B.C., Kastoria was taken by the Romans after a siege. Seven centuries later, when emperor Ioustinianos was passing by there asked for a new city to be built which was fortified with a mighty wall, part of which is still standing. That is the reason why some claim that the name of the city comes from the word kastro=fortress, referring to the fortification.
For about two centuries (10th-11th) Kastoria was occupied by Bulgarians and Normans and in 1204, after the fall of Constantinople, by the Franks. For the next three centuries (12th-14th) it became the epicentre of attention of the seigniory of Epirus, it was placed in the dominion of Nikea and with the recapture of Constantinople it became once again part of the Byzantine Empire.
In the course of the following centuries (mainly in the 11th) Byzantine churches were constructed and became landmarks.
Today, 12 of the churches of that period are still standing and among them, Panagia Koubelidiki, the emblem of Kastoria and the temple of Taxiarhes. Post-Byzantine churches were built between the 15th and 19th century.
Representative of the era are those of Agioi Apostoloi, Agios Nikolaos and Agios Charalambos. Today, more than 70 Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches in total still remain.
For the Byzantine state, Kastoria was lost in 1380, when it was devolved to the Kralis of the Serbs Stefanos Dousan, and in 1385 it was sieged by the Turks.
During the Turkish occupation, the city had a sort of self-rule thanks to the privileges allotted by the High Gate. Its highest ranking lord who was also the ruler of the entire province was the metropolitan bishop, who had the support of the Turkish command.
During that period its population ranged between 15 and 20 thousand people, among whom were Jews and very few Turk warrior settlers.
For centuries, the people of Kastoria had been organized into professional unions (guilds). The most well known among them remains to this day that of furriers. The beginning of the processing of fur is not known. Some say it dates back to Byzantium, others to antiquity or to the 15th century.
From the second half of the 19th century and until the beginning of the Macedonian conflict, the Greek element of Macedonia was in a dire position, especially after the creation and expansion of the Bulgarian exarchate and the almost indifferent attitude of the newly founded Greek state.
In the city of Kastoria, this difficult situation was lessened by the fact that the Greek element was prevalent and Greek schools still functioned.
Education and the enlightened personalities of the society of Kastoria at the end of the 19th century and the beginnings of the 20th prompted the Greeks of Kastoria and the entire West Macedonia to resist the enemy. Distinguished figures of the area, like Anastassios Pihion, Ion Dragoumis and the metropolitan bishop of Kastoria, appointed in 1900, Germanos Karavangelis managed with their words or actions plus the help of trusted companions from Kastoria to co-ordinate the Greek people and lead them to uprising. The culmination of it all was the early death of Pavlos Melas in the Siatista village.
The hard armed fight, the sacrifices of the fighters and the intense diplomatic deliberations of the politicians brought positive results. Kastoria was liberated by the Turkish yoke in November 11th, 1912, on the name day of the patron saint of Agios Minas, when the then cavalry lieutenant Ioannis Artis, in charge of 27 riders seized the city without meeting any resistance, since the Turks had abandoned it a few days earlier having realized their upcoming defeat.
To the victory, along with him, marched cavalry lieutenants Panagiotis Nicolaidis and Filotas Pihion, whereas inside the city the metropolitan bishop and the mayor Konstantinos Goussis proved to be invaluable collaborators.
After the liberation of the city, Kastoria was incorporated to the Greek state and followed the flow of events that marked Greek history.
Nowadays, the economy of Kastoria is based partly on the processing of fur, but its beauty and the promotionof its beauty have contributed to its tourist advancement.
Traditions, manners and customs hold a special place in the social life of Kastoria and many of them stand out for their uniqueness.
The new year comes in an upbeat mood, since Kastoria celebrates from 6 to 8 January its carnival called ‘Ragoutsaria’. Three days of joy and high spirits with the groups of people in disguise dancing day and night in the street. The climax of the custom is ‘Pateritsa’ (=crutch) on the last day), the merrymaking of all the groups in the square of Doltsou.
On the actual carnival, in every neighbourhood of the city bonfires are lit, called ‘boubounes’ around which people make merry with plenty of dance and wine. The festivities close with ‘haskari’, an old carnival custom, during which people try to gulp down a hard boiled egg tied with thread to the end of a rolling pin without using their hands.
On the morning of Good Thursday, housewives used to air a red longhaired hand-made blanket or rug as an indication of their dying eggs red. On the same day they used to make pie with oil and green herbs.