Epirus – a Diverse and Fascinating Destination for Culture
Author: Amber Charmei
Epirus is famous for its nature. With the world-famous Vikos Gorge, the dramatic Pindus mountains, and glassy lake Pamvotida – among the many, many destinations for the adventurous – this is no wonder. On a trip with Epirus.Travel, we discovered that Epirus offers the adventure of all kinds. We loved discovering their exciting culinary and wine scene, for instance. And for culture, Epirus offers some first-rate museum experiences, with a surprising breadth. From the expected – traditional culture and history to the unexpected – contemporary art, the museums were excellent. Epirus Travel introduced us to some of them on an amazing discovery trip they arranged for Travel Bloggers Greece.
Tradition and History at the Baron Michael Tossizza Foundation
This museum unites the generous legacies of not on but two important historic families of the region – the Tossizzas and the Averoffs. The last of the surviving Tossizzas and a descendent of the great benefactor Michael A. Tossizza was living in Switzerland in the 1930s and 40s. He had no heirs and had decided to leave much of his fortune to his ancestral region. Through the encouragement of Evangelos Averoff, he established a foundation in Tossizza’s name. The great statesman Evangelos Averoff administered the foundation and added Tossizza to his surname.
The foundation supported education and development in the Metsovo region, and it also established the Metsovo Folk Art Museum. The setting is marvelous – the traditional Tossizza mansion itself, built in 1661. The mansion opened to the public as a museum in 1955.
The displays and objects are worthy in themselves – Metsovo has a very rich tradition in crafts and the textiles, in particular, are outstanding. But what makes the experience of the Metsovo Folk Art Museum so interesting is that the exhibits are in their original context. We see the cookware in the former kitchen, the furnishings in the sitting rooms and bedrooms, the looms, and textiles in a workroom. This gives insight into the way of life of centuries past.
The top floor of the mansion is actually an addition of the 20th century, albeit a seamless addition in faithful historical style. This top floor was used by Evangelos Averoff and his family for holidays, where they lived in great simplicity surrounded by the traditional style and crafts of Metsovo.
… and More about Mr. Averoff
It was very interesting seeing the spartan and elegant living quarters of Evangelos Averof and his family. At the Katogi-Averoff Winery, you can learn more about this fascinating figure, as a small area of the winery is devoted to Evangelos Averoff. Here, in addition to correspondence and various medals of honor, there are all of his books. He was not only a politician and a philanthropist but also a writer. His books are not only works of political science and history, but also novels, short stories, and plays.
The Averoff Museum of Neohellenic Art
You might expect to see a Folk Art Museum in Metsovo, This mountainous traditional village is the perfect example of a beautifully preserved and elegant town of another era, with stone architecture and beautiful woodwork. So what you do not necessarily expect to find is a modern art collection. On the other hand, having been introduced to the extraordinary cultural legacy of Mr. Averoff, it’s not completely surprising, either. Evangelos Averoff amassed an excellent collection of works by the most famous Greek artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. It is now on display at the Averoff Museum of Neohellenic Art. The works cover genre painting, impressionism, modernism, post-war abstraction, printmaking, and sculpture, giving a tremendous overview of modern Greek art.
Works by Nikolaos Gyzis, Konstantinos Maleas, Giannis Tsarouchis, Giannis Moralis, and Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas are among the many in this excellent collection.
The Ali Pasha Museum of Ioannina
Ioannina is famously built on the shores of glassy and atmospheric Lake Pamvotis. In the middle of this lake, there’s a small island. The whole island feels like a museum, and it nearly is. There are several historic monasteries on the island – the first founded in the 13th century.
On the island is the Museum of Ali Pasha, where you can learn something of the history of this famous and complex figure, ruler of the region for 30 years until being declared a rebel and hunted down to this very spot to be killed by the Sultan’s forces. Personal effects on display include his golden gun and his famously long pipe.
The Castra of Ioannina
Ioannina’s magnificent Byzantine fortress is very large and much of it is intact. It received even more fortifications in the Ottoman era, and some additions as well, including the Aslan Pasha mosque, the Fethiye mosque, and the Saray – palace – rebuilt in the ‘Iç Kale’ – ‘inner fortress.’ The remains of Ali Pasha are in a tomb outside the Fethiye mosque, beneath an elaborate metal cage.
In the great castle of Ioannina, you’ll find the Municipal Ethnographic Museum of Ioannina in the former Aslan Pasha Mosque. A former Royal Pavilion built in 1958 is the Byzantine Museum of Ioannina. The castle of Ioannina also houses one of the loveliest museums we have seen on all of our travels – the silversmithing museum.
The Silversmithing Museum of Ioannina
When I saw the Silversmithing Museum in Ioannina on our itinerary, I really did not know what to expect. Possibly a workshop with some examples of the craft. What I didn’t expect was this thorough history of a craft for which Ioannina has long been famous, world-class examples, and a setting that was pure magic.
The Silversmithing Museum of Ioannina is an initiative of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation. The bare stone walls and dramatic high arches of the southeastern bastion of the Iç Kale have been repurposed to showcase the history of silversmithing in Ioannina. Here, you get a complete overview of the techniques and styles, as well as display cases filled with glorious objects. This is an informative and beautiful museum – one of the highlights of our already absolutely extraordinary stay.
Epirus for Museums and Culture
Epirus is a fantastic destination for culture. In addition to the museums we visited, there are several more that we need to make time for on a future visit, including the Municipal Art Gallery of Ioannina and the Municipal and Ethnographic Museum of Ioannina.
Epirus is also full of magnificent traditional stone villages, famous bridges, and many churches and monasteries, such as the astonishing Kipinas Monastery, built dramatically into the face of a cliff.
Between the hiking and exploring nature, and enjoying the famous Zagorohoria, you’ll certainly want to make time for some of the superb museums of Epirus.