Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Zagori part 5 – Villages of Zagori

Time to finish this small series about Zagori. By chance, I just realized that I managed to fit in all posts in December, so I can call this “December with Zagorochoria” :-P I will come back to this region in some undefined future, but for now, lets close this one and go back to Patras.
As the finali, I want to write about villages themselves. The name Zagorochoria, after all, means exactly “the villages”, so they could easily be the first not the last to mention. But, last does not mean least :-P The villages are integral part of Zagorian landscape and therefore cannot be missed in the whole picture. Traditional stone buildings covered with slate roofs, narrow cobbled streets made entirely from local stone, central main squares under the shadow of big platano tree, with cafes and tavernas around, impressive stone churches – all this is not an everyday view. Inside the houses, You can find wooden carvings on the ceiling, walls decorated with painted cupboards, almost always a tzaki in the corner. Traditional guest houses offer old wooden furniture and beautiful carpets on the wooden floors. All this wood and stone combination gives impressive look both to interior and exterior of each building.

The Zagorian villages during years of foreign occupation were the main areas of maintaining and preserving the Greek heritage. Today, villages of Papigko and Monodendri are entirely declared as national historical monuments. The village from the photo is Kipoi (gr “the gardens”) located on the hill on its south side, bathing in morning sun. It was a little frosty morning, when I took the photo, though You can see a gentle fog and morning smog over the houses coming out out tzakia.

Photo: NIKON D70s, AP, f 1/8, 1/250s, -0.3EV, f=78 mm (for 35mm), GIMP software

Monday, December 12, 2011

Zagori part 4 – Stone Bridges of Zagori

Probably every photo or any leaflet advertising Zagori, will include at least one of stone bridges from the region. They are as important and recognizable part of Zagori landscape, as Acropolis is for Athens. For a long time, I was  convinced that these stone bridges are exclusive for Zagori only. It was much later when I realized they can be found in other places in all north‑western Greece.
So far I have managed to visit mostly the main ones during my two visits to Zagori, along them the bridges of: Kleidonia, Aristis, Kalogeriko, Petsioni, Milou, Kontodimou, Kokkorou. They are all impressive and in very good condition after being recently renovated as part of revitalization program for Zagori using European Union’s funds. Most are dated for 18th century, when they replaced old wooden ones. Some, until early 20th century, were the only way to the villages located higher in the mountains. 

By far, the most famous is Kalogeriko, just outside village of Kipoi. It’s uniqueness comes from the size and shape. It has three arch sections, not just one which is the case for most of the other bridges. The famous shape reminds a moving warm.

But it’s not the one I have enjoyed the most. Bigger impression gave me, a little low profile bridge of Petsioni, from the second photo, located just 1km east from Kipoi. Actually I don’t think many people pay a visit to this one. It’s a little bit on a side of more popular spots in Zagori. It’s all covered with plants, trees and moss, that all together give it an extra-old look, like it would be not three hundred years old but at least a thousand :-P I have immediately pictured a scene from Lord of the Rings when I saw it. I am not sure, but it actually looks like not renovated, like it would preserve in it’s original condition.

Photo1: NIKON D70s, (program), f 1/7.1, 1/320s, -0.3EV, f=51 mm (for 35mm), GIMP software

Photo2: NIKON D70s, (program), f 1/7.1, 1/160s, -0.3EV, f=27 mm (for 35mm), GIMP software

Friday, December 9, 2011

Zagori part 3 – The land of Tsipouro

As I wrote in the introduction post to Zagori, there are many different reasons to go there. One of them, very often the main and only one, is famous zagorian food. I would like to believe that in my case, it was not, but who knows… Anyway, during my first visit, I have decided to try all the famous flavors of Zagori. I had read some recipes in a guide and saw some photos of traditional cousin and fall in love immediately. Pitas with famous alevropita and “naked” chortopita on top of the list, wild boar from the oven, home made meatballs (gr. keftadakia), fried feta and of course the tsipouro! The best one You can get in Greece! You can imagine how happy and hungry I was the first evening, entering taverna after 9‑hour hike to the peak of Gkamila, having only some snacks during the day… I opened the menu, full of “specialties of the day” and wanted to order all of it. Just from the top of my head, as I recall, I have tried that evening: cooked rooster, cooked beef in tomato sauce with kritharaki, fresh and crispy alevropita, delicious home made meatballs and grilled local sausages (gr χωριατικο λουκανικο). All this with company of tsipouro of course! A loooot of tsipouro! And after all this, desert, nice and juicy piece of orange cake (portokalopita) :-D

But it's not only cooked and grilled stuff. There is also plenty of choice in food that You can buy and take home with You. Among them: traditional variety of sweets (different kinds of fruits in sugar syrop), home made marmeladas (with my favorite plum and forest fruits flavors), trachana and chilopites, herbs and tees... But You have to be very careful, none of it is cheap! One simple visit to a shop offering traditional products, can cost You 50E and more depending on Your appetite :-P
I don't have any food photo, I have never taken one in my life, as I prefer tasty than good looking kind of food :-P and, by far, I prefer photos of landscapes and food on my plate. Instead, I post a photo of one of many stores with traditional food and sweets. You can find at least 2 or 3 of them in every village. This one is from Kapesovo, located directly at the main square.

Photo: NIKON D70s, Aperture priority, f 1/7.1, 1/400s, -0.3EV, f=27 mm (for 35mm), GIMP software

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Zagori part 2 – The Deepest Gorge in the world

Absolutely the most famous hiking route in Zagori is the path connecting villages of Monodendri and Vikos, through the Vikos gorge. It's a little tricky to achieve in one day, as it takes about 6-7h one way. The solution can be to arrange transportation back to start, or to walk “almost” all of distance and simply return to the point of start. Whatever You choose, You will not regret. The hike is unforgettable! You can really feel the power of nature when You reach the bottom and look up at 1km high “walls” of the gorge!

The gorge, varying from 400 to 1100m in depth and 400m to only few in width, is stated in Guiness Book of Records, as the deepest gorge in the world. There are some controversies about that, as it’s a delicate matter of definition of a “gorge” itself in comparison to “canyon”, not allowing higher values of width-depth ratio, but regardless of this, it is simply huge. The length is about 20km, starting in area close to villages of Monodendri, Vitsa and Koukouli, and stretching until Vikos, where Voidomatis river starts.

I post You two photos: one taken from the bottom of the gorge; the other from most famous view point in Zagori, called Mpeloi (or Beloi), some 950m above the place from where the first photo was taken. Before visiting Zagori, I read about Mpeloi in a guide, where I found such text: “when You finally reach the view point, be prepared Your jaw to drop” :-P And it really is true! I have done some hiking in my life and seen some amazing views, but this one was really outstanding all the previous! No photo will give You that impression, the size and the power of the gorge. You need to see it live, to experience it Yourself, as it's more of overall feeling than just a view.

Photo1: NIKON D70s, Aperture priority, f 1/7.1, 1/640s, -0.3EV, f=27 mm (for 35mm), GIMP software

Photo2: NIKON D70s, Aperture priority, f 1/8, 1/500s, -0.3EV, f=27 mm (for 35mm), GIMP software

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zagori part 1 – The Introduction

I wanted to write about Zagori for a long time now, ss it's so far my favorite part of inland Greece. The region is totally different from the Greece’s stereotype shown in TV commercials, where mostly beaches of Aegean islands appear. And the truth is that Greece has so much more to offer than just rocky shores, clear waters of Mediterranean and endless beach bars.
Zagori, or the alter name Zagorochoria, is a land north from city of Ioannina in Pindos mountains in northwest Greece. It's a administrative area of 45 villages. The name Zagorochoria, comes from a combination of “zagori” from Balkan languages meaning simply “behind mountains”, and greek “choria” (gr. χώρια) meaning “villages”, so as the whole name could be translated to “the villages behind mountains”.
The area it's very popular among Greeks. Specially citizens of Thessaloniki (about 70% of all tourists for the region) visit the area often since new Egnatia highway was fully opened,  connecting Ioannena to Macedonia, that made the trip possible within 2h. For me the trip is not yet so comfortable. The Ionian highway, connecting Peloponnese, from Kalamata through Patras, to Ioannena, is still deep deep on paper only :-/ About 250km distance takes from 3 up to even 4,5h depending on traffic conditions.

There are hundreds of reasons to visit Zagori: could be the deepest in the world, famous Vikos gorge with Voidomatis river considered to be the cleanest in Europe, could be the food with pitas and not less famous tsipouro, could be the villages restored to their original old style or numerous stone bridges – all this, completely different in all four seasons of the year. I can only guarantee that whatever reason will it be for You, each visit will reveal something else, and as a result You will want to come again. This was exactly the case for me, and still is, I still want to go there another and another time. So, with this post, I start a small series about Zagori.
As an introduction, I post a panoramic photo of Vikos gorge, taken from village of Dikorfo. You can easily observe huge size of the gorge, but also with a little closer look, You might spot villages on the left (Vitsa and Monodendri) and Gamila peak on the right. The name of the peak in greek language means “the camel”, which can be understood from this photo from the shape of the peaks.

Photo: NIKON D70s, Aperture priority, f 1/7.1, 1/800s, -0.3EV, f=57 mm (for 35mm), GIMP software