Agia Paraskevi (or Kerasovo, as its old name was) is a beautiful mountain village in the municipality of Konitsa in the regional unit of Ioannina. It is built on the northwestern slopes of Smolikas, the second highest mountain in Greece, at an altitude of 960 meters. It is 27 km away from Konitsa.
The village is built between dense forests of pine, beech, boxwood and heldreich’s pine. On the left and on the right of the village there are two rivers, Kakolakkos and Vourkopotamos rivers, with their crystal clear icy waters. Agia Paraskevi is surrounded by two high mountain peaks, Tzoumia and Anilio. In winter it has about 100 permanent residents, while in the summer they exceed 1,000.
The visitor will be impressed by the landscapes with their untouched natural beauty and the abundant waters, as well as by the large square, which is surrounded by stone buildings and is covered with age-old plane trees.
Agia Paraskevi is an authentic Mastorochori village since most of its inhabitants used to be engaged in the craft art and transport (“kyratzides-agogiates”). “Kerasovites” stone-builders worked in various parts of Greece and abroad. Today, the villagers are engaged in logging and animal husbandry. Cattle, goats and sheep are bred on the slopes of Smolikas and Tambouri.
The musical tradition of the village is special. Even today, famous musicians (Filipidaioi and Betzaioi) entertain the people at the traditional festivals of the wider area. In recent years, in August, a Polyphonic Song Festival is organized, under the supervision of Xanthoula Dakovanou, professor of music therapy at the University of Denis Diderot-Paris7, and the orchestra of Nikos Filippidis. On June 24th, during the feast of Airigogiannis, the women gather oregano from the oregano mountain (3 hours walk from the village) with dances and songs. On June 30th, a festival is held in the chapel of Agios Theodosios. Every year on the feast of Agia Paraskevi (July 26th) there is a two-day festival, followed by a service in the small church, at the top of the village, followed by dancing, eating and drinking in the square with great participation of people. On the 14th of August there is a revival of a local custom, while on the 15th of August there is a popular night in the village square.
Also characteristic is the custom of making the “bontza” (clay pan for baking bread or pie) by women during the summer months. The Brotherhood of Agia Paraskevi “To Kerasovo” is based in Athens and in the village there is the Youth Educational Association “O Smolikas”, which undertakes the various cultural events.
In Agia Paraskevi, a Folklore Museum has been operating since August 2010 in a listed building in the village square. The museum houses more than 400 exhibits.
Several churches of the village are interesting, such as the central church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary which was built in 1812 and has remarkable hagiographies (1812), Ag. Nikolaos (1850) and the church of Agia Paraskevi of the patron saint who gave its name to the village. It was built (after 1850) on the foundations of an older church also dedicated to Agia Paraskevi. Also the churches of: Agios Dimitrios (1926), Agios Athanasios, Agia Barbara, Prophitis Elias and Agia Triada are remarkable.
Worth noting are the old mills and fountains of the village, as well as the building of the old primary school. In the center of the village stands out a large building, which belongs to the Brotherhood of Agia Paraskevi. In general, the urban form of the village is monocentric with the center in the middle including: the “mesochori”, the two uneven squares and the 12 “mahalades” (neighbourhoods), which correspond to various strong families (such as Tsoubanaioi, Papagiannaioi, Vailades etc.).
For those who love nature and lovers of mountain hiking, the village and its surrounding areas offer many options. There are various paths that one can follow and “get lost” in the lush forests. The routes and the nature reserve surprises for the walker in terms of the flora and fauna of the place.
Agia Paraskevi is also an ideal base for excursions to Smolikas, the second highest mountain in Greece after Olympus. From Kerasovo begins the mountaineering path to Drakolimni and the great peak of Smolikas at 2637m. There are also other smaller paths in the forests around the village.
Smolikas (maximum altitude 2,637 meters) belongs to North Pindos and is generally a smooth mountain, full of large forests of beeches, oaks and heldreich’s pines. Its main features are its many peaks and its rich nature which is a habitat for many and rare species of fauna. There are two wild and “virgin” areas: “Valia Kirna” (in Vlach means cursed valley) and “Vathilakos” which ends in Agia Paraskevi.
In Kerasovo there is appropriate accommodation to spend the night and also to enjoy good food (roast lamb and the famous “kokoretsi”) in the taverns of the village.