The prefecture of Kastoria, the ancient Orestias, is in the north-west part of Western Macedonia, in the large basin that is encompassed by the mountains of Grammos, Triklario and Vitsi. It has an area of 1720 square metres and a population that amounts to 53000 people according to the 1991 census.
The area of the prefecture of Kastoria coincides with the ancient state of Orestias. In the time of Alexander III, the Orestians together with the Ligistes formed one of the brigades of the Macedonian phalanx, and escorted Alexander in his campaign in the East.
The city was built and walled by Justinian, the Byzantine emperor, at the location of the ancient city Keletro. Evidence of the city’s prosperity are the famous mansions, the elaborate churches, the monasteries and the schools, where great intellectuals of that time set the foundations of education in Kastoria. Among them, Ion Dragoumis, Germanos Karavagelis and Pavlos Melas. The area was liberated by the Greek army in November 1912.
During the two World Wars, the people here put up a heroic resistance against the conquerors, Germans, Italians and Bulgarians. The highlight of their armed struggle was the holocaust of Klisoura.
The lake of Kastoria is the most precious treasure of the town. It is her jewel,
delight for the visitor as a place of recreation and for the inhabitant a stimulus for romanticism and reminiscence.
Lake Orestida of Kastoria is considered morphologically the most beautiful lake of Greece and has been announced a Monument of Natural Beauty by the Ministry of Culture. At the lakeshore there are enough squares and parks. In these specially formulated spaces, the visitor has the possibility to walk on the stone pavements and to admire the unique natural beauty of the lake at all seasons.
The natural basin of the lake, which is enclosed by mountains of excellent geomorphology, constitutes a unique hydrobiotope. It is a hydrotope of great importance to the aquatic but also for the birds of prey and uses as an area , of reproduction, nourishment and hibernation. It maintains a rich bird fauna, which includes rare and menaced species.
The particular economic growth of the region during the mid-Byzantine period and the period of the Turkish domination is represented by the unique samples of the church architecture and temple hagiography that are still rescue.
Today in the department of Kastoria there are 80 temples preserved in three typologies:
Tricorn temple with a dome -Triflexed arch-roofed basilica Wooden-roofed, one-room stretcher temple 26 of them are Byzantine and possess about 3.000 square meters of frescoes while all the churches, possess rare samples of Byzantine icons and woodcut temples of inestimable artistic value.
Its mansions show the elements of the architecture of that period in combination with some local elements.
Buildings of the 17th and 18th century they present great interest for their wall-building, their architecture and their painting, while they stand out for the imposing presence and the grandeur of their unusual construction. Witnesses of the economic prosperity and the cultural growth constitute unique pieces of the traditional architecture of the modern years
Today there are remarkable efforts to preserve and revive the customs, to organise modern cultural manifestations and to institute and operate new museums. New events such as the “Orestia”, the week of the emigrant Kastorians, the cultural August, the chestnut festival and the River party are added to the older customs that revive, such as the Carnival in Kastoria (Ragoutsaria 8/1), the Boubounes, the festivity Profitis-llias patron-saint of the fur-makers.
Ragoutsaria are known by this name only in Macedonia and Thessaly. The name origins from the Latin verb “rogo”, that stands for: ask, require, and actually this is what people dressed as “ragoutsaria” used to do : they went from house to house, from village to village, dancing and singing, gathering money, wine and food which they would use in the evening at the feast “glenti”. They are clearly Dionysiac feasts, that are celebrated the same time of the year as the “Dionysia” were celebrated all over Greece.
The unusual Kastorian Carnival begins from the evening of January the 1st and is completed during the three day period of 6-8 January. It is a banquet of dancing, singing, music and scrumptious local foods, escorted by very good raki and wine. The last day the events climax with the big parade of crowds called “bouloukia”, in “Omonia” square, that will end in a big feast in Doltso square.
Another important event is “Boubounes” (carnival fires that are lite up by residents in neighbourhoods with traditional dancing and singing.
Also, during summer time at the “Theatre of the Mountain”, many cultural events take place (concerts, plays).