Κastraki: World Cultural Monument in miniature
It looks as if it has nestled in the slopes and valleys of Meteora, Pindos and Pinios river. The scenic village of Kastraki, on the western foothills of the Monastic Centre of Meteora, took its name after a small Byzantine castle, from which only some ruins are still preserved.
The first settlement was formed during the Ottoman rule, from inhabitants of Epirus, who seized refuge here from Ali Pasha, an Ottoman Albanian ruler, known as the "Lion of Yannina". Today, the community includes 4/6 of the area and together with the Meteora Monastic Centre it is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Monument of Nature and it has become a truly remarkable recreation area, with a camping and local taverns that offer relaxation to the Meteora visitors.
The sight is impressive, with plateaus and gorges surrounding the area and the unbelievable 'heavenly columns' that seem to want to reach the sky. The scent of wild oregano, mint and wild flowers fills the air and the Byzantine monasteries which are built on the rock pinnacles rising over 400 meters above Pinios valley, are symbols of man’s utter faith and complete dedication to God.
Visitors shouldn’t miss a visit to the church of Panagia Doupiani, with Doupianis cloister which was the first hermits’ centre of worship [11th – 12th century], as well as Drakospilia [“Dragon Cave”, 100 m. depth], the settlement of Agiá and the remains of the ancient castle, the hermitage of St. Nicholas or Bantova or Kofinas carved in the rock cave and the gorge separating Kastraki from Kalambaka, in Mesohori and the old village.
Kalabaka. The “Strong Fort”
Protected by the majestic Meteora rocky formations, watered by Pinios river and embraced by the lush green forests, Kalabaka is filled with magnificent colors and images, with most impressive the emerging limestone rocks of Meteora from the north and east, which attract thousands of visitors each year.
The word “kalabaka” originates from Turkish and means “strong fort”. Rich in history and monuments, the ancient city Aiginio of the Hellinistic and Roman period and later called Stagi [a name that the Metropolitan church carries since the medieval times], is the capital of the homonymous municipality in the Trikala regional unit and located 22 kms from Trikala. The small town has a well structured street planning, large squares, wide roads and developed tourism infrastructure. Due to its location next to the popular Meteora Monasteries, the villages of Aspropotamos and Hassia and Koziakas Mountains, it is a very popular destination, filled with tavernas and tourist shops.
Here we find plenty of small churches dating back to the post byzantine era, with interesting frescoes and hagiographies. Among its most important sights, we find the historic church Koimisis tis Theotokou or Assumption of the Virgin [10th – 11th century], on the northeast part of the town, overlooked by Aias rock. It is decorated with impressive murals dating from 12th to 16th century and a wooden temple. Impressive and imposing is also the church's bell tower, found on the northern side of the entrance in the grounds of the church. In town you will also find the cathedral church of Saint Vissarion [1954-1984], hagiographied entirely by John Albanis and constructed in the honor of his Holiness the Metropolitan Archbishop of Larissa, who was the founder and the owner of the Monastery of Dousikos.
Take a walk to the northeastern part of Kalabaka and the quaint Sopotos neighborhood, shadowed by the holly Trinity Rock [Eastern] and Altsos Rock [Northern].
You can enjoy yourselves in numerous bars, tavernas and restaurants, especially the famous “tsipoureri” in Vlahava street, which have named the area “the Mykonos of Central Greece”. Don’t forget to pass from the traditional Halva manufacturing store of Rombos, established in 1920.
The town hosts the only Greek School of Woodcarving [tel. 24320 22781].
On the way Trikala- Kalabaka, 3 kms from Meteora, make a stop to the cave of Theopetra, the oldest known example of a man-made structure that was found within a prehistoric cave in central Greece, with human imprints 135.000 years old [Cretaceous period].
Useful Phone Numbers
- Bus Station: tel. 2432-022432
- Railway Station: tel. 2432-022451
- TAXIS: tel. 2432-022310, 2432-022822
- Health Centre/ Hospital: tel. 2432-022222
- Tourist Office: tel. 2432-075306
- Police Station: tel. 2432-076100
- Fire Brigade: tel. 2432-022999
- Town Hall: tel. 2432-022421, 2432-022346, 2432-022339