intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
Forget about postcard Greece with its antique temples, bleached terraces and busy tourist beaches. The Anemi Zagori Guest house is a great way to see Greek history through a totally different lens. The unpretentious, friendly atmosphere of a mountain shepherds’ village is seen against a backcloth of the changing seasons.
A village perched amid torrents and rocks, typical of the age-old rural architecture of Epirus. The region is so wild, so authentically preserved that UNESCO has included it on its list of world heritage sites. Lila, Pavlos and their children will make your welcome to their fireside unforgettable and be delighted to share with you their passion for typical Greek cuisine and the wool weaver’s art.
This beautiful stone arch is a typical example of Zagori architecture © Anemi Zagori
Zagori is the name of such a sparsely populated mountainous region in the north of Greece, (fewer than four inhabitants per square kilometre), that the environment remains much as it must have been in antiquity. Sheep farming has provided shepherds with meat, cheese and wool from time immemorial. A few fields and orchards scattered here and there around the stone villages provide cereals, fruit and vegetables.
Rural living can be a challenge at some times of the year and yet the rugged terrain – very green for Greece – was one of the first places on the peninsula to be inhabited – since prehistoric times. The Dodona oracle, consulted by cities and the great and powerful prior to taking important decisions is, according to Herodotus, the oldest oracle in Greece. Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, was an priestess here.
Teh vestiges of the magnificient site of Dodoni are the most ancient, dating back to 2000 B.C. © Onno Zweers
Holding their own against invaders seems to have been the leitmotiv of generations of inhabitants who clung to the slopes of the Pindos mountain range. Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines and Ottoman Turks dominated the region for centuries, not to mention Italians and Germans during the Second World War. It was this tension between the occupying enemy forces that prompted the Meteora monasteries, to the south-east of Zagori, to take refuge right at the top of the steep mountain peaks so they could better protect themselves.
Impressive meteora monasteries, nestling on the summits of vertical rock formations which are only accessible by hanging basket. © Cgrand
A woman in the Epirus resistance (1941-44) © Kostas Balafas
The Turkish era, in particular, has left deep scars in the local pysche. A number of bloody-thirsty revolts against the Ottoman authorities led to many deaths until 1913. German soldiers reduced to ashes a series of villages in the hands of supporters of General Napoleon Zervas, the leader of the resistance movement EDES.
It was also in Epirus right after the Liberation that communist resistance fighters, opposed to the democratic regime put in place by the Allies, hid out. Violent confrontations between 1946 and 1949 (Greek civil war), backed by Yugoslavia on one side and the United States on the other, compelled the population to abandon numerous localities in Zagori.
Fortunately, peace has returned to this splendid region, recognised worldwide for its breathtaking landscapes and the authenticity of its rural communities. Here, life takes place at a slower place in keeping with simple agrarian tradition.
View towards the Soudena valley, whose cereal crops feed the villages around Anemi. © Anemi Zagori
The Anemi Guest house at Kato Pedina, is a traditional house built around 1850. It has undergone careful restoration using period materials, local stone, black pine furniture and timber frames and woollen fabrics.
A much more modern and creative approach has been used for the interior where the furnishings and colour scheme have a warm and friendly feel. The beds in the guest house have been arranged as they would have been in former times, around the fireplaces.
The living is good at Kato Pedina and often a party atmosphere prevails. Moreover, Epirus blossoms into life with village festivals (panygiria), with musicians, lively or slow dances, local wine and mountain specialities.
Music is present on all occasions. © Anemi Zagori
And as for cooking, the food in the inn (magereio) enjoys plenty of custom, as guests are invited to learn all about Epirus cuisine, which makes excellent use of sheep’s milk cheese, grilled meat, salads with olive oil and pastries …
The kitchen has a fine clay-baked oven for baking bread and those celebrated Greek cakes. © Anemi Zagori
The house’s other craft speciality is genuine wool weaving. Beautiful fleeces are carded, dyed in the traditional way, spun, woven on a wide loom (just like the one used by Penelope, the wife of Ulysses) or knitted in a wide range of warm, sweet-smelling fabrics.
«Anemi» means «spinning wheel» in Greek. © Anemi Zagori
Whether you like drystone paths which snake their’way up the peaks, wild rivers or the atmosphere of small, traditional villages, you will find in the vicinity of the Anemi guest house a variety of excursions. The chapels and old orthodox monasteries exude an air of spirituality. God is never far away in the half-light and incense smoke.
The age-old bridges which span the watercourses are particularly attractive. © Anemi Zagori
As for the Pindos National Park, in the middle of which the guest house is situated, its flora and fauna will delight fans of unspoilt natural beauty. Here numerous rare plants can be seen, as can such mythical animals as bears, wolves, lynxes and imperial eagles.
The celebrated Vikos Gorges, the most rugged in Europe, are well worth a visit – as are the Meteora monasteries, two hours’ drive away.
The stunning Vikos gorges. © Onno Zweers
As for music, Panygiria TV is geared to broadcasting traditional Greek music, an incitement to local village dance.
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Lila and Pavlos
Tel. +30 26530 72003
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