Saturday, August 1, 2009
What a contrast it was to pedal away from struggling Albania into the sumptuous heart of Greece's most luxurious handicraft centre in Kastoria.Nestled on a peninsula jutting into the placid waters of Lake Orestiada the town of Kastoria has been designing and producing highly sought after top end furs for centuries. Dropping into Kastoria after riding along the wild edge of the Grammos mountains felt entirely unlike a return to Greece.
Having read that accommodations catered mainly to upscale weekenders and people in the fur business we had planned to camp somewhere outside of the area, but after a cruise through twisty back streets lined with traditional 17th and 18th century mansions built by Kastoria's fur-makers at the peak of the regions prosperity, curiosity got the better of us and we asked around for inexpensive lodging.
The deal was sealed over coffee and cake with three of the most effervescent sisters in all of Greece. It was impossible to resist their enthusiasm and their pride in their hometown, not to mention the promise of a second generous slice of homemade cake. Hearing that the Byzantine era had managed to tuck over 70 churches into the backroads of the hilly, but tiny northern end of the peninsula of Lake Orestiada, we set out to see what a town full of furrier's mansions and Byzantine churches was all about. Prettiest town in Northern Greece? Possibly. Prettiest town in Macedonia? Definitely. We stayed two nights.