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A few words about Ioannina:
Ioannina (ΙΩΑΝΝΙΝΑ in Greek) is a city in and capital of Epirus, Greece, with a
population of approximately 100,000 and lies at an elevation of 600 metres
above sea level. It is capital of a prefecture with the same name. The city
lies on the western side of Lake Pamvotis. Ioannina possesses one of the most
numerous amount of municipalities and communities in all of Greece. It is
bordered by Albania in the north, Kastoria in the northeast, Grevena in the
east, the prefecture of Trikala in the east, Arta in the southeast, Preveza in
the south and the prefecture of Thesprotia in the southwest and west. It is
the largest prefecture in Epirus. (Covering almost half of Epirus.)
The city has a General and a University Hospital; a University named
University of Ioannina (5 km south of the city) with 16 departments and 13,000
students; as well as several departments of the Τechnological Educational
Institute of Epirus, the headquarters of which are located in Arta.
The wireless network operating in the city is called Ioannina Wireless
Network. It was founded at the end of 2002 and began operations in 2003.
The city is associated with Ali Pasha, the Ottoman-appointed ruler of Albania,
Macedonia and Thrace, who was killed in 1822 by the Sultan's agents in the
Moni Panteleimonos on the island at the center of Lake Pamvotis. The monastery
(which was once Ali-Pasha's secret hideout) is now a museum containing
paintings, information, and even re-creations of Ali-Pasha's living quarters
on his island hideaway. Passengers are ferried back and forth from the
mainland to the island (about a 15 minute ride each way) on small motorboats
which run on varying schedules, according to the season. (About once every
half hour, or more, in the spring and summer, much less in the winter.) The
museum is not the only attraction on the island--there are many gift-shops,
tavernas, churches and bakeries on the island's quaint, winding streets. Some
of the people of Ioannina even choose to make the tiny island their yearlong
home, with simple rowboats moored outside their homes, or in small "marinas",
just in case they need to get to Ioannina proper when the motorboats are not
Ioannina is famous for its spring water Zagori which is sold over much of
Botanically, the region of Ioannina is dominated by robust, fragrant pine
trees, many of which grow within the city itself, especially around the old
castle, or fortress walls. Embarking into the castle walls is an adventure
unto itself...just make sure you trace your steps so you don't get lost. The
bizarre layout of the castle's streets, with roads going in circles or leading
to dead ends was designed to confuse pirates of old who breached the castle
walls, so that they would get lost within the fortress, and hopefully be
captured before escaping with their bounty. (Most of the time, it did, in
fact, work.) There are still some Greeks today who get a lost trying to exit
the fortress, even if they've been there before...that's how confounding the
street design is. So, if you decide to visit the fortress, make sure you have
no deadlines to meet, and plenty of time on hand in case you get
lost...because you probably will!
The city's logo is orange and white with an the omicron, the last letter of
the Greek alphabet (it corresponds with the English letter "o") and portrays
an orange drop on the top.
The geography of the region is rugged and mountainous, made up
of mountain ranges including Tymfi in the northeast, Lakyos in the east,
Xerovounio (Greek for dry mountains), Tomaros in the southwest and the Grammos
mountains in the far north. The 40th parallel crosses between Delvinaki and
Konitsa. Much of the land lies south of the 40th parallel.
The mountains dominate the east, north, west and south. Fertile lands
dominated the areas within Ioannina.
Recent snowstorms happened in the beginning of the 20th century. A snowstorm
on January 31, 2005 closed schools and streets and clogged and closed most of
the roads. Highways were slippery and tire chains were required.
The prefecture of Ioannina, like most of the Greek mainland,
is, mostly for lack of publicity and familiarity, not as popular as the
islands among tourists. Yet the area, along with its natural beauty, has quite
a few worthwhile and interesting historical attractions.
In the city
Ioannina is famous throughout Greece for its silverwork, with
many shops selling beautiful silver jewelry and decor (serving trays,
recreations of shields and swords, trinkets, etc.) at quite reasonable prices.
The ornate style of the jewelry and artwork reflects more Turkish, rather than
Greek, sensibilities, due to the long Turkish occupation of the area. Ioannina
is also one of the few places in Greece where one can purchase a hookah, a
water-filled device which can be packed with ordinary or flavored tobaccos,
and were very popular with the Ottomans during their occupation of the region.
Hardly any Greeks smoke using hookahs; they are sold mainly to tourists as
novelty items. The hookahs vary in size from tiny to enormous (sometimes 4-5
ft. tall) and are often quite attractive, even as a piece of decor if the
purchaser chooses not to actually smoke out of one, or just don't smoke,
period. For those who would like to experiment smoking with a hookah, most
hookah merchants carry a wide variety of various flavored tobaccos.
Within the castle in the centre of Ioannina city, the mosque of Aslan Pasha
houses the Municipal History Museum, which includes works of folk art, as well
as weapons and swords from the period of the Ottoman occupation of the area.
The island in lake Pamvotis has a traditional settlement. The monastery where
Ali Pasha was killed is now a museum.
Outside the city
A few kilometers south of the city is the Vrellis wax statue
museum, displaying scenes from Greece's history. A small dependance in the
city centre is free to the public;
The Dodoni oracle archeological site;
The Vikos-Aoos National Park, including the Vikos gorge, through which the
Voidomatis river flows;
Mount Smolikas, with 2637 meter Greece's second highest mountain;
The Zagoria villages, partly in the Vikos-Aoos National Park;
Metsovo, in winter a ski resort;
The caves of Perama, a few kilometers northeast of Ioannina;
The monument in Zalongo for the women of Souli;
The war museum in Kalpaki. (There is also a fairly modern supermarket in the
village of Kalpaki, in case you need to stop for some last minute items.)
Bourzani Bridge, near Melissoptera
Papingo, a favorite ski resort of Greeks and some knowing tourists. The area
surrounding, or leading up to Papingo possesses an exquisite natural beauty,
boasting dramatic cliffs, lush valleys, and the Vikos Gorge, the largest
canyon in Greece and (disputably) in all of Europe. The gorge is a much
sought-after destination for many serious hikers and mountaineers from around
The village of Papingo proper is surrounded by snowcapped mountains (in
winter) and also has provisions for lodging as well as quaint, intimate
taverns serving up traditional Greek food, coffee, and spirits.
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