December 24th 2016 we left Athens and headed towards Kastoria, Prespes and Nymfaio (see related post here). We took advantage of the 500km we had to drive to reach Kastoria by making several stops for sightseeing, lunch or rest.
On our onward and return journey, we stopped at Kalambaka (see photo album here), 350km from Athens, in the regional unit of Trikala. Nice city, on the feet of Meteora rocks, with interesting squares and cafes.
We had coffee and “Ravani” at Elysee cafe, on Riga Feraiou square. Warm atmosphere, special decoration (even in the WC area) and friendly personnel.
Do not miss the old town with its traditional houses with clay tile roofs, some of which just in front of the rocks. Visit the imposing Byzantine Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, erected on the ruins of an ancient temple of Apollo. The church has an impressive interior, where unfortunately I was not allowed to take any photos.
On the way from Kalambaka to Kastoria, we stopped at Venetikos, a tributary of Haliakmon, the longest river in Greece, at the point where the regional unit of Trikala borders the unit of Grevena. Like in many places in Greece, there was a comprehensive road sign 🙂
Impressive scene (and rare phenomenon, according to the local newspapers), the frozen water. Veneticos had stopped flowing and everybody who drove past had stopped to watch this.
More photos of Venetikos you can find here . It is definitely worth a one-day visit to for hiking, trekking or rafting. The ecotourism agency Overland and other agencies organize rafting excursions for as little as 50 Euros per person (including equipment, guide and lunch) and other outdoor activities here.
On our way back Athens, 50km from Kastoria and only 5-7km off the main road, we stopped at Siatista. Traditional houses and “kafeneia”, a folk museum and a must-see…the Byzantine Church of Agia Paraskevi (see here an album), with impressive hagiography, where young people of Siatista offer a guided tour for free. The church is known for its crypte, which was used as a hiding place and possibly also as a “Krifo Scholio” or secret school during the Othoman rule, as well as for its women’s chamber (gynaikonitis)! Here took and are still? taking place baptisms, in the absence of men, including the father.
Our last stop was at Meteora (more photos here), where we observed the city of Kalambaka from above and 60 million year old rocks…
…together with my cousin, who was a few days pregrant with her first child but had no clue yet and had all her focus on the rocks…and other friends, who live there!