Ioannina - A Journey In A Magical Land

Ioannina, the capital of Epirus, spreads out around beautiful Lake Pamvotida. The natural environment, the climate and character of the town are defined by this stretch of water – the area’s trademark. The lake, with its still waters and its small island, is a natural monument, around which the entire area lives and breathes. The strong cultural traditions of the town, home to a number of great novelists and poets, and the artistic and intellectual events which are organized throughout the year, give visitors the opportunity to get to know the roots of the intellectual life of Epirus.

A walk through the city has the feel of a bygone era, full of secret places and legends still living. Wonderful buildings like the House Matei Hussein, the Ottoman mosque of Veli Pasha and the entire historic centre of the town are unique attractions.

Ioannina was always multicultural, dominated mainly by Christian, Islamic and Jewish influences. This coexistence of cultural influences is clearly evident in the historic city centre. The Stoa Louli arcade is one of the locations where the three communities worked together and prospered. The arcade was originally an inn and then became a mercantile exchange of great importance throughout the whole of Epirus.

The castle town of Ioannina

The imposing castle of Ioannina was built in 528 AD by the Emperor Justinian, and was an ambitious expression of the might of the Byzantine Empire. It is the oldest Byzantine fortress in Greece with significant influence over the history of the town which grew around it. Over the years it evolved into a thriving centre with a highly developed intellectual life. Ali Pasha, that enigmatic symbol of Ottoman rule, lived here. His great love for the lady Kyra – Frosini resonates still as an integral part of the history of the town.

The castle is divided into four sections: the outer wall, the northwestern citadel, which is dominated by the Aslan Mosque, the southeast citadel of Itch-Kale and finally the actual castle town - the old, walled town of Ioannina.

With a view of Lake Pamvotida

The routes around the lake offer exquisite scenery and plenty to explore. A tour by car is an experience to suit all kinds of traveller - there is much to see, much to learn about, and there is the serene calming effect of the lake.

Towards the north exit from Ioannina, on the Metsovo arterial road, is the church of Agios Nikolaos ton Kopanon (‘St Nicholas of the Beaters’), named for the women who beat the clothes as they did their washing in the nearby traditional stone watermills by the lake. Tradition has it that Kyra-Frosini, the notorious mistress of Ali Pasha, was imprisoned here.

As the road continues on, it leads to one of the most beautiful caves in Europe, Perama. The cave, a product of karst formation, dates back about one and a half million years. The beauty of the chambers defies description. It seems impossible that the hall of the Cross, with its limestone worshippers, was formed without human intervention, and yet, it is a natural sculpture of truly stunning proportions. The Hall of Legendary Palaces looks like a fairy house.The stalactites projecting from the ceiling look like surprisingly complex yet harmoniously constructed chandeliers. The area around the cave is an ideal spot from which to look out over the lake and feel the magic of nature. The small train that runs from Ioannina to the picturesque village of Perama is a nostalgic choice of transport.

 

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