This was my third outing when out in Florina, I kept the best for last. Words can hardly describe the beauty of the lakes. The serenity of the place on an April mid-afternoon, both for the Large Prespa and Small Prespa lakes makes every minute spent there so worthwhile.
We left Florina at the late hours of the morning (it must have been those cocktails). The road is winding through the hills and we passed by the still snowed Vigla ski center. The trees on the mountains have timidly started to bud new leaves and the shadowy corners still hold snow, even though temperatures has risen to a good 20 oC. There is a handful of small villages on the way to Prespes and as you climb down the mountains there are carpets of green with scattered pear trees and small streams. The place is scarcely populated, similar to Nymphaio with its 50 inhabitants. Once you reach the lakes, you have reached the borders: Great Prespa lake is shared amongst FYROM, Albania and Greece and the Small Prespa lake just between Greece and Albania. These two are separated by a narrow strip of land, Koula and especially Small Prespa lake is an important wetland, inhabited by many rare and endangered species, water buffalo and Dalmatian Pelican to name a few.
We headed to the little village of Psarades (Ψαράδες) for late lunch and we were not disappointed. There was a small family-run tavern and even though the menu was modest the taste was sublime. We devoured warm slices of bread drizzled with olive-oil, oregano and of course boukovo, just ‘little’ helpers for the aubergine and tirokauteri dips.
The company enjoyed grills whilst I begged to differ, I had trout. I was next to a lake after all. And we were not alone around that place, the local cows, Nanas, the rare Greek Steppe breed seem to enjoy the pebbled street as much as we do and casually head up to the pavements. They own the place!
Coffee was next on the cards, we drove to the other side towards St. Achilles islet in the middle of Small Prespa lake. The Small Prespa is an important wetland ecosystem that hosts many endangered species. We were greeted by Dalmatian Pelicans flying over the little bridge. Of course I was too slow and too much in awe to get a proper picture of the creatures. Wildlife is literally going wild, amongst the tens of birds that were casually chirping and flying around, there are the more Nana cows, as in Psarades and also the home of water buffaloes. I didn’t see any of the latter unfortunately, these guys don’t need a passport and just go anywhere they please be it North, South, East,West, Greece, Albania or FYROM.
It seems that the time has somehow stopped in this place. There are a few buildings on the islet that offer accommodation and refreshments but all together the islet doesn’t hold more than 20 buildings. The taverns alternate with small houses each one with its own barn. Many buildings are unfortunately in disrepair but the place is meant for cow strolling, quite a few were blocking our path on our way up. But we were determined to go all the way up, the views down to the wetland are breath-taking!
Promise to get back to cooking!
with love from Athens