So my break to Florina was an adventurous one and it did not entail just a tour of the city. We went out in the wild countryside on our way to Nymphaio, a picturesque village hidden up in the mountains unlike any other in Greece. I had a stroll at a sanctuary of wild bears and finished off with a wonderful meal overlooking Vegoritida lake.
Nymphaio is quite unique. It’s nested at an 1.350 m altitude of Mount Verno and you can hardly make out its location from the road. The houses follow the hill slopes and I have to admit I was quite grateful to see the place in the beginning of spring; saying my relationship with snow is terrible is an understatement. Being around just as the weather turns, gave us just a tad of snow, budding trees and wonderful running waters.
The village only holds a few inhabitants now, less than 50; pretty typical of the Greek countryside. Yet its architecture manifests older times of glory. In the late 19th century, Nymphaio was teeming with more than 3,000 people and there is very good proof for it: the school!
Along with many more buildings, small and large, all featuring the wonderful grey rock and tiles to hold the snow.
No matter where I was shooting from, there is hardly a viewpoint that does this place justice! The views over the hills are breathtaking.
We arrived early afternoon and headed straight for Arcturos, the brown bear sanctuary. Arcturos made the news recently as two little cubs fell in its protection during March. I have to admit I was excited at the thought of seeing the little cubs, but silly me, it’s not a zoo! The little guys are under very good care and protection with the view to re-integrate them in the wild so human contact for them is prohibitive. For Arcturos getting a new cub is not good news. Having two youngsters means there is a dead mum around and unfortunately the causes of this loss can be dubious. Although bear hunting for captivity, the reason Arcturos was formed to combat, is not an issue any more, their endeavours to safeguard the natural environment of wild animals and smooth out the co-existence of man-bear is always tricky.
Luckily for me, two bears have woken up to the calls of spring. Here is Zoe:
And there was another surprise in store for me: the Greek Shepherd dog, it looks so much like a bear!
One huge dog! Up for cuddles @ Nymphaio #nymphaio #greece #dog Μια φωτογραφία που δημοσίευσε ο χρήστης Eugenia (@eatyourselfgreek) στις
This wonderful creature was idly lying on the small pebbled street of Nymphaio – taking up the whole place. His thick fur and huge face reminded me so much of St Bernard’s dogs, but he is a local! His breed has traditionally been used for herding sheep and protecting them from wolves and bears that come down from the mountains. Arcturos has been breeding Greek Shepherd dogs since 1998, safe-guarding them from extinction and more importantly distributing them to farmers as protection from wild animal attacks to their livestock. Two birds with one stone!
Driving down we stopped to take in the view of Zazari & Chimaditida lakes. And off we went to Vegoritida lake to chill out and fill our tummies. All these walking and fresh air definitely gives you an appetite. We went for our typical mezze dining – ranging from sea-food nibbles to white asparagus gratin, local pickled cabbage stuffed in the famous Florina red pepper and some wonderful snails with pesto.
And there is more to come from this little trip, Prespes post is coming soon.
with love from Athens!