“We are residents of a forgotten Greece”: A journey to Agrafa in Thessaly - Wishevoke

“We are residents of a forgotten Greece”: A journey to Agrafa in Thessaly

The street after Lake Stefaniada It is mountainous, difficult and full of curves. In many places people are forced to take alternative routes because the two extreme weather phenomena cause incalculable damage Janus And Daniel, are still recognizable. So many months later, the extent of the devastation is still surprising. But the path makes up for it, the beneficial power of nature can be felt everywhere. Endless fir forests, centuries-old beeches, chestnuts, oaks, huge mountain peaks, gorges and rivers captivate the visitor’s gaze. Most of the inaccessible settlements I encounter along the route are almost in ruins. Some inscriptions, witnesses of the past, combined with some villas, offer a unique journey through time.

My final destination is the youngest natural lake in Greece, which was created in 1963 by a gigantic landslide after several days of heavy rain and took its name from the neighboring village. There is silence everywhere. On its banks, a middle-aged man is fishing and two young people are having a picnic and enjoying the peaceful landscape. At this point I realize that I am in the heart of the mountain range Agrafon at South Pindos. Locals will tell me that the lake creates a landscape of unparalleled beauty, but it is also one of the reasons for the decline of the settlement, as landslides have washed away many houses – some still lie on the bottom today. On the positive side, the lake comes alive in the summer months when sporting activities take place.

There is no internet or the ability to work remotely. Fortunately, the road network has improved somewhat in recent years, as there have been times in the past when we have been stranded for more than ten days, without electricity, telephone and access.

In this hidden paradise is one of the very interesting places that are worth visiting Holy Monastery of Spilia Founded in 1604. Built at an altitude of 900 meters, it towers over an impressive sheer cliff and leaves pilgrims in awe. Inside the monastery there are two churches that were built in different eras: o Church of the Assumption of Mary, the oldest, and that of Zoodochos Pigi, which was built later and is larger. The monastery played a very important role in this Revolution of 1821was often a stronghold of fighters Georgiou Karaiskakis, due to its strategic location. There the hero of the battle held war meetings and council meetings.

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The monastery played a very important role during the revolution of 1821 and was many times a stronghold of the fighter Georgios Karaiskakis. Photo: Yannis Pantazopoulos/LIFO

A stone’s throw away, in the settlement Girl, runs one of the few taverns that rents rooms and offers traditional food. There I am greeted by Mr. Vaius Pozius, the owner, a special form of the area. First he proudly explains to me that his village, that Koumbourianais a special place as it lies on the border with Thessaly, Sterea, Western Greece and Epirus. He then points out that it is a shame that Lake Plastira monopolizes the interest of visitors. “We are part of a forgotten Greece that has been slowly dying for decades,” he says and I can see a bitterness in his expression. And it’s true that during my stay I felt like I was crossing an unexplored world that isn’t in any travel guide. The people here fight alone and their only motivation is love for the place where they were born. Mr. Vaios runs the business together with his wife, put it onand offer traditional dishes with their own meat and herbs from their own garden. Unfortunately there are few visitors in winter, with the exception of a few mountaineering clubs.

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In this hidden paradise, the Holy Monastery of Spilia, founded in 1604, is one of the very interesting places worth visiting.

He sits in front of the fireplace and talks about the difficulties he faces: “I was born and raised in this place. I only left all these years for five years when I opened a folk music center in the center of Athens, which I called “Golfo”. But I decided to come back. Everyday life presents many adversities, but the worst thing is that the state does not give us any incentives. Firstly, we are not exempt from using the POS machines, and that is strangely tragic because the bank now obliges us to keep them running even though the village has no internet. Also, a few days ago I was fined about a hundred euros because it seemed to be inactive. But how am I supposed to do it when I don’t have any people and the connection isn’t possible? Some customers are upset, and rightly so. There was also a short circuit on the terminal due to a lightning strike. I had to give the accountant two hundred euros and finally a new one has to be sent to me from Athens.

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Everyday life presents many adversities, but the worst thing is that the state does not give us any incentives. Photo: Yannis Pantazopoulos/LIFO

“Unimaginable situations for old people like me who have neither the financial means nor the knowledge. There was a rule that exempted us from this because we are a settlement with few permanent residents, but that too was abolished. You can imagine that today I have given only two coffees since morning in a village whose permanent population does not exceed ten. Of course, those implementing these policies don’t consider how much it costs to move the products, to keep the store open, or to create spaces where people coming in can find a plate of food and a bed sleep. All of these are reasons why our villages are becoming more and more deserted and young people cannot live here permanently. There is no internet or the ability to work remotely. Fortunately, the road network has improved somewhat in recent years, as there have been times in the past when we have been stranded for more than ten days, without electricity, telephone and access. Another big problem we have is the wolf pack, which is decimating our herds and driving us into despair and financial deadlock.”

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Mr. Vaios runs the business together with his wife Vasso and offers traditional dishes with their own meat and herbs from their own garden. Photo: Yannis Pantazopoulos/LIFO

The walls of the tavern are decorated with family heirlooms, textiles, books, jewelry, musical instruments, photographs and rare objects. As we speak, Mrs. Vasso is baking plasto, the most famous cake in Thessaly, in the wood oven. “Plasto is a very old pie from Thessaly, a traditional vegetable pie made from corn flour, which is plentiful in the Thessalian Kampos, with vegetables and of course with feta cheese, plenty of butter and olive oil.” Then he gets vegetables from the garden, fries potatoes and grills burgers in the oven.

“Landslides, ice and snow are still interrupting our communication with the rest of Greece,” he says a little later as he brings wood for the fireplace. And he continues: “We have not once regretted running the tavern in this remote place, but we need help from the state.” If we also close, our village will be completely deserted. Vaios and Vasso do everything to make you feel at home. “We are hospitable people up here, but it pains us that we only have to tell visitors about our needs and troubles,” they say in a melancholy tone.

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Ms. Vasso cooks plasto, the most famous cake in Thessaly, in a wood-fired oven. Photo: Yannis Pantazopoulos/LIFO

When you leave the idyllic landscape of Agrafo behind you, you will feel like you have traveled to the last corner of Greece. However, I am thinking of the people who, despite the difficulties and the numerous obstacles, do not hesitate to thank you for your visit and to say goodbye to you profusely with a sincere smile. When I arrived at Lake Plastira, Vaios’ phrase stuck in my mind – it reminded me of what his villagers used to say when they felt cut off from the rest of the world: “Kingdom of Greece except Argythea.”

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