THE GREEK MUNICIPALITY OF NESTORIO
The Greek Municipality of Nestorio is a municipality under Kastoria Regional Unit, belonging to the Region of Western Macedonia, formed with KallikratisProgramme, by the merger of two already existing municipalities (Akrites and Nestorio) and communities (Arrenes and Grammos). The total area of the new municipality is 618,46 km2 and its population raises up to 3,542 residents, according to the 2001 census. Nestorio is the center of the new municipality.
Other communities of the municipality are: Ptelia, Agia Anna, PalaiaKotili, Pefko, Niki, Livadotopi, Giannochori, Trilofos, Litsitsari, Stena, Kali Vrisi, Mesovrachos, Pefkofito.
There is a myth connecting the area with Nestor, son of Agamemnon, who, after the death of his mother Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus by his brother Orestes, left away with him and settled in the area to avoid the punishment for the crime. Here, in the base of mount Grammos, he found Nestorio; while Orestes, found a little farther Argos Orestiko.
However, there is an old tradition identifying evidence of the presence of Alexander the Great in Nestorio, when his father Philip II sent him –while he was still a child− in the area to learn how to endure, to be a man and to get educated in the art of war in the hard Grammos’s slopes. The tradition goes on mentioning that the friends Alexander made here were the founding members of the so-called “Macedonian phalanx”.
In contrast with the beautiful myth and the eloquent tradition, history is short in information, at least till the middle of the 10th century, when the region was conquered by the Bulgarians, to be repelled later, in 1028, by the Byzantine emperor Basil II (Basil Bulgaroctonus). After the occupation of Constantinople by the Franks in 1204, the region is part of the Despotate of Epirus and in 1259 is attached to the empire of Nicaea. Later on, until 14th century, even if the historical transcripts are still few, there is evidence that Nestramio (the name with which the village was known at that period) went through constant attacks by Slavs, Albanians and Turks. During the Ottoman occupation, the resistance of its residents is continuous and strong and Saint Nestor (the new name of the village towards the end of the Ottoman occupation) is notable for its resistance. Finally, after the wars of freedom of 1912-1913, the region is fully incorporated in the Greek state and the name Nestorio is used since then. From the beginning of the 20th century the life of the village was inevitably and highly affected by the historical developments that also had an impact on the region’s life. The region became theatre of conflicts and point of resistance against the Turks and Bulgarians during the Macedonian Struggle (1904-1908), while it was also represented in the next national struggles, too, namely in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), in World War I (1914-1918) and in the Greco-Turkish War (1920-1922).
In the interbellum years, Nestorio meets a long peaceful period of economic growth and development. The faded photographs of that era show an alive town-administrative center of a wider area which, along with the villages around it included 5,000 residents and was proud of the beautiful school (with its 400 pupils), the housekeeping and the dancing school available. However, all these did not last for a long time, as Nestorio went through a hard period in the following years.
Here, in Nestorio area, World War II started for Greece. Here, in a military post in the slopes of Grammos, the first Italian bombs fell early in the morning on October 28, 1940. Here, after the war lines collapsed, many heroic fighters left their guns to be kept by the people of Nestorio. Here, with the very same guns, the Greek Resistance began during the autumn of 1941. The people of Nestorio largely joined it. Nestorio was heart of the struggle against the occupants; the German retaliation was cruel. In 1943, Nestorio was burned twice and tensof people were executed. Six hundred eighty houses were burned down. The destruction was complete. The Civil War that followed (1946-49) completed it; its final part was written in Grammos, in the last place were the losers tried to resist. The natural effect of these historical adventures and the neglect by the state was the large immigration rate; many villages were left and the local population was gone.
STRENGTHS OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF NESTORIO
The magical mountain
Grammos, with its “proudest” peak at 2,520 meters, is the fourth highest mountain in Greece. It is close to the city of Kastoria and “links” the prefectures of Kastoria and Ioannina, as well as Western Macedonia with Epirus and Greece with the neighboring Albania.
The rivers Aliakmonas andSarantaporos have their springs at its slopes. Rough cliffs, mixed forests, subalpine lakes, dense flora and rare animal species (brown bear, roe deer, wild boar, wolf, European otter, wild goat, woodpecker, golden eagle, Egyptian vulture, birds of prey and other species of wild fauna) compose the grandeur of the mountain included in the most beautiful areas of Europe.
Here are the alpine lakes of Gistova and Arrenes (in altitude of 2,400 and 2,192 meters respectively) at which rare amphibian species of Alpine newts, as well as the Barouga virgin forest, a mixed forest of beech, fir and black pine with open pastures, presenting special ecologic, scientific and aesthetic value, awarded as “Natural Monument”.
The base of the mountain is surrounded by green areas, rivers, rare natural wealth; ideal destination for whoever looks for memorable experiences in amazing nature. After recent mapping of the rich flora and fauna but also the rare ecosystems identified in its ground, Grammos is included in the most important bird and bear shelters and is also part of European Union’s Natura 2000 Network.
Aliakmonas, the longest (310 km.) river in Greece links with its constant flow the past with the present, as the first settlements founded in its lands go back to Neolithic era; since then life never stopped to flow in parallel with its waters. In its springs, but also in the course of its bed there is a rich wetland with 35 fish species, 215 bird species (with many rare and protected species among them), as well as many mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The river largely contributes to the development of the area.
The visitors can visit the areas close to the river banks and admire its rare natural wealth, or go fishing. The bold ones can try their rafting, canoeing, or kayak skills.
Landscapes and sites
Fir, pine, oak, cedar and beech forests, numerous cliffs, wild rock shapes and rough slopes alter harmoniously with valleys and pastures, green hills, currents and rough rivers… the natural scenery is unique in the border area of Nestorio. Explore it!
There are unique natural monuments there, waiting for you to discover them:
The E6 European Long Distance Path, crossing Grammos, is ideal for trekking between dense woods and next to river banks. There is a whole path network in the area –amongst them many of them made from stone, which link various communities together− with path signs to help your exploration trails.
The Castle, a natural acropolis in the eastern area next to Nestorio, in an altitude higher than 1,000 meters. Since the ancient till the modern times it played an important role, protecting the area from hostile attacks. It is an extended archaeological site waiting for its excavation. The view here is breathtaking.
The Red Rock of Pegasus, in the entrance of Nestorio. According to the legend, its color comes from the blood of the winged horse that fell there, blinded by Zeus. Another tradition mentions that the cave at its base was the nest of a huge snake that protected the area.
Haros of Kotili, the well-known and impressive rough cliff of 130 meters height, next to the homonym village. It owes its name to the killing battles that took place here during the Civil War.
The impressive Aliakmonas canyonwith the steep slopes, the amazing flora and the wonderful water meanders.
The waterfall, at the Monastery of Taxiarches in “Tsouka”, close to Agia Anna and the neighboring “Stena” valley.
Alevitsa mountain peak is a natural observatory. If the atmosphere is clear enough, you can see Smolikas and Olypmus from there.
The alpine lakes Gistova and Moutsalia, inGrammos’ alpine valleys. In an altitude of 2,350 meters lies Gistova, the alpine lake with the highest altitude in Greece. Hidden in a small corner in between Grammos’ highest peaks, exactly on the borders’ line,Gistova keeps its waters all year round; it is a rare type of ecosystem for Greece. Farther on, at 1,730 meters, in the area of Epano Arenas, we meet another mountainous double lake, Moutsalia, which lies close to the borders of the forest area (in the upper area of the forest zone), in a place full of dense beech woods.
The biggest part of Grammos is covered by dense woods. Τhe landscape is complete by valleys, sparse forests and small cultivated areas. We can distinguish four basic zones relatively easily:
Riverside flora: In the valleys and ravines, alders, willows and other trees form rich communities of dense riverside flora, which usually takes its common tunnel form. We can also meet rare trees like maples, tilia trees and elms.
Beech zone: Over the ravinesvarious types of beeches prevail, forming shrubberies or forests, usually together with other deciduous trees.
Black pine and beech zone: Close to 1,000 meters the productive forests of black pine start, while higher on (with Arrenes as their landmark) the beech woods start. In some cooler and moist ravines we can also meet firs. In higher altitudes flourish robola (or white pine) trees, the most enduring coniphers of Pindus.
The woods get sparser and eventually stop, as snow covers the ground for many months during the year, while the cold and the wind prevent even the development of the most enduring trees. Their place is taken by alpine valleys, which are likely to be the most characteristic, wide and beautiful valleys of the country. Being valuable summer pastures since centuries, these alpine valleys host at the same time a rare −for Greece− flora, composed by small plants and wildflowers.
In all those zones we can meet more than 487 types of plants in total, a really big number for only one mountain; actually, 21 of those types of plants are endemic, i.e. we can met them only in Grammos or in the area around it.
A flora rich in quantity and variety is of course accompanied by rich fauna. In high altitude, higher even than accessible alpine valleys, steep slopes and isolated forest shrubs, small flocks of wild goats, those beautiful and extremely rare antelope of Balkan mountains find a shelter. In the lower points, at forests, valleys and fields, we can meet bears, roe deers, wild boars, hares, a few wolves, wild cats, as well as many other small mammals.
Fish, birds and amphibians
The rivers of the area host 15 kinds of fish: trouts, common roaches, Chondrostomavardarense, gudgeons, eels, etc. their presence proves the purity of the water. Also, in Grammos one can meet 142 kinds of birds, which is a large number for a mountainous area. Amongst them are 21 kinds of predator birds, like the Northern goshawk, Montagu’s harrier, the red-footed falcon, golden eagle and booted eagle, even the small Egyptian vulture. From the equally rich reptile and amphibians’ fauna we are going to distinguish newts, the “fish with feet”. Grammos’ crystal lakes and springs host all three kinds of newt met in Greece, the common, the crested and the alpine one.
Monuments and historical places
Apart from the numerous natural attractions, there are many and important monuments in the area, mainly Byzantine and post-Byzantine ones, as well as historical sites you definitely worth visit.
In Nestorio you can find the church of PammegistoiTaxiarches – a three-naved basilica of 1858, with a wonderful wooden iconostasis, and also the church of Koimisi tisTheotokou (Dormition of the Mother of God), which is the oldest church of the village, built in 1816, noted for its polygonal stone steeple, its old icons and religious books of 18th and 19th century.
Moreover, what is worth visiting is the unique old watermill of 19th century with millstones on both its water tanks, which was restored in its initial form to revive.
http://www.nestorio.gr/files/154/politismos/tsouka_katarraktis.jpg In Agia Anna, 5km away from Nestorio, one can find the historical Monastery of Taxiarches in “Tsouka”, dated back in 13th century, owing its name in the homonym deserted village, located a bit northern on. A unique sample of post-Byzantine stone architecture, the monastery was characterized as preservable monument in 1961. It is built on a huge rock, over an Aliakmonas’ tributary that creates a wonderful waterfall at that point, largely reminding of Meteora.
At Slimnitsa there are the ruins of the Monastery of Saint George, the chapel of Saint Christofer, as well as the churches of Koimisi tis Theotokou (Dormition of Mother of God, dated 1743) in the upper neighborhood and Saint Athanasius (1874) in the lower one. Also, what is worth noticing is a spring with embossed decoration.
At Pefko, the Monastery of ZoodochosPigi (Life-Giving Spring), built at a beautiful location, is worth visiting.
http://www.nestorio.gr/files/154/politismos/agios_zaxarias.jpg In Linotopi area, built in the woods, there is the −historically mentioned by local iconographers− famous post-Byzantine Monastery of Saint Zachariah, one of the most impressive monuments of the area. Built in the 16th century, it is what survived from a village which had the name of the saint but was destroyed by the Turks in 1769, during the Orlov Revolt.
In Giannochori, the church of Koimisi tis Theotokou (Dormition of Mother of God), the only one in the Balkans with a double gynaecaeum, is noted for its elaborate wooden iconostasis.
In Ptelea, you will admire the −unique for its architecture− Byzantine chapel of Saint Nicholas Petritis.
In Giannochori there is the military post of Chelona, where the first shells of the Italian cannons fell in the dawn of October 28, 1940.
In Katafiki place, in the base of Grammos canyon, close to Vertenik peak and in a particularly difficult area to be approached, there is the big cave in which, during the Civil War year, the hospital of guerillas was located.
In LivadiaKotilis there is a monument for the victims of the Civil War, as well as the National Reconciliation Park, made to contribute to the development of a spirit of understanding, cooperation and peaceful coexistence between the youth of all the world.
The deserted villages of the municipality of Nestorio are lovely. You have to pay a visit there. Even if most of the houses are largely damaged by the course of time, the excellent wall construction and the art in their making is impressive. A big number of architecturally interesting churches and monasteries is saved in these communities in a better condition. Especially in the old community of PalaiaKotili, a visit is worth the pain to get there, as the community lies in lovely scenery in the shadow of the impressive “Haros of Kotili”; the arch bridge and stone-built houses are in a very good condition, waiting for visitors and investors.
Protected priority species: The brown bear
The bears of Grammos
The local population of Grammos and the neighboring areas is calculated from 19 to 54 individuals. It is organically connected with the rest central subpopulation of Pindus, as well as with a smaller subpopulation endemic to the Albanian side, and also with the subpopulation of Florina region. In this way, the need of maintenance of connection paths and avoidance of falling apart of biotopes is emphasized. The bears of Grammos prefer to eat products of fruit bearing tress, like cherries, plums and prunes, but also wild shrubs and trees, such as beech, oak and wild rose. Any of the above fruits are sought by bears in abandoned communities’ gardens. They also eat shrubs or cultivated cereals, ants and other insects and they complete their nutrition with small amounts of honey and meat. However, in total, 89% of their nutrition is of vegetal origin.
Their trails and tracks
The area each bear moves usually covers hundreds of square meters. Bears move with attention mainly after sunset, avoiding thus unwanted meetings with humans. However, instead of the animals themselves, we can see, if we pay enough attention, the tracks of their presence steps in mud and water ruts, broken fruit bearing trees’ branches (maybe for the baby to be able to eat together with its mother), reversed stones for the discovery of insects, broken tops of small pines for marking of their area. Using this type of information, we can change the way we approach forest areas, without reaming only in the surface and visual “consumption”.
Traditional forms of entertainment and feasts:
In Nestorio, there are big feast taking place, with music and dances on the day of Holy Spirit (in the beautiful church of AghiaTriada (Holy Trinity) in the castle) and on August 15 (in the church Koimisi tis Theotokou at Kato Nestorio).
In Kotili, the association of Kotilians organizes every summer a feast on July 20, in the church of Prophet Elias.
In Ptelea, with the opportunity of the celebration of Saint Nicholas Petritis, the association Aghios Nikolaos organizes cultural events every year, on May 20.
In Kranochori, on Christmas Eve, tsigarides (local dish) and local wine are offered with the lighting of boubouna (a bonfire in pyramid form), while on July 1, there is a public feast held to honor AgioiAnargiri (Holy Unmercenaries), who are the protectors of the village.
In Pefko and Kipseli,on July 26, the local cultural associations organize cultural events to honor Saint Paraskevi, protector of the two villages.
Giannochori, Monopilo, Livadotopi and Slimnitsa; the wonderful deserted villages of Grammos which are isolated in the winter come again into life every summer thanks to the immigrants who come home for a short while. Every year, on August 15, there is a huge party going on in the four villages, that celebrate the Dormition of the Mother of God and the meeting of their fellow-villagers at their place all together.
Nowadays, River Party is organized by the Municipal Company of Tourism, Culture, Social Development and Providence of Nestorio and is one of the most important annual cultural events of the country. People of all ages, from Greece and abroad, have an appointment every year in Aliakmonas riverbanks to lively experience a unique musical meeting.
In one of the most magical places in the country, the friends of music have the chance to listen to popular, but also new artists representing artistic, pop, rock and folk music and to join the parallel activities organized in the River Party framework. Organized outdoor and sports activities –trekking, trips at Grammos, hiking, canoeing, kayak, swimming in the pure waters of the river, archery, shooting, rafting, games with trampoline, and paragliding for the bold ones− take place at the same time with the concerts. Also, there are occasionally other events taking place, like theatre plays for kids, as well as photography, book, and folklore art exhibitions.
The party next to the river is a pole of attraction for thousands of people that are connected by the love of nature and music – an event that offers rare entertaining moments and magical memories with an amazing scenery as a background.
LOVE FOR THE FORESTS
In the summer of 2007, Grammos was burnt. Even today, the image of burned areas in that valuable from an ecologic and aesthetic point mountainous complex causes sad feelings.
In order for ecologic destructions, as the one of Grammos, not to be forgotten, but more than that not to be repeated, the municipality of Nestorio organizes every year events that last for 2 days, aiming first in entertainment, but secondly in public awareness for the protection of nature.
The 2nd Mushroom-Lovers Panhellenic Spring Meeting was organized by the Western Macedonia Mushroom-Lovers Association, with the support of Kastoria prefecture and the municipality of Nestorio. Seminars, tasting, search and collection of mushrooms and truffle, concerts, theatre plays and creative workshops for kids, art and local products exhibitions were included in the agenda.
In this year’s meeting, which took place in the first three days of May, fifty mushroom lovers from Italy participated, too, as well as the president of Truffle Lovers from Salento, the president of the Association of Mushroom-Lovers from Lecce and known Italian chefs.
The Association of People from Nestorio at Cleveland and the municipality of Nestorio in collaboration with the Associations of People from Nestorio at Toronto, Melbourne, and Thessaloniki, organized for the first time the global meeting of people from Nestorio, which took place from 10 to 15 August, 2015.
This meeting was repeated in August 2010, aiming for all people from Nestorio, elderly and younger ones, to meet in their place of origin, for the youth to meet the place from where they parents came, and for everyone to be informed on the developments and progress of Nestorio.
This event includes receptions, trips, theatre performances, and participation in religious and cultural events.
Everything started in the beginning of August 1978, when a group of friends, mainly immigrants’ kids who came for holidays in Greece, decided to have their own party by the river Aliakmonas. The idea turned out to be a very good one, and the party went on for the next years with guitars, tape recorders and lots of fun. In 1985, the first “organized” concert happened with the rock band “Tripes”. Since then, River Party, the big party by Aliakmonas happens every year, in the first weekend of August, being a stable and enviable point of reference in the cultural events of the country.
Alternative tourism is a form of mild and sustainable development that fits to Nestorio.
It is a form of tourism that respects the natural benefits of the place, respects the ecological balance and emphasizes cultural tradition. Nowadays, that the model of mass tourism –which sustained economy, but altered the profile of the country− seems to undergo a crisis, alternative tourism is brought about as the most important proposal for the future.
Nestorio is way ahead in this sector. During the last years, there has been a serious and systematic effort being made here, with the construction of infrastructure and the acquiring of know-how, so as for the achievements of today to be used and an equally important continuation for the future to be ensured.
Beautiful guest houses were constructed, offering comfortable accommodation. There are many restaurants and taverns that continue with the special local culinary tradition.
Finally, the services sector was developed, supporting the visitors to enjoy without further ado rafting, kayak, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, horse-riding and trekking in the ecological trails with jeeps… And surely the ones who will join River Party will have an unforgettable experience, at this unique alternative tourism event in Greece, which is the best advertisement of this hospitable, small, but also significant place next to the borders.
THE ALBANIAN MUNICIPALITY OF KORCE
Korce (Albanian: Korça) is a city in Albania. It is located close to the border with Greece, in the homonym prefecture and in an altitude of 850 meters, while its population is 58,911 residents, according to 2001 census. Today, Korce is an industrial area. It produces sugar, alcohol, beer, leather and clothing products.
Korce was the center of traffic in transit trade between Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Albania, etc.
Skeletons dated back to the Neolithic era have been found, showing that the area has been inhabited since 4000BC and on. The Bronze Age lasted from 3000 BC till 2100BC, while the tribes living at that area were speaking the northwestern Greek dialect . During that period, the area was inhabited by ancient Greek tribes, the ones of Chaonians and Molossians, two of the three most important Greek tribes living in Epirus area.
The city, during the modern years, started to develop as an urban center after the attacks made by Ali Pasha against the neighboring city of Moscopole, at the end of the 18th century (1780). Korce, except for being an important trade center was a cultural center of the whole area, with numerous Greek schools being present there. The organization of trade associations and the funding of local education is equal to British trust. In the “General Regulations of Public Institutions of Korce city”, written in 1875, the whole sum of donations and legacies were concentrated in a common treasury with the name “lasso” and were monitored by a special committee.
During the First Balkan War (December 1912), the Greek army entered the city and left in March 1914, delivering the city to the newly-found Albanian police. According to an article of the Protocol of Corfu, Korce is part of the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus, belonging to the Albanian territory. In the same year, in July, the city went under the control of the Northern Epirus troops, leading TsondosVardas. During the era of National Schism the people of Korce were for the Movement of National Defense of Eleftherios Venizelos, but in 1916, during World War I, the area went under French control.
After the end of World War I (1918) the city was passed with a series of conventions and protocols to Albania. Till 1925 all Greek-speaking educational institutions stopped according to state decisions, since the city was no longer part of the recognized “Greek minority zone”.
During the Greco-Italian War Korce was occupied by the Greek army at the first part of Greek counterattack. For a short while, from November 22, 1940 to April 12, 1941, Korce was under the Greek control for the third time. At that time, the city was administered by a temporary council composed by eleven Greeks and four Albanian representatives. After the Greek capitulation, Korce was again under the Axis control, while at the end of the war (1945) it was attached again to Albania.
After the destruction of the neighboring city of Moscopole, at the end of the 18th century, Korce emerged as a significant trade center. During the 20th century, the industrial sector was also largely developed in the area. The surrounding area is an important rural area.
According to official local authorities’ references, Korce has the lowest unemployment rate of the country. The majority of international capital investment comes from Greek business initiatives, as well as by Greco-Albanian businesses.
Maligradisland is located in Big Prespa lake, in front of Pusteci (Liqenas) village. It is a tourist attraction mainly by yachts coming to enjoy the island’s wild nature and the beautiful view, and to visit the deserted church of Saint Mary, built in a rock.
Located at the western coast of Prespae Madhe lake, close to Gorica e Vogel village, it is a large karstic cave, containing one of the many subterranean water paths from lake Prespa e Madheto Ohrid lake. It is the product of karstic processes in the linkage of two tectonic breaks. It has scientific (geological, morphological, biological) and touristic interest. You can reach Zavercave following the road from Korce to Gorica.
Located at the southeastern edge of Prespae Vogel lake, few meters only away from the coastline, this cave is a karstic one. It is a two-floor cave, and its tunnel goes on for tens of meters. It was used as a settlement in the Neolithic era (from the early Neolithic era till Iron Age). Nowadays, the cave is the habitat of a large bat community. It has scientific (geological, morphological, biological) and touristic interest. You can Tren cave by car from Korce, following the road Bilisht-Tren-Prespae Vogel.
Located in Lenie mountain, 2000 meters over the sea level, close to Lenie (Shen e Premte) village, many initially frozen lakes form a big complex. The lakes are supplied with water by the snow that melts in the mountain. The surface of the lake freezes during winter. Apart from its unique beauty, it has scientific, ecological, aesthetic and tourist interest.
The park connects with Morava mountain. The forest located in DrenovaNational Park is known as BredhiiDrenovës (Drenova Fir), and is full with firs, beeches, and black pines. Hazels prevail at the Park’s lower part. Its fauna is rich; the famous Bozdovec bear (a protected species) lives in the forest, which is also full with wild boars and pheasants. Other attractions of the park: Bozdovec, GuriiCapit, andÇardhak.
The rock is located close to Gurrazez, in the homonym passage. With a height of sixteen meters, in an altitude of 1300 meters over the sea level, it has a white color and a rather cyclical form. The surrounding environment makes it unique. It is suggested for a scientific, educational and touristic visit.
The hills located at the base of Morava mountain are Korce’s crown. Their proximity to the city turns them into a balcony hosting a series of extremely attractive sites. During winter, these hills are covered with snow, offering many options for the development of winter tourism. During the summer, on the other, the mountains are a hospitable place for mountain tourism and trips.
Two kilometers away from Erseke (capital of the area), a rural road will lead you to this rural city, located at the base of mount Grammos. It is the starting point, if you want to walk these mountains, in a 4-5 hours distance.
This characteristic / traditional village is built around the church and the attractions of the city are the stone-built houses of Kolonjë area. In a two hours distance away fromRehovëthere is an impressive waterfall.
Water monument – Natural monument (category ΙΙΙof protected Albanian areas).
Water monument – Natural monument (category ΙΙΙ of protected Albanian areas).
Water monument – Natural monument (category ΙΙΙ of protected Albanian areas).
Ohrid tectonic plate
Water monument – Natural monument (category ΙΙΙ of protected Albanian areas).
Water monument – Natural monument (category ΙΙΙ of protected Albanian areas).
Water monument – Natural monument (category ΙΙΙ of protected Albanian areas).
A beautiful canyon, 1 km long and 15-20 meters wide; its rocky surfaces go as far as 60 meters high. The canyon is close to the homonym village.
Lukova alpine lakes
The alpine lakes are close to Bishnicëvillage (Velçancommunity), around 80 kmfar from Pogradec. The big lake is in an altitude of 1851 meters over the sea level, covering an area of 0.05 km2, while the small lake is high up at 1706 meters, with a surface of 0.035 km2. Both lakes are surrounded by fir and beech forests.
Drilon’s tourist attraction (formerly known as Volorekë) is 4 kilometers away from Pogradec, and it is at its southern part of the city, where there is a small current ending up in the lake. The springs are pure and the clean environment will surprise you. It is located between willow trees and deciduous trees. Apart from trekking, one can sail in the lake with small boats. The boats can take you till Volorekë springs.
You can walk from Drilon to Tushemisht, as it is located a few hundred meters from the famous spring. Tushemishtis known in the area for the big number of springs in the hills; the water runs below the village’s houses to the lake. The village is closely related to tourism. You will find comfortable hotels and restaurants around the lake. Also, many of the houses by the lake have turned into cozy, warm and affordable guest houses. There, you can really feel the characteristic spirit of a village by the lake.
Lin is a small peninsula in the western bank of Ohridlake, with a lovely village. The houses are built with stone and bricks and there are grape vine trees casting their shadow over the narrow streets. It is believed that once in the past Lin peninsula was a beautiful island with blossoming flora.
Boboshtica village, a few kilometers southern from Korce, at the side of the road to Dardha, is popular for raki made from berries, roasted lamb and lakrorrestaurants found by the road. There are many traditional restaurants in this village, such as Tomas tavern, Antoneta, Vila MELKO, and others.
Only 18 kilometres away from Korce, Moscopole is an old city with deep Byzantine history and monuments, including an important number of Orthodox churches and monasteries. Moscopole offers a unique combination of nature, together with long history and culture, as well as good food and services. Some of its most important restaurants are: Vila Falo, Ambassador restaurant, Bacelli, Yanko, Anthony, Kovaci, Moscopole tavern, Mishel / Gezimifish taverns, etc.
It is a prehistoric tomb close to Korce, partially excavated and open for visits. Next to it there is an exceptional small museum with an educational DVD and English speaking personnel (something which rarely happens in Albania), who can guide you around the area. The mountain was inhabited between 13th and 6th century BC and the visitors can see many findings: the “Big Circle” around the main tomb and many monuments. In the webpage “tomb” is noted with flags 8 kilometers south to Korce, in the way toGjirokaster.
Rrënojat church of late ancient Christianity
Rrënojat(Rrënojat e KishësPaleokristian), a church of late ancient Christianity period is a ruined church in Lin. Mosaics from the 4th-5th century have been discovered there during excavations. It is a Cultural Monument of Albania.
It is a ruined church in Lin. It is a Cultural Monument of Albania.
It is a ruined church in Lin. It is a Cultural Monument of Albania.
In the hill close to Pogradec city, there is place called Kalaja e Pogradecit. The castle was inhabited during the 5th century BC. It was an Illyrians’ fortress and inside it there were various types of houses. Later on, it was abandoned till 10th century. After this, the inhabitants moved down the hill to the place called Gradishte. You can enjoy the beautiful view from the top of the hill.
The Resurrection Cathedral (AnastaseosChurch)
The Orthodox Resurrection Cathedral in Korce was rebuilt in 1992 in the site Saint George’s church was located, before being completely destroyed by the communist regime in 1968. Today, the impressive pink building is the biggest church in Albania, and the second biggest one in the Balkans. Inside, the modest white interior is dominated by a huge carved wooden iconostasis. Also note the Albanian eagles carved into the chairs.
Church of Life-giving Spring (ZoodochosPigi)
This church, located close to the Metropolis and also known as the Metropolitan church, which was unfortunately chose by the communist regime to be used as a Medieval Arts Museum during 1980s, was later on almost completely destroyed to be turned into a warehouse. However, the entrance side leads to the new Shen Gjergjchurch, which is found in the back side of the building, where one can see the original wooden iconostasis, made in the 18th century. The dark wooden sculptures are impressive, as well as the remaining icons. The church is open from 08:00 to 15:00 o’clock, and it is closed during the weekend.
Saint Nicholas church
Located in the center of the village, it was built between 1721 and 1722. The frescos saved in the inside present over 1000 biblical figures. The internal walls were painted by one of the most popular artists of that era, David Selenica. During 1750,the entrance of the church was painted by two important painters, who lived at that time. They were two brothers from Korce, Konstantinos and Athanasios Zografou. Those artists contributed to the decoration of the most important churches of that time, as well as of Mount Athos, the sacred Christianity place. Also, they painted other churches in the neighboring villages.
This church is also located in the center of the village. It is considered to be the cathedral of the old city. It was built in 1712, whereasthe steeple standing over the entrance was built in 1887, with financial contributions by the local community. World War I and especially the 1960 earthquake caused great damage to the church. However, there are extended restoration works being carried out.
Saint Athanasius church
It is located in the western part of the village, in the cemetery area. It was built in 1724 and decorated by the famous Zografou brothers (Zografi) in 1751. The building has been renovated.
Prophet Elijah church
It is a small church located southeast of the city, built in 1751.
Saint John church
Built in the 12th century and reconstructed in the 15th century, Saint John’s church is located in the north-western part of the city, close to the mulberry forest. It is rather far from the village and approximately in the middle of the valley. The church has been renovated, and one can visit it. If you wish to enter the church, you will need to contact the doorman first. You will be impressed by the fenced gate at the southern side of the church. The legend says that a Bulgarian prince got married in this church, and according to the custom, no one can enter the church from the same gate the prince crossed. Thus, a second gate opened at the western side of the church.
Built in the 12th century and reconstructed in the 15th, Mary’s Church is farther on, towards north-west, after the mulberry forest. It is rather far from the village and approximately in the middle of the valley.
Church of the Ascension
One of the best attractions in Korce is this small, quiet church in a villafe east to the city. This amazing Byzantine church of the 14th century is decorated with frescos UNESCO experts characterize as one of the best iconographic artifacts of the Balkans, special for its bright colors. In narthex, what stands out is the visual representation of Last Judgment, a fresco in which a dragon swallows the sinners in a river of fire, thus showing some examples of what happens to sinners and unbelievers: malicious devils are taking people to the top, placing rings in their noses, making holes in their heads and using them as slaves in ploughs… they believe, or they die!
The Christian basilicas in Lin and their mosaics are dated back to the 6th and 7th century AD and are Byzantine art crafts.
Selca e Poshtme tomb monuments
In the end of Qafe e Thanes as you go to Tirana, you can turn left to reach Selca e Poshtme and visit the five tombs there. The castle is at an outstanding position in the Shkumbinriver valley and it played a very important role during the Illyrian wars against Romans and Macedonians. Via Egnatia passed close to this castle. What makes this place special is the existence of five tomb monuments curved in the huge rock of Gradishta. Archaeological excavations have showed that we have to do with a highly developed economic and cultural center of the 4th- 3rd century BC.
As you turn left from the national highway Qafe e Thanes – Tirana and you follow the regional road, you will enjoy the picturesqueShkumbin river valley. Close to Golikvillage, you will find a Roman bridge known as Golik Bridge orUra e Golikut(Albanian) in the area which was part of Via Egnatia. This elegant, triple-arch bridge is built, like all bridges of the same era, with the Roman technique of cement and stone.
Saint Marina church and monastery are located in the north of the village. It is a small building of 12*8 meters. The altar is separated from the main part of the church with a big wooden icon, which is 6m wide and 4m tall. The icons are curved with natural motifs. Inside, the whole building is covered with frescosgiven to KostandinShpataraku, a local painter, who is also one of the most renowned painters in Albania. Saint Marina is a praying place for many people from Pogradec.
The slightly chaotic Old Bazaar area is possibly the best place in the city to get a glimpse of how the busy commercial city of Korceshould have looked like during the Ottoman period, when merchants from faraway lands as Russia, Turkey, Greece, and Italy visited the city to buy and sell things in a thousand shops, staying in hotels,like Elbasan Inn.
The badly made open-air stalls collect all kinds of products on them, from shoes and clothes to car parts and watches, and there is no better place in the city for one to find a cheap traditional byrek snack, or grilled meat.
Korce was one of the most important bazaars in the road from Balkans to Central Asia, and was full of hans (inns). Elbasan Inn is one of the two in the Balkans that is still a hotel (the other is in Bucharest).
Built by a Greek businessman 200 years ago, it was a safe shelter for the travelling merchants, where they could find food for their horses, and also food and safe accommodation for them.
This Inn was mainly used by merchants from Elbasan. Built around a cobbled yard with a well, roses, and a gate to keep away the unwanted visitors, the Inn had barns for horses downstairs, and simple rooms in the first floor, along with a big room. Immediately after World War II, the Inn was used as a basis for the British and American troops, before it returned to its old function as a simple hotel.
The Inn is still a hotel and the visitors are welcome to go around the picturesque yard and its tunnels. Many guests who stay in cheap rooms are unlucky wannabe immigrants, who were deported from Greece and are seeking for a new opportunity. You can ask the ex-Math teacher or the philosopher who stay in the Inn and discuss with them in English about life in Korce.
It is the oldest mosque in Albania and was constructed by IljazBeyMirahor, who played an important role at Istanbul’s siege (1453-1484). The small building seems neglected and its minaret suffered heavy damage by an earthquake a few years ago; it was recently renovated.
The building is usually locked, but before and after praying the community can show you its interior, which is decorated with visual representations by the sacred cities of Islam (Medina and Mecca).
The temple in Turan village, 2km west of Korça along the road to Voskopoja, is where Bektashis meet and pray.
The originally Persian Sufi order which is part of the Islamic mystic tradition considered blasphemous in many eastern Muslim countries, fled to Albania after Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk banned all Sufi orders in 1925. Bektashis are Muslims and believe in one God, but their liberal understanding of this is close to pantheism; Bektashis venerate the wider prophetic family and are noted for their tolerance of other faiths. The local leader is Baba Mondi Brahimaj.
The Park of Tears
The small triangular park at the bottom end of Bld. Republika has a sad name as it was where the main road out of town started, and it was here that the women waved a final goodbye to their menfolk, who were hauled into senseless wars or to find work elsewhere. It's a quiet little place now – the town has expanded, and the local women have modernized and are as mobile as the men now.
The pedestrians’ street
The pedestrians’ street is a tourist attraction of the city. In this street you can find the most popular institutions of the city, as “Β Mio”Cultural Center, “GuriMadhi”Gallery, the “GjonMills” Museum, the Educational Museum, the Public Library, the house of ThemistokliGermenj, etc. Also, in this area you can find many clothing shops, as well as bars and restaurants.
Saint George Cathedral mosaics
Built by AnastasLakce, it is now close to the library of the city, where once stood Saint George Cathedral. It was historically the biggest stone-built building in Korce. It was unfortunately destroyed during the anti-religious campaigns of 168. In any case, Saint George is still considered to be the patron saint of the city of Korce.
French military cemeteries
Located in the north-east edge of the city, in its outskirts, you need to cross Republikaboulevard to visit them. After the Stadium, you need to turn right and follow the street that goes by the Stadium. The cemetery is 1 kilometer away and has 640 graves of French soldiers that died here in the conflicts of the World War I. the people of Korce always took care of the maintenance of the cemetery.
The old city
The old neighborhoods in the eastern part of Korce, behind the Ringjallja e Krishtit cathedral, in the crossroad of Republikaboulevardand Shen Gjergj street. The buildings of the old city are in a good condition in general and they are worth paying a visit. After the empowerment of middle class in the first decade of the 20th century, the contrast between the new and the old part of the city (formed by the neighborhoods PencoandManco, and around the Unknown Fighter monument), was particularly obvious. The old part of the city shows the typical medieval architecture of the Balkans, with the narrow streets and low buildings, while the neighborhoods at the newly-built part of the city, especially BARC neighborhood, are characterized by straight lines and city blocks.
The National Resistance Monument
A sculpture by OdhisePaskali, created in 1932, is known as the National Resistance Monument. Known also as the Unknown Fighter monument, it is found in GjergjKastrioti street. It represents the values of strength and creativity. It is a monument honoring the men of Albanian Renaissance, who fought with their pens and guns. The monument is one of the first sculptures of its kind.
Another sculpture of OdisePaskalicreated in 1932 is the ThemistokliGermenji monument.
Museums and cultural spaces
Korce is industrially proud of the brewery in the eastern part of the city, which is the only factory in Albania characterized by good taste. It was founded in 1928 by the Italian Umberto Uberti, and it was working till 2004. Then, it was fully restored. The beautiful yellow buildings have been carefully renovated and the visitors are welcome to see the facilities.
BirraKorçaproduces lager beer and is also the only brewery in the Balkans that produces dark beer, using Czech and Italian technology. It produces 120,000 hundred liters of beer annually. Its special taste comes from the traditional methods of the five stages production, and fermentation and maturation takes place in twelve huge tanks of 500 hundred liters, which are placed outside the building. All ingredients apart from water are imported from Germany, Czech Republic, and Italy.
A special point to visit in the brewery is the production zone with the steel tanks surrounded by ceramic tiles representing the production process and the consumption of the final product, with little devils helping in the production of beer, and beautiful waitresses serving customers who have fun in a noisy environment.
Brewery tours (in Albanian or English) take place with a guide and last from 30 to 60 minutes. You need to call and schedule an appointment.
Beer tasting is not part of the tour, but it takes place in the neighboring Panda Bar which serves both types of BirraKorça. Tours with a schedule appointment. Open: 07:30-15:30, Saturday: 07: 30-15:00;Sunday closed.
Korce has been a center for carpet-making for centuries, and this factory (the largest of its kind in Albania) is the one place where you can see women making the Turkish-style kilims and other carpets. Visitors are welcome to have a look and buy carpets, too, if you wish.
The archaeological museum
Housed in two charming and well-preserved Ottoman-era buildings around a cobblestone courtyard that are worth a visit alone, the town's archaeology museum holds 1,200 Hellenic, Roman and Paleo-Byzantine objects from 6000 BC to 600 AD. Highlights of the museum are a Byzantine-era floor mosaic and various Roman graves.
Oriental art museum
This curious avant-garde building combining a traditional Japanese tori gate with modern glass architecture and concrete wave patterns houses the impressive art collection of the Albanian-American DhimitërBoria (1903-1990).
The exhibition kicks off in the cellar with several oriental carpets, but the prize artefacts are upstairs, where you will find pottery, jewellery, textiles and furniture from 17 countries across Asia. Look out for the Tibetan tanka cloths, the Indian Hindi and Buddhist statues, the silver lobsters and chickens, and the fabulous Indonesian (and even some African) masks.
The first Albanian school
Focus of considerable pride and symbol of national awakening under Ottoman rule, the first secular school with subjects taught in Albanian was opened in Korce on March 7, 1887. Until then, education was only given by travelling teachers. Korce was a logical place for the first school, as it was Albania's largest and most developed city, with many trade links to the east as well as to Western Europe and the USA, and an open attitude to foreign influence and change. Though the school was originally mixed, a special girls' school was opened soon after, in 1891. The Ottoman rulers tolerated the schools as Albanians came in handy in the Ottoman Army, but after Albanians began to request too many liberties in following decades, their schools were closed. This resulted in mass protest – in 1910 some 12,000 people met in Korce (and later in other cities too) to defend the schools. The protest was successful and the school continued to function until the it was turned into a museum in 1960.
Exhibits inside the former classrooms show documents that are important to the development of Albanian education such as the first written Albanian text (“The mass”, written by a Catholic priest) and the first student book.
The story of the Albanian alphabet is interesting too, as it was a language with no written history that was spelled in a mix of Greek and Turkish letters until the current alphabet with 36 Latin-based letters was accepted in 1908.
Outside the museum, there's a charming concrete statue of the alphabet with a large writing feather and pot of ink. Soon, the place is going to be under renovation, but we hope they hang on to the wonderful socialist alphabet curtains. Phoning ahead is a good idea, otherwise rattle the museum gates to attend the guard of your presence. Open: 8:30-14:30 - 17:00-19:00, Saturday, Sunday: 09:00-12:00 - 17:00-19:00. Monday: closed.
Korce has a museum with an excellent collection of 6,500 medieval and modern icons from Southern Albania, as well as 1,500 other objects, of which some 200 icons and 50 metal objects are on display in this curious building. Once the most important Orthodox church of Korce, the Metropolitan church of Saint George was renovated –it was functioning as a museum during the totalitarian era− some of the collection pieces were transferred. Starting with icons from the 14th century and proceeding in chronological order, most icons in the museum are from the 16th-19th centuries. Many are from Voskopoja, which in the 17th was one of the main centres for iconography in the Balkans.
The museum's highlight is the collection of icons by the 16th century Albanian master Onufri, which stand out for their vivid colors and wonderful detail.
KristaqSotir (1883-1970) was born in Korce and worked as a photographer in New York and Los Angeles between 1903 and 1923, when he collaborated with the famous photographer George Steckel.
After his return, he created a studio together with the painter Vangjush Mio. Applying the techniques he learned in the USA, he photographed people, scenes of urban life and cultural events. Approximately 14,000 are saved in his family private collection, and you can schedule an appointment to see a selection of them.
The American photographer with the Albanian origins, GjonMili, has now a museum in the city of his origin. Fifteen of his worldwide known photographs are exposed in the cultural center “Vangjush Mio”, in a separate room. GjonMiliis known as the first photographer who used, for the first time, an electronic flash to shoot motion. Born in 1904 in Korce, he moved when he was 5 years old to Romania with his family. There he graduated school and when he turned 19 he moved to America. He graduated Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a lighting technician. During that period he was also preoccupied with the art of photography.
The cultural center Vangjush Mio
The talented impressionist artist Vangjush Mio (1891-1957) had a notable painting career that lasted for 40 years, having created more than 400 paintings and 300 sketches. He studied Arts in a high-school in Bucharest in 1919 and he continued his studies in the University of Rome. He returned to Korce in 1924. He mainly created landscapes and portraits, and he also worked as a set designer. He made 12 art exhibitions in Albania and abroad. The wonderful traditional two-floor building of the Ottoman era, where the museum is hosted is worth a visit even only for the original wooden decorations and ceilings (some of which are decorated with frescos).
This main boulevard can be characterized as an architectural heritage monument for the typical Albanian houses aligned in both its sides, but also for the amazing boulevard and the flowers along it. It is also known as “the boulevard of walking and wandering”, as it is the place where the people of Korce use to go out for walking.
The park devoted to ThemistokliGermenji is a very popular one in Korce. Here you can see ThemistokliGermenji (1871-1917) monument, the place where concerts are held and where the Children’s Library –a donation by ThomaTurtulli. ThemistokliGermenji was a very popular patriot, member of the movement for freedom and democracy, supporter of Ismail Qemali government. After having returned to Albania, he fought against the annexation of Albania. He was the president of the Autonomous Albanian Republic of Korce (1916). He was sentenced to death by a French military court and was executed in Thessaloniki (Greece).
The Youth Park
The Youth Park is a lovely green expanse along a hillside just out of town. Pine trees protect from the hot sun, children zip giggling around on electric cars and several restaurants and bars cater to thirsty and hungry strollers. Pity the fountains are dry.
Summer cultural events have Beer Fest as their peak, the biggest festival of the year. It is organized for the eighth time in August, and thousands of Albanian and international visitors can enjoy cold beer, traditional food and the Albanian hospitality.
Korce is famous for its renowned Carnival. It has renewed this tradition, having created one of the most impressive events held in the city. During June, the local, national and international teams march before the eyes of thousands of citizens and visitors. Come to enjoy an unforgettable feast. There is no Carnival without Korce Carnival!
International Colony of Figurative Artists
The municipality of Korce and “Vangjush Mio” Cultural Center collaborate with the Visual Artists’ Association of the city to organize the International Colony of Figurative Artists “Days of Mio”.
36 painters joined the fifth edition of this event. The artists come not only from Albania, but also from Kosovo, FYROM, and Greece, while sometimes there are artists from other European countries participating. The recent experience gives the opportunity for the expansion of the event, giving the importance and the size suitable for it. The colony’s participants prepare their artwork in the city of Korce and its outskirts, for 4 days.
The event promotes the natural values and the cultural and artistic life of our city, presenting some of the most important tourist destinations in Korce: Voskopoja, Dardha, Vithkuqi, Bozdoveci, Kamenica, etc. the basic materials are available to the participants. All artists offer one of their artifacts, enriching the “GuriMadhi” Arts Gallery in Korce. An exhibition of all artifacts is held in the Cutlural Center on the last day of the colony. Korce is a live visual studio, with spaces to discover, and beautiful landscapes that inspire and allow for the artists’ talent to be expressed. This event, aiming to become an annual tradition, is looking forward not only to building communication bridges between the artists, but also to promoting the city values.
International Sculpture Symposium
Korce is a city where the tradition of integrating artworks to the city is in the heart of its values. For the first time, Korce invites and hosts local and international sculptors. During 2008, 2009, 2010,and 2011, the municipality of Korce hosted 32 sculptors in the International Sculpture Symposium Park, where they created 32 contemporary art sculptures with stone; all artworks were created for the city. The city’s green areas, especially Rinia Park is the place where these artworks are placed, aiming to them being visible by citizens and international visitors. When a place is decorated, it is more comfortable and pleasurable for all to stay in it. Sculptures were also placed in various points in the green park, which is now a cultural heritage place for our city.
Spring Trade Fair
Spring Trade Fair was organized for the first time in spring 2013, and had a big impact on Korce’s life, especially as far as tourism and economic growth are concerned. Various activities are presented in the Fair:
-Ceramics exhibition. Korce is known in Albania for its ceramic tradition. The exhibition is going to be organized in the pedestrians’ zone of the city. Some of the manufacturers or the sales representatives will participate in the exhibition. Particular attention has to be paid to the participation of Roma/ Egyptian technicians.
-Concerts. Famous for its serenades, Korce will present choruses on different days of the Spring Fair. Also, concerts with the participation of young artists, bands from the Musical High-school and “TeftaTashkoKoco” art will be held. Finally, there will be dance ensembles participating in the fair, too.
-Exhibition. The exhibition “Spring Colors” will open by the students of Korce schools.
-Activities for children. There will be a special agenda made for kids. Animations, theatre, music, games, etc., are some of the activities to take place.
The Food Festival is an opportunity for all citizens and visitors of Korce to enjoy the restaurant and pizzerias offers in Korce and its outskirts.
You can enjoy good quality food in a low price in all restaurants, taverns and pizzerias which join the Festival, from June to September, once a week.
Something interesting during the annual Santa Parade is Santa carriage, locally known as “Babagjyshi”, which is accompanied by many other santas in the parade across the city. There are presents, music and entertainment, and many surprises for kids.