The goal of my adventures to the north was to scout the route for the American School's Regular Program tour. To do that I drove from Kastoria to Florina, on to Edessa, and then back to Kastoria via lake Mikri Prespa. Florina provide a nice little museum and Hellenistic site with some fine examples of domestic architecture.
Edessa would have been a more interesting place, but it was pouring rain. My interest for even the finest Hellenistic ashlar masonry in the pouring rain is limited. They seem to have excavated some houses there and, recently, several cemeteries. Modern Edessa is known for its waterfalls. So, since it was too rainy to take good archaeological pictures (and perhaps too boring!), I'll include a photo of a waterfall:
The work at both Edessa and Florina sheds valuable light on the geographic extent of what we might call typical Greek cities during the Hellenistic period (and this has obvious implications for the promotion of Greek Nationalism in an area like Western Macedonia which even a century ago had substantial non-Greek speaking populations).
A small snow shower made the trip over the mountains west of Florina more exciting. Who would have thought that it would snow in Greece before North Dakota?
And the low hanging clouds made my visit to the island of Ay. Achilleos in lake Mikri Prespa more dramatic. It's reached by a pontoon bridge.
My goal visiting the island was to see the massive late 10th century basilica, likely built under Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria. This building shows a conscious adoption of a monumental, Early Christian style (note the foundation of the centrally placed ambo in the foreground), perhaps designed to lend legitimacy to his newly expanded state. Ultimately Bulgarian control over this area was terminated rather abruptly by Basil II's victory at Kleidion in 1014. According to our sources, the Bulgarian army was defeated, and Basil took 10,000 men captive, blinding all but 1 per thousand to lead the defeated men home. Charming guy, Basil II...