Metsovo to Ioannina: a day of the unexpected

Back to grey skies on Monday.  I was up earlier than usual in order to catch the 08.15 bus to Ioannina.  For whatever reason the next one isn’t until 15.30.  Breakfast early.  Last bits of packing and then ready for off.  Enthusiastically, if somewhat clumsily, I hefted the Big Bag in Rucksack Mode onto my back and headed out of the hotel and down the steep road towards the main square.

I very soon recognised the feeling from some years ago when I had given blood and the elastoplast didn’t do the job.  I felt blood trickling down my arm and dripping off my fingers.  I had taken a layer of skin off my forearm and was leaking somewhat. I clamped a paper napkin over it (I always carry a couple in case of such emergencies) and continued downhill.  I had left early because my banana purchasing on Sunday had met with a problem: the shop didn’t have change for my €5 note so they said “Pay tomorrow”.  I therefore had to make a detour to the fruit shop, trying not to drip blood all over their floor.

The blood had soaked into the sleeve of my cag and my arm was a mess.  I rapidly concluded two things.  First that I should visit the fresh water spring in the main square and wash the blood out of my sleeve.  Second, that I should get the first aid kit out of the Big Bag to effect a repair to my leaking flesh.  I should admit that when I’m over here I carry two first aid kits weighing between them more than 1Kg.  One of them I always carry in my camera rucksack when I’m out walking but because I was doing safe ‘urban’ stuff today I had transferred it to the Big Bag.  Mistake!

I have always maintained that the mind is focused by deadlines. In this case, a bus leaving at 08.15.  I washed out my cag sleeve under the constantly running spring and transferred the first aid kit back to the camera bag and still had time to say cheerio to the brothers who run the hotel I where I was staying  who were down in the square to see me on my way.

Less than an hour to Ioannina, much of it in the tunnels through the mountain.  When the bus emerged from from the last tunnel, the lake on which Ioannina sits came into view on the right with the town spread out along it’s further shore.

Ioannina is a thriving but basically work-a-day kind of town rather than a tourist place.  The main visitor attraction, surprisingly, is Muslim in origin rather than  Orthodox Christian.  The town was the seat of the notorious Ali Pasha, an Albanian-born Muslim who controlled much of Greece ostensibly on behalf of the Ottoman Empire but really pursuing his own ambitions.  He built a citadel for himself on the shore of the lake, perpetrating many acts of great savagery against the Greek population.  It is the remains of this citadel which form the main focus of the town’s historical and tourist interest.

It was a very grey day but I spent it wandering around the old citadel and the narrow streets surrounding it.

Strong impression when you get off the streets in Ioannina is the vast number of poppies everywhere

Interior of the mosque built by Ali Pasha’s son in 1816

Some of the firearms on display dating back to that period

The mosque in the core of the citadel known as Its Kale

Next to the mosque is the wrought iron cage supposedly covering Ali Pasha’s grave

Many works of public art. Some obviously commissioned.

Some commissioned but also functional

Some just for the fun of it

Many on steel shutters, maybe encouraged to cover up or to deter graffiti

Shorter stay than anticipated in Ioannina.  Tomorrow I travel to Parga on the coast.

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