Kastoria: An exciting weekend with walks on the lake and the old town

Kastoria is a truly noble city of the north defined by the impressive Lake Orestiada and reflects on its surface all the beauty of the natural environment, the urban landscape and the Macedonian tradition. Many who made the journey of about 500 km from Athens or 190 km from Thessaloniki wondered why they had not ventured there before. From the narrow cobbled streets and the historic Doltcho district to the post-Byzantine churches, and from the bike ride around the lake to the folklore museum, Kastoria has a rich history and many natural beauties.
Are you ready for a walk through the present and the past of Kastoria in 48 hours?

"Gyrolimnia" or the tour of the lake by bike or on foot

The locals call the tour of the lake “Gyrolimnia”. It is essentially a ritual for Kastorians and visitors to the city. Apart from being a daily exercise route for the locals, the tour of the lake is the best way to get to know the beauties of Kastoria. An afternoon stroll along Kastoria Lake is just the thing to enjoy the fresh air of the area and relax under the watchful gaze of the surrounding mountains reflected on the surface of the water. Starting from the Olympic Flame Park and arriving at the fish market at the Macedonomachon Square, you will have covered about 8 kilometers in 2 hours.
In Kastoria everything seems to move around the lake. The designation given by the locals to divide the large area around it is the north beach and the south beach. A huge glass surface, frozen by the cold, a mirror of everything, even the persistent sun, lies within the city. Lake Orestiada has been declared a monument of natural beauty by the Ministry of Culture. During the long walk you will meet amateur fishermen sitting on its shores with rod in hand waiting to bite. And several people take small boats and walk away from the shores to fish. Children and tourists Girls girls enjoy the scenic bike ride, elderly people wrapped in their thick coats stop to rest on the bench, vendors sell bulk beans, while Russian tourists enthusiastically take photos wearing their fur hats.
On the route of “Gyrlimnia” you will also meet important monuments of interest in the city, such as the Cave of the Dragon, the Monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa and the Byzantine chapel of Agios Nikolaos.

After the long walk in cold and damp conditions you will need to “catch” temperature and warm up. And since your appetite will surely have been whetted then it is worth a visit to the tavern “Pasatempos” for inspired meze and well-roasted meats. Also go to “Steki tis parasa” for traditional dishes, generous portions and a convivial atmosphere. For a drink, all roads lead to “Peripou“. The meeting point in town for nightlife with parties, cocktail nights and funky music.

Doltso: Stroll through the traditional, historic quarter

After it’s sunrise on Sunday and you’ve had your coffee at the “Svura” overlooking the lake, you start exploring the old quarter of the city, Dolcho. Be careful because you are likely to get lost as dozens of mansions succeed one another, some dilapidated and one step away from collapse and others restored and proud. Because of these mansions and the 70 or so churches (Byzantine and post-Byzantine), Kastoria is a destination for historians and researchers. The old mansions attract researchers from all over Greece and beyond, as their wealth has not yet been fully appreciated. You will see them walking among the ruins, staring doggedly at the walls, hoping to scrape away the plaster and reveal a huge fresco. For lunch, you go to “Doltso“. In the 1860’s mansion, where the floors, ceilings and stone wall have been preserved, the atmosphere commands traditional Kastorian food.

The history of fur and the special customs

For many people, Kastoria and its history is intertwined with that of fur which goes back to the 16th century. From that time until around the 1980s, the town was rich from the production and trade of fur. Caravans of goods started from Kastoria and crossed all of Europe, distributing the precious furs. The trading houses of Kastorians all over the world grew, the furriers became richer and the reputation of Kastorian fur conquered the whole world. It was then that the rich mansions that characterize the city today began to be built. The peak was in the 1970s, when there were 6 000 small and large businesses operating in the area and employing some 15 000 workers. The downhill slide began in the 1980s and continues today. Today, the market has shrunk considerably.

But Kastoria is still a place full of surprises and customs. If you decide to visit the city after New Year’s Eve, from January 6 to 8, you will take part in the famous “Ragoutsaria“. The locals dress up and organize themselves into boules. Each boulouki, with its own orchestra, takes to the streets, drinking and dancing and asking for treats from passers-by and houses. A mask is essential, as is a good mood and a willingness to dance. The highlight of the celebration is the parade of boules, where the best one is even awarded a prize. Again, if you choose to visit Kastoria during the Halloween season then you will get lost in the “Boubounes“. The custom takes place on the last Sunday of Carnival where large fires are lit in the squares and in central places at dusk and all around the attendees eat, drink and dance until dawn.