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IOANNINA

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GENERAL INFORMATION

The prefecture of Ioannina encompasses a territory of nearly 5000 sq. km, making it the largest among the four prefectures of Epirus, and one of the largest in Greece. Its population numbers more than 170000 people, of which some 90000 live in the capital city of Ioannina, an urban center which maintains its distinct character and unique charm in spite of its rapid growth. The wealth of the prefecture matches is size in every respect, as Ioannina is rich in history, culture, intellect, industry, and agriculture.    

 

HISTORY-CULTURE

The course of Ioannina through history has been long, with lengthy bright periods alternating with eons of bitter darkness. Man has lived here long before history began, as there is evidence of human presence which dates deep into the Paleolithic Age. Ioannina enters the dawn of history with a period of prosperity which lasts nearly three millennia. The beginnings of the religious center of Dodoni, a sacred ground of no lesser deity than mighty Zeus himself, the father figure of the ancient Greek Pantheon, are traced somewhere between 3000-2600 BC. The complex soon evolved into a famous Oracle, a close second in reputation and influence to the one of Apollo in Delphi, but with a much longer presence in history. Nearly three thousand years of prosperity reached their peak in the 3rd century BC, at the time of the reign of Pyrrhus, the great king of Epirus, whose massive military campaign agitated Rome nearly as much as the one of the great Carthaginian Hannibal. His successors were soon divided among squabbling parties, and rule of the region came to the League of Epirus, a loose alliance of the local Greek tribes and city-states, which elected local generals as leaders. A series of destructive civil wars and ineffective leadership soon allowed the Romans to conquer this land in a manner similar to that they used to subjugate the rest of Greece. They fueled civil strife and supported local dissention, until there was little energy ?and manpower- left to pose significant resistance. The memory of Pyrrhus? campaign led them to extensive destructive practices unlike the usual Roman policy, and the region soon fell into decline. A time of prosperity in late Roman years was brought to an end by the series of barbarian raids which plagued Europe during the middle ages, but as the power of the Byzantine empire reached its height, Ioannina flourished. The traders and the silver artisans of Ioannina were renowned between the 9th and the 12th century, a tradition which endures until today. With Turkish domination, which came in the middle of the 15th century, difficult times arrived anew, but the spirit of the people maintained its flare. They managed to extract considerable favorable rulings for their region which led to spectacular development, even though they had rebelled at times. The trading houses of Ioannina came to be known throughout Europe, while the city also established itself as an educational center which pioneered the educational movement of the Enlightenment within Greece. The city reached its peak during the reign of Ali Pasha, an ambiguous Turkish ruler of Albanian origin who, in his ambition to carve a nation of his own, sought the collaboration of influential locals. This combination of authority and resources with industrious people of great cultural and educational background led to a period of extensive economical and intellectual progress. Eventually, massive Turkish forces brought him down along with his grandiose dreams, and established a regime more oppressive than ever before, and the city fell back into decline again. A series of victorious great battles in the Balkan Wars allowed Ioannina to finally rejoin with Greece in 1913. The region was martyred once more during World War II.                        

 

SIGHTS

Summing up into a few lines what lengthy guides try hard to accomplish is a difficult task, as Ioannina is overly rich in monuments and sights. Knowing in advance that whatever is mentioned here is an injustice to too many which will be left unspoken for, it is mandatory to advise the visitor to take some time to discover the region on his own. However arduous this effort may be, it is well worth it, and will provide rich rewards in return. The sights of the city of Ioannina alone need an entire chapter merely to be listed, let alone be described. Built along the coastline of the Western shores of Lake Pamvotis, it forms a picturesque image rarely matched in cities of comparable size. As one enters the castle into the old city within its walls, he travels into the middle ages, and only some occasional cars parked uncomfortably in the narrow stone-paved alleyways remind him that this is the 21st century. A stroll by the lake or on the islet within it enhances a strong feeling of tranquility which seems to emanate from the city itself, even as it contrasts its vivid marketplace and vibrant lifestyle. Ancient Dodoni is a spectacular archaeological site, while the cave of Perama is a monument of nature, its countless stalactites and stalagmites forming a variety of shapes which captivate and challenge the visitors? imagination. The existence of two national parks within the territory of the prefecture bespeak of its natural beauty. The landscape is dominated by the imposing mountains of the Pindos mountain range, where massive grey cliffs forming breathtaking gorges alternate with green, densely forested hillsides. Endless formations of pine and fir trees are lost into the horizon, interrupted only by rivers and streams which gently descend into picturesque valleys. The 46 villages of the Zagori district adorn this landscape, their stone-made housing blending into the forested cliffs of the mountains to make them seem as an inseparable part of them. A network of paths and roads with masterful stone bridges crossing over frequent rivers and streams connects the villages with eachother, leaving only the opposing cliffsides of the great Vikos Gorge without a crossing, its steep 1000-meter high cliffs discouraging any attempt to construct a bridge over it. Many more archaeological sites, churches and monasteries, monuments of the Byzantine era, beauteous landscapes and picturesque villages compose a setting which makes boredom an impossibility.             

 

ENTERTAINMENT-SPORTS-SHOPPING

The city of Ioannina offers a multitude of opportunities for entertainment, sports and shopping. In fact, the proximity of many diverse alternatives presents excellent opportunities to make combinations of cultural edification with less haughty ?yet no less desirable- pursuits. One can begin his day taking breakfast and coffee in one of the numerous picturesque cafes, visit a museum nearby, go shopping in the market, enjoy a meal right by the waters of the lake, while later on he may have a few drinks in one of the bars. Nightlife is vivid, its pace being set by the thousands of youthful students of the University of Ioannina. Restaurants, taverns and cafes, most placed on the lakeside, offer meals, drinks and refreshments of all varieties and for all tastes. The market offers a variety of shopping opportunities, and all of these are concentrated within a few blocks, with the exception of the picturesque Kyra Frosyni, the islet within the lake, which is well worth the five-minute boat ride required to visit it. Once the city of Ioannina is left behind, there is a whole new world to be discovered. Most villages of the prefecture, especially those in the Zagori district and the ones around Metsovo, host traditional taverns serving local specialties, usually around a fireplace or with a view to rugged cliffsides adorned with fir trees capped with snow during the winter. Local festivals are mirthful and a chance to attend one should not be missed. Even if the Greek tongue is unfamiliar, wine and drink have a language of their own, well understood by most people around the world. Local pies and syrup-dipped sweets deserve their reputation, though these usually follow delicious dishes of meat directly off the grill. Sports facilities of all kinds exist in Ioannina as well as in the other urban centers, but most exciting sporting opportunities can be found in the mountains, which offer opportunities and challenges for those who revel within the embrace of nature. Do not forget to purchase local delicacies, wooden handicraft, silverware and textiles.            

 

ACCESS

Frequent bus routes from most major cities arrive daily in Ioannina. Flights also arrive daily, mostly from the airports of Athens and Thessaloniki. The ports of Preveza and Igoumenitsa are both no more than a 90 minute ride by car.   

 

CONNECTIONS

The bus and flight network connects the city of Ioannina directly or with a corresponding route with every major city in Greece. It also has access to the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea through the nearby ports of Preveza and Igoumenitsa, while the Via Egnatia motorway will soon provide high speed access through Macedonia and Thrace all the way to Turkey. 

 

MUSEUMS

The city of Ioannina has a rich collection of museums. There is an archaeological museum, a Byzantine museum, a community museum, a folk art museum, an 19th century weapons collection, an art gallery, a Byzantine silverware collection, a collection of 18th century objects on the islet of lake, and two spectacular wax art museums (one of the two is situated on the suburbs of the city). There is a community library in Zitsa, a war museum in Kalpaki and another in Vouliasta, a folk art museum in Konitsa, an art gallery in Metsovo, and another folk art museum in Pogoniani. More folk art collections can be seen in Zavrocho, Stratinitsa, Elliniko, and Sirako. There is also a museum of stone masonry in Pyrsogianni, while most monasteries exhibit collections of rare tomes, as well as clothing and objects of past centuries. 

 

ALTERNATIVE TOURISM

Ecotourism, agrotourism, gastronomy, canyoning, congressional, cultural, archaeology, caving, spiritual, therapeutic, and sporting (mountain climbing, trekking, river trekking, canoe, kayak, jeep safari, mountain bike, rafting, ski, snowboard, horse riding).

 

USEFUL TELEPHONE NUMBERS:

IOANNINA AREA CODE:  26510-

POLICE STATION: 26510-65934

TRAFFIC POLICE: 26510-65994

TOURIST POLICE: 26510-25673

MUNICIPALITY: 26510-79921-5

POST OFFICE: 26510-39125

TELECOMMUNICATIONS ORG.: 26510-41699

NATIONAL TOURISM ORG.: 26510-25086

TAXI STATION: 26510-46777-9

AIRPORT: 26510-26218

BUS STATION: 26510-26286, 27442, 26211, 25014, 25868, 37584

HOSPITAL: 26510-99111, 80111

PHARMACIES: 26510-23333, 28505, 38350

 

 

 

Photo Gallery
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