One of the very few inhabited lake islands in Europe is in Greece . The island of Ioannina lake holds a unique record as it is the only island in the world without a name.
The verdant island of 200 square kilometers is home for more than 300 people and is known for its traditional Epirus stone-built settlement and used to be the base of Ali Pasha of Janina in the early 19th century. In its tiny heartland, there are seven Byzantine and post-Byzantine monasteries built next to each other, which made it an important place for monarchism in the past. This traditional monastic community is the third largest in the country after those in Mount Athos, Macedonia, and Meteora in Thessaly.
The island stands in the middle of a lake full of legends, while the best known is the one of dame-Frosini, a woman claimed by three men; Ali Pasha, his son and a Greek citizen of Ioannina. Dame-Frosini was later found drowned in the lake. Another legend talks about the existence of a secret tunnel, leading from the island to the city. The island was the location of the monastery of Saint Pantaleon until January 17, 1882.
The Museum of Ali Pasha, the legendary Ottoman leader who rebelled against the Sultan and was killed for it, can also be seen on the island. His room is accessible and the holes from the bullets that killed him are still visible. In addition, local costumes and documents of the era, as well as personal objects of Ali Pasha and dame-Frosini are in display.
Locals believe that the island’s first inhabitants came from Mani, Peloponnese, but this claim has never been historically proven, while archaeological discoveries showed that the first settlement was built on the island during the Copper Age. It reached its prime in the 13th century, when the Despotate of Epirus was established. Four temples were built on the island at that time, while three centuries later, another two followed, resulting in one of Byzantium’s cultural and religious centers.
Its decline came along with Ali Pasha, who trespassed on the monasteries and imposed heavy taxation to the inhabitants. Its natives only returned after his death in 1822. The region of Epirus and the city of Ioannina was liberated by the Greek Army and united with the modern Greek State on February 21, 1913.
Visitors can reach the island by small boats departing from Ioannina every 30 minutes for a journey of only 10 minutes.
(Photo Credit: Efi Pantazi)