Alexandros Kachrimanis knows and loves Epirus as well as anyone, so as Regional Governor his invitation to the world is serious and passionate. He was born and raised in Ioannina. After earning his degree as a Mechanical – Electrical Engineer at the National (Metsovian) Polytechnic University he has worked in Ioannina since 1982, where he lives with his wife and three children.
He entered public service when he was elected municipal councilor for the Metsovo Municipality in 1983. In 2010 he was first elected regional governor of Epirus. He recently spoke to our newspaper about his beloved homeland.
The National Herald: How is Epirus dealing with the pandemic and preparing for visitors?
Alexandros Kachrimanis: Epirus managed to deal with pandemic much better than other parts of the country. In fact, last summer Epirus was one of the areas of Greece that attracted large numbers – according to the data we have for the period – of visitors to the seaside resorts, as it was reported to be a healthy, safe region. Based on these data, we are preparing for the upcoming summer season, as well as for the winter season, which this year we hope will return to the dynamics of the past. The positive thing is that vaccinations are progressing rapidly and by summer the necessary wall of immunity will have been set up. At the same time, tourism businesses are being opened in strict compliance with the health protocols – those who plan to visit Epirus should keep in mind the fact that a very organized Public Health program has been developed to deal with the pandemic.
TNH: What are the major recent infrastructure projects that have impacted tourism?
AK: Epirus is accessible through modern highways, the port of Igoumenitsa, and the airports of Aktio and Ioannina. The region’s isolation ended with the construction of the Egnatia and the Ionian highways, which provide safe and fast transportation from Thessaloniki and Athens. Visitors can quickly reach the mainland’s beaches or mountain resorts for holidays, tours, sports, and leisure activities.
Through the port of Igoumenitsa, Greece and Epirus are connected to Italy and Western Europe, welcoming thousands of tourists every year. Hundreds of charter flights from many European countries enter and depart from the airport of Aktio, which serves the coastal areas of Epirus. The modernization of the airport of Ioannina has opened it to charter flights. After last year's decline in tourism due to COVID 19, a dynamic restart is expected this year – we are expecting many flights from Scandinavia, Israel, etc.
TNH: How is culture included in the general tourism plan of Epirus?
AK: For us, tourism and culture are interrelated – and they are integrated through the promotion and utilization of local quality agricultural products. I want to emphasize that Epirus has a rich cultural heritage from
Ancient Greece, including the ancient theaters of Dodoni, Amvrakia, Gitanon, Kassiopi, and Nikopolis, which the Region of
Epirus has included in an innovative restoration and promotion program, making them absolutely accessible to every visitor. But they are not our only archaeological treasures. Epirus has famous stone bridges and other monuments, like the many famous monasteries which are scattered throughout
In addition to architecture, our cultural heritage includes a rich folk tradition: music, dance, and costumes, which are presented at events that attract the interest of visitors. What we want is for the visitor who comes to Epirus
to have multiple options and this is helped by the fact that the distances are relatively short and one can visit many areas in one day.
TNH: What are some things you love about Epirus?
AK: Having grown up in Metsovo, I feel a powerful love for nature and I am thrilled by the fact that I am live in an area rich in vegetation, seashores, lakes, and rivers. I am also drawn to people who continue to practice traditional professions, which are slowly disappearing. I was saddened to see that historical or religious monuments were being abandoned due to the flight of the population, and despite the fact that they are not the responsibility of local government, we have developed a substantial program for their maintenance-restoration-promotion, having saved many of them.
TNH: What are your favorite foods and songs?
AK: I mainly like the songs of traditional folk music and especially the Vlachs. I usually enjoy them at special events or festivals which each summer take place in almost every village of Epirus – I hope they will be repeated this year if the problems stemming from COVID-19 are overcome.
When I have free time, I also listen to the modern popular music of the great Greek composers, especially those whose origins are in Epirus, such as the late Vassilis Tsitsanis, Apostolos Kaldaras, Takis Mousafiris, etc.
As for the food, I do not have a particular preference, but I like the classic Epirotika, without gourmet flavoring, always cooked with olive oil, i.e. pies, meat, local vegetables and cheeses – which are of guaranteed quality, and I invite all visitors, especially those from America, to enjoy them, along with the incomparable hospitality of Epirus.