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Historic Monuments in the Ioannina Region

The city
Yanina (Ioannina)
According to a text by the historian Procopius, Ioannina was founded in 527 by the emperor Justinian. Its first period of prosperity began in 1204 when Michael Komninos founded the Despotate of Epirus and Yanina was established as the region's intellectual center. In 1430 it surrendered to the Turks. During the reign of Ali Pasha (1788 - 1822), it enjoyed a new period of economic and intellectual growth, as his court became a pole of attraction for restless spirits ( Kollettis, Vilaras, etc. ) and future military leaders of a revolutionary Greece ( Karraiskakis, Botsaris, Androutsos, etc. ). But for Yanina the modern era of its long history did not really begin until its liberation by the Creek army on 12 February 1913 and Epirus became part of the Greek state.

The modern city
It is built on the hillside (500 meters above the sea) near the lake Pamvotis. Its lovely scenery and historic monuments make sightseeing fascinating, enhanced further by the pleasure of watching its jewelers and wood carvers at their traditional crafts. Yanina's Archaeological Museum contains exhibits of the most significant finds from all over Epirus. The Municipal Museum, housed in the former mosque of Aslan Pasha, has fine collections of jewelry, textiles and traditional costumes. Finally, the Folk Art Museumof the Society for Epirot Studies possesses a great many examples of local crafts. No visit to Yanina would be complete without a trip to the islet (Nissaki) in the middle of the lake; small boats make the short journey frequently. The islet also has two major sights: the Philanthropion Monastery with its Byzantine frescoes, depicting among other subjects Seven Sages of antiquity: and the PreRevolutionary Museum.

The Town Hall of Ioannina

The mosque in the old castle of Ioannina

Around Yanina ( 7 km. from town, direction Arta) the Vrellis Museum contains waxen effigies of personalities and scenes from the period preceding the Revolution (1611 - 1821) . Four kilometers north of Yanina is the Perama Cave, one of the most stunning horizontal caves in the Balkans.

The archaeological site of Dodoni lies 22 kilometers southwest of Yanina. One of the most important and perhaps the oldest in Greece, it was settled by the first Greek tribes around 2500 B.C., as indicated by finds dating to the Bronze Age (Early Helladic period). Homer recounts that in the 18th century B.C. the valley of Ioannina and Dodoni was inhabited by a branch of the Thesprotian tribe, the Hellopes, Helloi or Selloi, a clan of priests and prophets dedicated to the service of Zeus of Dodoni. Some scholars maintain that the word "Hellene" may be related to "Helloi", given that the "ene" ending is rather common in the local dialect of the period. It was here that the ancients established their first oracle, which spoke through the rustling of a primeval oak tree. At the start of the 4th century B.C. the first, small temple was erected to the worship of Zeus of Dodoni. It eventually formed the nucleus of the monumental buildings - the Vouleuterion (political assembly) and the Prytaneion - that were constructed in 350 B.C. Later, in the early 3rd century B.C., with the rise of the Molossian king, Pyrrhus, the temple to Zeus was built and a gigantic theater, larger than the one at Epidaurus, was erected. (17.000 seats). The oracle was pillaged and destroyed for the first time in 219 B.C. by the Aitolians and never regained its former importance. The prophecies at Dodoni took various forms, depending on the historical period. Initially, they revealed themselves in the flight of the oracle"s pigeons, later in the rustling of the leaves of the sanctuary"s oak tree. The final form was the most elaborate: A bronze statue of a little boy held some wooden batons in its hands; as the wind blew it caused these simantra to strike a row of contiguous copper cauldrons arranged nearby and the priest would interpret the sound of their vibrations as the will of the father of gods and men. Today, the ancient theater at Dodoni is used once again for drama performances in summer, and the site is open to the public every day.

Zitsa, 28 km. northwest of Yanina, is a village built on a hillside amongst vineyards; it is famous for its sparkling white wine.

Among Greek most picturesque small towns, Metsovo (60 km. east of Yanina) rests upon the ruins of ancient Tymphi. It extends along one of the highest peaks of the Pindus, exciting the visitor with its "Alpine" architecture and its striking scenery. The church of Agia Paraskevi has an interesting carved iconscreen and its wall mosaics are copies of the ones at Ravenna. Also worth a visit is the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos with its 17th century frescoes and the Tossitsa Mansion, which has been converted into an excellent museum of Epirot folk art. Metsovo's craftsmen and women keep alive the traditions of woodcarving and weaving, while the area produces some of the country's most delicious cheeses and a wonderful robust red wine. Its ski center and the number of mountains in the vicinity make Metsovo a paradise for skiers and hikers.

Konitsa, 63 km. north of Yanina, is a set along the thickly wooded slopes of Mt. Trapezitsa. The market town for the region, a mixture of traditional houses and modern buildings, it lures the visitor with the wild beauty of its mountain scenery and is an ideal base for hikers wishing to explore the Pindus (Mt. Gamila, Drakolimni, etc.). The region's age - old customs are preserved in its small folk art museum. From the chapel of Agia Varvara, a balcony over the Aoos Gorge with a panoramic view of the surrounding mountain ranges, one can spy a stone bridge with a single arch, the longest of its kind in the Balkans. The drive to the Byzantine Stomiou Monastery is spectacular, past ravines thickly wooded with pines and firs. Also of interest is the Monastery of the Panagia Molivdoskepasti with frescoes dating to the Byzantine era and later. There are mineral springs with a variety of therapeutic properties at Kavassila, Pixaria and Amarandos (1260 m).

The Zagorohoria - Vikos - Aoos National Forest
The Zagorohoria (villages of Zagoria) 46 trantitional settlements bounded by Mts. Mitsikeli, Gamila and the Aoos River form a fascinating geographical, architectural and cultural unit. They are distributed among the eastern, central and western Zagori districts. The region is one of the country's richest in animal and plant life, not only as regards numbers of species, but also rate species (bear, deer, wild goat, jackal and the like). The architecture here is very distinctive, the houses having been built exclusively of the local gray stone. The Sarakatsan nomadic herdsmen of the region maintain traditions carried down from antiquity, which can be witnessed at their annual get- together held on the first weekend in August at Giftokambos in Central Zagori. In Eastern Zagori the most beautiful villages are Tristeno, Grevenitsa, founded by the Byzantine emperior Konstantinos Pogonianos in 670, and Flambouri. In Central Zagori, the following villages stand out: Vitsa with its characteristic churches; Monodendri, the starting point for hikers wishing to walk the Vikos Gorge as far as the Voidomatis springs (5 hours on foot); Tsepelovo, the biggest village in the district and the site of the Rangavi Monasrery ( founded in 1050 ); and Skamneli, many of whose houses are decorated with folk paintings of the 18th and 19th century. In Western Zagori, Mikro and Megalo Papingo are famous for their authentic stone architecture. They are the starting point for hikes to the Astraka refuge ( 3 hours on foot ) and Drakolimni ( 1 hour on foot).

Useful information and telephones How to get there:
Ioannina is linked by air with Athens and Thessaloniki. The roads linking it with Greek major cities and with the towns and villages in the district are extensive and in good condition.
Cultural events:
In summer, the Epirotika Festival includes performances of ancient drama at Dodoni. There are also festivities surrounding the saint's day celebrations in the towns and villages of the district and the wine festival at Zitsa. Among the local gastronomic specialties are: meat cooked in a "gastra", pies of various kinds, baklava and "bougatsa", a cream pie.
Apart from mountain climbing and winter sports, the rivers of Epirus are made for Kayaking and its slopes for hang gliding.

A typical bridge in Zagori

Dilopho (a village in Zagori)