Parga, written by PERIKLIS KARAMINAS
Having first been given authorisation from the author we have taken extracts from the book to give you a view of the history of Parga and knowledge of the Parga of today. This book can be bought from many shops in Parga, published by Ilianthos.
The beautiful secluded bay on the coast of Epirus on which we now find Parga was, according to the finding of a grave that dates between 1320 and 1200 BC, already inhabited during Mycenaen time. The ancient city of Toryne, a colony of the Aeliers was located on this place.During the Hellenic period the city of Toryne was replaced to the West. The centre was formed by a fortified hill, on which we nowadays can find the ruins of the acropolis. After the defeat at Pydna in 168 BC of Macedonian King Perseus, the Romans under Aemilius Paul destroyed all the cities of Epiros. After the destruction the place disappeared in time. In the year 1320 the Byzantine City of Parga was mentioned for the first time in a commerce treaty between the bishop of Romania and Venice. This place is now called Paleoparga. The city was faithful to the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos 111.Some where around the year 1360 the inhabitants began to built on the rocks where nowadays stands the Venetian fortress.
There is a legend which explains why the Parganiotes abandoned Old Parga and came to settle here in New Parga : "A certain shepherd, found in a small cave, in the position of present-day Parga, an icon of the Virgin, in front of which shone a sacred flame. He reported it and the people went and brought the icon to the old Parga. But the Icon returned like a miracle to the cave. Following this, many inhabitants left Old Parga and came to settle here in Parga. The Holy Icon is named Panayopoula. The icon is among other relics of Parga on display in the Agios Nicolaos church. It is said that even the name Parga is due to the icon i.e. that it is a shortening of the adjective of Panagia, "Hyperagia" "Peragia" - "Paragia", "Parga". It is however also said that the word is Slavic and means the same as Prague.
As for the real reason for abandoning Parga may also been the desire of the inhabitants to escape the frequent attacks of the Albanians. The new settlement was not only closer to the shore but it was also naturally very well protected. Parga managed to stay out of reach of the Ottoman Empire that had conquered large parts of Greece. At that time the Normans ruled the Ionian Sea and the islands within it. Parga asked the Normans for protection against the attacks of the Slavs, Albanians and Turks, despite this the Servo-Albanese Boukoi took Parga in 1394. On 21 March 1401 Parga came under Venetian rule, it kept however a certain way of freedom. During this time the olive tree was planted in great quantities. As a result of that the trade in olive oil flourished. The present fortress was built during the Venetian time. The Venetians ruled over Parga, except from a few short interruptions, until 179?? The first attack under the Turks took place in 1452, one year before the fall of Constantinople. An army of 12.000 Ottoman warriors captured the city and oppressed her for two years. The most frightful pirate Kheir el-din Barbarossa, an admiral of the Ottoman fleet, whose mother was Greek, destroyed the whole fortified city in 1537. In the year 1571 the army of Ali Pasha attacked the city. With the peace treaty between the Venetian and Ottoman Empire begun from 1573 -1644 a prosperous time. The generous treatment on the part of the Venetians, was due to the fact that the Venetian state considered it indispensable to retain Parga. "Parga sara sempre 1'occhioe 1'oreccio di Corfiz, percioc he'dobbiamo tereta con tutte le forze". i.e. "Parga will always be the eye and the ear of Corfu and we must keep it at all costs". Thanks to Parga, the Senate of the Venetian Republic "saw" and "heard" all that happened in neighbouring Epirus, and from there, in all Turkey. Parga had always been a fortified bulwark and could also become a bridgehead if necessary. The treaty finished in 1645. After the end of the treaty followed an unsuccessful attack in 1657 by 4.000 Turks. The year after the army grew with 2.000 man. The Siege lasted all together three years but without success. At that time the city of Parga had about 5.000 inhabitants. On 21 July 1718 Venice and the Emperor of Austria Charles VI on the one side and the Ottoman Empire on the other side signed the treaty of Passarovitch. The treaty proved for the last time the hegemony of Venice over the Ionian Sea and it's coastline. The end of the hegemony came after the peace treaty of Campo Formino. Manin the last Doge of Venice bowed for Austria and resigned. When in 1797, Venice surrendered under the blows of Bonaparte, Parga, like the Ionian islands. In 1797 the French sent troops to Parga and they began with the construction of a fortress on the small island Panagia in front of the coast of Parga. Parga remained faithful to them in spite of the promises at first, and then, the threats of the notorious Ali Pasha and the Turks. But this continued only until 1800 when Ali Pasha came with 6.000 of his Albanians and laid siege. To ward off the danger, as the French were very few, the Parganiotes hoisted the Russian flag on the fort, taking advantage of the fact that a Russian fleet, then patrolled the Ionian Islands. As a result of a peculiar treaty between the Russian Tsar and the Ottoman Empire the Septinsulaire Republic was created, by which Parga was recognised as an autonomous region with sufficient coastal hinterland on the mainland. Parga came under Russian influence. But in 1807 Ali Pasha again attempted unsuccessfully to capture Parga. Through the treaty of Tilsit 1807, Parga came again under French rule. Ali Pasha did not dare attack Parga because the French had sent a small garrison to Parga. The lost battle of Napoleon near Waterloo in 1815 had a disastrous impact on the history of Parga. In the year 1815 the Parganiotes, at the instigation of British agents, surprised and disarmed the French and handed their city over to the English. The British wanted Parga only as a lever in their bargaining with the Turks, so that the Turks should concede to their occupation of the Ionian Islands. Thus England, after holding Parga two years, decided to sell it to Ali Pasha who had made proposals to purchase it. In the year 1817 the British sold Parga for 150.000 pound to the Turks. It devastated the citizens of Parga, for they knew what feelings that tyrant nursed against them, especially after his last war against the Suliotes. Then, the latter, following on Ali's treachery, had found shelter in Parga. In desperation, the Parganiotes all decided to abandon their beloved town, and indeed on the l5th of April, which also happened to be Good Friday (a day of deep mourning for all Greek Orthodox people) they burned the remaining bones of their ancestors. They also wanted to take the sacred vessels of their churches, but were prevented by the English. They were altogether 4,000 men, women and children. At twilight they embarked in their caiques which were to take them to the island of Kerkyra, where the Turks had never set foot. At the same moment, 300 soldiers - the vanguard of Ali Pasha, who took over the town from the English - entered Parga. A part of them returned in 1831. They found that nothing belonged to them any longer. The Turks were now owners of their lands and houses, and the inhabitants were compelled to work for them as labourers on their lands. Parga stayed almost hundred years until 1913 under Turkish oppression.
The town of Parga is about 50 km south of Igoumenitsa on the shore of the Ionian sea, opposite the islands Paxoi and Antipaxoi. Parga rises like an amphitheatre up the slopes surrounding the small secluded bay. The small harbour and the boulevard with a lot of restaurants, taverns, bars and cafes whose chairs and tables fill the pavement, the narrow alleyways without car traffic give Parga it's own intimate atmosphere. A string of small rocky islands protects the bay. The largest island has a whitewashed chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, another chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and a small fort built by the French in 1808. You can swim from the beach here or in the smaller bay along the shore to the east. Parga today has about 2.500 inhabitants. The surrounding area is planted with olive, orange, lemon, mandarin and other fruit trees, which cover all the other hills around.
The olive tree dominates as you may well have noticed the surrounding area. No wonder because there are about a hundred thousand olive trees in Parga. The trees are much higher here than in other parts of Greece because nobody trimmed them during the Turkish occupation. The trade in olives and olive-oil is except from the tourism the main source of income.
The first settlement on the high rocks dates probably back until 1360 when the inhabitants of the old Parga for safety reasons began to leave their more inland village and settled close to the sea. At that time Parga stood under the protection of the Normans. To protect the settlement against the constant threat from Albanians, Turks and pirates it was built high on the rocks. The main fortress, built on the summit of the hill is called Erimokastro. The hill forms a peninsula with the sea on three sides, as though protecting the place. About 400 houses were built within the area of the fortress and an equal number lower, outside it, but still within the area enclosed by the wall of Parga. The fortress on the summit effectively protected the city, not only from the landward side but also from the seaward and especially the SW side. Because, below the hill is the harbour which is divided by the peninsular hill of Parga into two bays. The one bay however, has islands and reefs and its navigation is more difficult. Parga was a hard to capture town and assaults by land were doomed to failure as were also attacks by sea, because when a storm blew, every ship which took part in the siege was in danger of being dashed to pieces against the rocks. Protected as it was, by nature, the position was further reinforced by the fortresses. Parga had enough water to be under siege for long time. Two cisterns in the fort were always kept full, and except to that, there was a spring towards the NW side of the hill which was called Kremasma. No enemy dared to come as near as that, because he could be hit from the fortress not only with weapons, but even with stones from the ramparts of the fort. In short, there was no hope of success for a siege, either by land or by sea. The Venetians enlarged the fortress and modernised it according to the latest rules with twenty cannons. After being destroyed twice the fortress was for the third and last time rebuild in 1571. From the steep West side you will have a magnificent view over the surrounding area. The symbol of Venice, the winged lion also symbol of the Saint Mark protector of Venice, and the year 1764 crowns the entrance gate. The fortress is divided in a lower and an upper terrace. After you have passed the entrance gate you will come in the lower terrace. From here you have a breathtaking view over Parga and its coastline. You can walk along the old storehouses until the bench. Here you can turn right and walk up the stone stairs to the upper terrace. Left and right of the second gate you will see the symbol of Ali Pasha and the date May 1820. Ali Pasha believed that he was the successor of the Byzantine empire for that he used the same symbol, the double headed eagle. Left and right are storehouses. On the highest point of the fortress Ali Pasha constructed a Hamam or bathhouse. From here you will see one of the most beautiful beaches in Western Greece the Bay of Valtos.
The Tiny Island of Panagia
On the small island direct in front of Parga you will find two churches. The most important is the Panagia with its high white bell tower. The holy icon Panagia forms the highlight during the processions on August 6,15 and 29. Agios Nicolaos also has his own small church on the tiny island. On the South are the ruins of the French fortress. From the small beach of Ammopoulis next to the church of Agios Nicolaos you can swim or row back to Parga.
The Bay of Valtos
Hidden behind the Venetian Fortress you can see the large beautiful golden sand beach of Valtos. Valtos means swamp and this finger point to the numerous wells in this area. The road to it winds along the steep slopes behind the town among tall olive trees, where black nets, spread out in autumn to collect the olive crop, are left rolled up beneath the trees for most of the year. The public road to Valtos beach runs right down to the middle of the strand, so everybody in town who wants to get there does. You can enjoy the soft sandy beach along the turquoise sea. On the end of the beach between the lush vegetation you will see the monastery of Vlacherna. The monastery is from far recognisable by its high bell tower. A small path at the end of the bay, near the small fishing harbour will lead you to the ruins of the monastery. From the monastery you can see the beautiful rough coastline to the north. The view towards Valtos beach, the fortress and Parga is also splendid. The bell tower continues to have several well-preserved ornaments. All together well worth to visit.
The beach Krioneri lies under the Kanari square in the centre of Parga. On the right you see the Venetian Fortress, in front lies the tiny island of Panagia, with the small church of Agios Nicolaos and its high pine trees. In the evening you can enjoy the beautiful sunset. The full moon during the night will give an extra dimension to the sea.
When you walk along the beach of Krioneri you find the beach of Piso Krioneri. The beach is behind hotels and shops. The quietness and the sound of the sea make you forget all your sorrow. Maybe you are lucky and you will see the ballet of the fireflies at night. The Onion and the Garlic two rocks in the sea are waiting to be photographed.
The beautiful sand beach of Lichnos is only 4 km outside Parga in the direction of Preveza. You can reach the beach by car or by boat. On the beach are several apartment buildings and hotels. Under the shadow of one of the many olive trees you can enjoy a meal or a refreshing drink. The sea is clear and has a beautiful colour blue. At the end of the beach the red rocks rise out of the sea. In the rocks the sea shaped several sea caves. One of the famous ones is the Blue Cave or Cave of Aphrodite. The cave owes his name to the bright variety of blue colours. The blue cave is so large that you can go inside with a small boat. When you arrive by boat from Parga to Lichnos you will pass a few hidden beaches.
Excursions from Parga
From Parga, you can visit the island of Paxi and Antipaxi. The boats leave at 9:30 in the morning and take approximately one hour and 15 minutes to reach Paxi and Antipaxi, where they stay until 4:00 P.M. You can visit or Paxi alone or you can visit first the tiny island Antipaxi with its beautiful beaches and after Paxi. You can also take a boat to the Nekromanteion at 9:30 in the morning. This excursion takes one hour to reach the Acheron river at Ammoudia, from which you must walk about 20 minutes to reach the ancient site. The boat returns to Parga after two hours, stopping at Lichnos beach were you can swim. You will be back around 4:00 in Parga. There are also different bus excursions to places like Dodona, Ioannina and Zalongo.
We hope you have enjoyed reading about Parga and we would like to thank
for allowing us to publish these extracts.