Our perambulations took us next to Perama Cave, near Ioannina, the most widely visited show cave in Greece. We had expected to have to fight our way through all the tourists, but we must have picked a quiet day or time, because the visitors were far outnumbered by the shopkeepers, the whole town seemingly having been turned over to selling souvenirs. Goodness knows how they do cope when a lot of people turned up, parking is very limited. The cave was discovered by chance in 1941 when the locals were looking for somewhere to shelter from the bombardment. When we went out on the nearby lake later, we could see that the cave is situated in an isolated limestone knoll, the whole of which was honeycombed with caves.
Arriving at the entrance we were given a leaflet in English and noted that the temperature in the cave was 17°C, there were 163 steps leading out of the second entrance, and the tour took 45 minutes.
After a short wait the guide appeared and in the company of about 15 other visitors we embarked on what can only be described as a brisk trot through the cave. „Don't you think we're ever going to stop?” Christina asked as we raced up and down steps, across chasms on bridges with no sides and down steep slopes. The leaflet described the numbered stalactites on the tour, the commentary being in Greek only. Our commentary went something like this:
Christina: „That was number 8, the next one we are coming to should be The Leaning Tower of Pisa”.
Me: „Well we've missed it, this one's number 10”.
I was quite glad there was a small child in the party, because at least we could get behind him and pretend that it was his slowness on the stairs that was holding us up rather than our unfit state after so much lack of exercise.
When we did stop we could appreciated what a magnificent cave this is, huge chambers and massive formations some of which have been welded into grotesque shapes through the action of old earthquakes and subsequent calcification. Part way up the 163 steps leading to the exit is a memorial to Ion Petrocheilou, the founder of Greek Speleology. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Perama, which we felt could well be a contender for the title „The fastest Show Cave in Europe”.
Reprinted from The British Caver Vol 103 Winter 1987. With kind permission.
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