If you have been around Kicking Back the Pebbles for a while, you know we’ve been exploring (part of) the region of Epirus, in northwestern Greece. We deployed the city of Ioannina as our center of “operations” and that gave us the ability to launch in a number of different directions around the region and take daily road trips to places of interest: After we visited Metsovo and the Vikos–Aoös National Park in the regional unit of Ioannina, we’re off to the regional units of Thesprotia and Preveza.
You need about an hour and ten minutes (45.9 mi) through the Egnatia/A2 Motorway (part of the European E90 Route) and the provincial road “Melligon-Paramythias” to reach the area known as Acheron Springs, right after the village of Glyki in Thesprotia—the river has several springs, like the ones of Mt. Tomaros in Ioannina and the ones of mounts Souli and Paramythia in Thesprotia, but the springs of Glyki stem from Mt. Vouvopotamos in Preveza.
In ancient Greek mythology, Acheron—crossing all 3 regional units of Ioannina, Thesprotia, and Preveza, and flowing into the Ionian sea near Parga—is known as the “river of woe”. It was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld (along with Styx, Phlegethon/Pyriphlegethon, Lethe, and Cocytus). In other trivia:
- Homer refers to it as the river of Hades, into which Cocytus & Phlegethon both flowed. The newly dead would be ferried across the Acheron by Charon, the ferryman of Hades, in order to enter the Underworld. Another branch of Acheron was believed to surface at the Acherusian Cape—now Karadeniz Ereğli, in Turkey—and was traveled by, by the Argonauts.
- Greek settlers in Italy identified the Acherusian lake, into which Acheron flowed, with Lake Avernus in Campania.
- Plato in “Phaedo” maintained Acheron was the second greatest river in the world, excelled only by Oceanus. He claimed that Acheron flowed in the opposite direction from Oceanus beneath the earth, under desert places.
- Virgil mentions Acheron, with the rest of the infernal rivers, in his description of the underworld in Book VI of the “Aeneid”. Also, in Book VII-line 312, he comes up with Juno’s famous saying “Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo/If I cannot bend the will of Heaven, I shall move Hell.”
- Sigmund Freud uses the quote in the introduction of his book “The Interpretation of Dreams”, identifying Acheron with the psychological underworld beneath the conscious mind.
- In Dante’s Inferno, the Acheron river forms the border of Hell and per Greek mythology, Charon ferries souls across the river to Hell, while those who were neutral in life sit on the banks.
Later in the day, you can head from Acheron to Párga to grab dinner and enjoy the sunset by the seaside. You need about half an hour (18 mi) through a couple of provincial roads, namely the roads “Kanali-Morfis” to “Morfis-Anthousas” to “Perdikas-Párgas”. There’s also an alternative route (25 mi-43 minutes) through the National Road EO18/“Prevezas-Igoumenitsas”.
A major tourist destination, famous for its orange and olive groves, Párga is a port town in western Greece and a municipality of Preveza. It lies on the Ionian Sea just across Paxos Island. In 1401 it was ruled by the Venetians, who by 1572 built the mole that forms the present harbor, over which stands a Venetian fortress. Quasi-independent under Venice for almost three centuries, the area enjoyed great privileges, experienced economic prosperity, and served as a bridge between the rest of Ottoman-ruled Greece and Venice. In 1797 it got taken by Franks but only two years later, it got seized by the Russian fleet. It remained a part of the independent Ionian Republic until 1807, when, under the Treaty of Tilsit, it was returned to France. In 1814, however, the city accepted British protection.
Then, in 1819 Britain invoked the Russo-Turkish Convention of 1800, by terms of which Párga was surrendered to Turkey, provided that no mosque be built or Muslims settle there. This British move was largely regarded as an act of betrayal and rather than submit to Turkish rule, about 4,000 locals chose to migrate to the Ionian Islands—mostly in Corfu. The Turkish government was thankfully constrained to pay compensations, while a few families returned in 1822. Párga was taken back by the Greeks during the Balkan Wars (1912–13) and got officially annexed to Greece in 1913.
*images by Athina D. Pantazatou for Kicking Back the Pebbles
So there you have it—a round-up of roughly 250 miles, driven in 4 days while hitting up some of the most popular locations in the region of Epirus in northwestern Greece. There are of course countless more routes to follow and places of interest to consider, so y’all know a comeback is due in the near future. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out the posts on Ioannina and the rest of the routes:
- Ioannina–Part 1 (history, culture)
- Ioannina–Part 2 (Lake Pamvotida, Ali Pasha Museum)
- Ioannina–Part 3 (the Perama Cave)
- Papigo (Zagorohoria) & the Vikos-Aoös National Park (Vikos Village–Vikos Gorge–Voidomatis River)