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...hosting one of the most productive virgin forest-complexes in Greece
THE PREFECTURE OF KASTORIA
The mountainous Kastoria occupies the westernmost section of western Macedonia. It is dotted with numerous quaint villages perched on hillsides, surrounded by fir and beech forests, as well as lakeside settlements with tavernas specializing in fish from the lake. Built panoramically around a magnificent lake lined with beautiful parks and squares, capital Kastoria is one of the most beautiful cities in Greece boasting a rich history lost in the mist of time. The Prefecture is famous for its mansions that stand out for the imposing presence and the grandeur of their unusual construction and constitutes one of the most important sectors of the Greek exporting trade and the National Economy, as it is one of the most significant centres of fur production, processing and trade, worldwide.
THE HISTORY OF KASTORIA
The wider area is identified with ancient Orestida, where Orestes - "Macednoi" as Herodotus calls them - lived. This is where the Macedonian Kings orchestrated the unification of the great Macedonian State. The region was occupied by the Romans in 197 BC and during the period of the Roman Empire enjoyed relative independence.
Surviving Byzantine walls and numerous churches, unique in the architectural aristocratic tradition, bear evidence to the region's rich Byzantine past. The great development of church architecture in the mid-Byzantine era resulted in a simultaneous flourishing of hagiography. Today, there are over 70 Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches dating as far back as the 9th century, covered with about 3,000 square metres of frescoes, housing rare Byzantine icons and woodcut temples of enormous artistic value.
Rich in bird fauna of rare and endangered species, Lake Orestiada of Kastoria is considered the most beautiful in Greece and has been proclaimed a Monument of Natural Beauty. Enclosed by mountains, the natural basin of the lake constitutes a unique hydrobiotope. The sparsely opulated mountain mass of Grammos is a unique destination for visitors, hosting one of the most productive virgin forest-complexes in Greece, ideal for trekking. Preserving the unique beauty of wild nature, the thickly wooded mountainous mass of Vitsi is untouched by human activity and it is the home of the endangered brown bear. Fossilized trees and other findings dated back to 20 million years are displayed in the Paleontology and Paleobotanical Museum in Nostimo, including a piece from a skeleton recently discovered in the region of Aliakmon River and, according to estimates, dating as far back as 5-10 million years.
On Mt. Vitsi at 22 kilometres from capital Kastoria there is an organised ski centre on the road that takes from Kastoria to Florina, north of the village of Polykerassos. The road is safe and frequently cleared of snow.
People in Kastoria have managed to preserve their customs as elements of the Greek popular civilization. This revival is carried out through organised groups, the local authorities and cultural agencies. The old carnival celebrations, the carnival fires or "boubounes" that lit up the neighbourhoods along with festivities and traditional ances are added to "Oresteia" celebrations and the cultural events in August culminating in the "RIVER PARTY" by the banks of River Aliakmon with the participation of opular recording artists and hundreds of visitors from everywhere in Greece.