Host Country Studies Trip to Kastoria-Prespa


Back in the 19th century, Oscar Wilde said that “Nature constantly imitates art.” After visiting Kastoria, one of the most picturesque cities of Western Macedonia, and Prespa, a unique wetland with amazing natural beauty, Pinewood Middle School students understood exactly what Oscar Wilde meant.

Friday, May 25

Friday was an interesting day dedicated to the city of Kastoria. Our itinerary focused on two very distinct periods of interest for the area, the Neolithic visiting Dispilio, and the Byzantine visiting the Church of Panayia Koumbelidiki and the Monastery of Mavriotissa. Our students were greatly impressed by the small triconch church of Koumbelidiki, its unique masonry work and the rare representation of the “Holy Trinity” in the narthex.

We all loved however, the Neolithic Lakeside Settlement of Dispilio. What we actually visited in Dispilio is a 1999 reconstruction of the Neolithic village. The reconstruction consists of eight prehistoric huts, equipped with all the artifacts archaeologists assume the Dispilio prehistoric households had. We saw for example, how the huts were constructed, the different types of tools people used at the time, their pots and pans, boats and fishing nets, musical instruments like flutes and many more. We also saw reconstructed “prehistoric” plantations and fields cultivated only with seeds identified in the archaeological data. Dispilio is without any doubt a unique experience.

Saturday, May 26

The people in the Society for the Protection of Prespa say that “The impression a first-time visitor gets from Prespa is of a remote, isolated place, lost in the mountains, a place at the end of the world. But Prespa is not at the end of the world, merely at the end of Greece, and actually in the heart of the Balkans.”

This is the reason why Saturday morning was dedicated to the amazing Environmental Park of Prespa. Mrs. Georgia Paliouris organized and conducted a highly informative educational program on Environmental Studies and our local guide Ms. Eleni was an endless source of useful information.

Prespa is an area rich in history, archaeology and culture. The day’s trip started at the village of Agios Germanos in order to visit the 11th century small but richly iconographed cross-in-square domed church.  In Agios Germanos we were also greatly impressed by the local houses, their carefully constructed masonry with stone, wood, clay soil and reeds, materials which people could easily find in their natural surroundings, their large balconies and their carefully cared gardens.

The highlight, however of the day’s cultural program was visiting the 986AD Basilica of Agios Achilleios, founded by Samuel, the Bulgarian king of the time and built on the island of the same name in Lake Mikri Prespa. It is very difficult to describe the rugged beauty of the area, and the almost mystical atmosphere of the ruined Basilica. All we can do is to strongly recommend you to visit Prespa.

Amalia Spiliakou

Host Country Studies Coordinator