Magic By the Lake: Kastoria is Fur-Real
Kastoria is a town steeped in old world charm. In no small part due to the fact that this town screams old money at you, like an angry teenager without a cellphone. Kastoria is as magical as they come, and one needn’t look too far to see why. Built amphitheatrically around Lake Orestiada, Kastoria is one of those towns that you’d have to look for to make sure they existed.
Ever since the fur trade declined, so did the fortunes of Kastoria. But it’s worth noting that Kastoria was and still is to some extent a world hub for fur making. It has been for a few centuries ever since the Greek craftsmen returned to Greece from Constantinople and set up shop in this lake town. Kastoria is to fur what nearby Soufli is to silk; the definitive one stop shop for quality (please note that we don’t encourage the support or purchase of fur).
All that fur money (bling!) got turned into exquisite mansions with extravagant styles and ornaments. In neighborhoods such as Ntoltso and Apozari, not to mention the waterfront, one can marvel at these architectural gems and let the mind wander.
The city is dotted with more than 80 churches and monasteries from Byzantine times, most of them having been erected up until the 14th century. Some of them have lovely wall paintings and frescoes on them which are definitely worth a closer look.
The wetlands of Kastoria around the lake offer great chances for bird watching. You’ll be able to spot pelicans, swans and ducks as well as rare pygmy cormorants. The fauna also includes bears, wild boars, foxes and a few wolves.
And while the fauna is awesome, one only has to visit the Dispilio lake settlement to truly feel impressed. Having been submerged over eons since the Neolithic times when it was first occupied, the remains of a once thriving community were discovered during a dry winter. Excavations since have revealed a stunning amount of artefacts, most notably the prized Dispilio Tablet. All of which can naturally be viewed in the relevant museum.
And of course, a trip to Kastoria wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Cave of the Dragon (seriously, how cool are these names?). Formed God knows how long, this stalagmite/stalactite filled cavern is home to 7 underground lakes and several tunnels and corridors that give you a sense of just how big this place is. In ancient times it was thought that a dragon lived here and according to the lore it guarded a big gold mine which it defended by spewing flames at whomever dared stray too close.
A trip to Kastoria has to include a round through the local eateries. Expect lots of mushroom and lentil and bean stews and soups. Being close to the lake also means you’re likely in for a good seafood dinner. You’ll be pleased to know that 2 of Kastoria’s finest have cracked the top restaurants award in Greece for 2018.
Kastoria is the absolute winter destination. Flying under the radar means it won’t be overrun with tourists. And that’s a good thing.