When I first got to Spain and started tutoring Spanish kiddos, whenever I’d ask what they did the past weekend, or what they’re doing for the upcoming weekend, most responses (when they weren’t ‘nothing’ or telling me about the food they ate because I always ask about food) involved going to their village. I’d sit in my head thinking WTF do you mean your village? Do you own this village? I didn’t really think that, but conclusions were being drawn up. Then they’d tell me, matter-of-factly, that it’s where their parents come from, or their grandparents, or great grandparents or donkey – basically, where their ancestors originated from, grew up, herded sheep, made cheese; things they do in villages.
Then I got to Greece, and Lambchops began talking about villages too. This was becoming a very interesting word to me. Up until now, I don’t really think the word village was a common word in my everyday vernacular, outside of explaining that the city that Agoura Hills runs into is Westlake Village and they’re basically the same place. Then it kind of struck me how weird that was, that village is a strange word to me. I pinpointed it in going back to being an American hailing from a country of immigrants that’s quite a baby in the grand scheme of country ages. Quite au contraire, here I am in a country on a continent filled with ruins and people who conquered ish and discovered the New World. And made homes in remote places, where their families settled for generation upon generation.
Of course people didn’t ALWAYS live in big cities, and cities weren’t always cities, and they weren’t always big. People obviously lived in tiny communities, thus the village. We don’t have villages in America, towns yes, but not villages.Take a ponder.
Driving through the mountains of Zagori, home to approximately 50 villages, there are some of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen, and then you round the corner and there’s a little village of around 100 residents tucked away on the cliff in the distance. Oh, and then you’re driving and, oh hi, there’s a cow dripping in rain water staring right at you, or a shepherd herding his flock of goats.
Cows and goats aside, here are the pretty little villages we popped into, each for something different.
Big & Small Papigos
When we initially headed out into the mountains of Zagori, Lambchops told me to get in a bathing suit, for he had a couple surprises consisting of the water-play variety. The first was a pit stop at a river in one of the two Papigos, where the water was so cold I couldn’t bear to stand in it for longer than 7 seconds. It was so bone-chilling cold, but mista (and the family of Germans) was far more tolerant than I! It was so beautiful with aquamarine water and a bridge that I’m sure is hundreds of years old. We left to the second Papigo and my feet felt refreshed to the bone.
Unfortunately for our sweaty bodices it started to torrentially downpour just before we got to the big Papigo, which I can only describe as a series of hot-spring type pools tucked away off the main road in its own little sanctuary. I wanted to jump in, but also feared for my klutzy self that I would slip and break my body on the slippery rocks. Instead we settled for selfies with the water that was tarnished by the dirty rain.
My first village introduction was in Aristi. When we drove through, along cliffs that are apparently of a greater depth than the Grand Canyon (I’m still skeptical), my first view was of the most lush greenery, only to reveal hoards of stone buildings coming around the bend. I thought it looked like the little town Belle dances through in Beauty and the Beast (I know, I said this about Prague too). When we drove back through Aristi on our way home, it was mid-torrential downpour and we needed something to warm us from the inside out (and fill our quite hungry tummies).
Well, we made quite a scene as we raced from car to taverna, only to enter the establishment sopping wet from puddle hopping and full of uproarious laughter. We sat down for some tapas style mystery meat and rice (devoured), and the deathly strong tsipouro. I may have grown a few hairs on my chest that evening.
Perhaps my favorite village on our village-hopping tour was that of Dilofo. We only ate dinner here, but it had a majestic view and birthed a fun little anecdote.
It was quite a memorable drive in and over the mountains, as Lambchops and I were once again talking about root words and general meanings of words and their developments from Greek (like many things, shocker). We somehow got on the topic of the word ‘truth’, and the translation to Greek, ‘alithea’. I don’t know how this came up, but it reminded me of my Frenchie roomie’s friend Althea, and the time when Justin asked her the meaning of her name, because it sounded like the meaning of ‘truth’ in Greek. Well, flash forward to coming up the mountain, parking cliffside to take in all the pretty, and right in front of us was a hotel with no other name than that deriving of ‘truth’. We like to jinx ourselves a lot.
Then on to dinner, prepared by one of his friends who hails from the same village as his mother. We noshed on beet root and goat cheese drizzled in some kind of balsamic glaze, some chickpea and eggplant amazingness, and chicken pie. It was so heavenly and hearty. And all that washed down with a view.
Metsovo is located about 30 minutes drive from Ioannina, and is currently home to the highest population of Vlach people in Greece. Vlach, deriving of Latin origins, is the dialect that the Greek’s mother speaks, and fun fact, it’s entirely a spoken language. Once the last speaker of Vlach passes on, the language will be dead. Fascinating!
The little village of Metsovo is famous for its local cheeses and wine, so of course we had to eat cheese, coupled with chicken and lamb souvlaki, and per the usual, the lamb won. The village also appears to be a rest stop for many trips coming down through the Balkans, so there were a handful of tourist busses littering the center of the endless cobblestone everything.
The Bridge of Kokkorou
While it’s not a village, persay, the bridge of Kokkorou is nestled high up in Zagori, and is very worthy of a mention. Before arriving, Mr. Chops told me that we were going to see a bridge even more famous than the Golden Gate Bridge. Well, throughout Greece the bridge at Kokkorou is just as famous as the Golden Gate, and rightfully so. Built in 1750, the bridge is so intricately built of stone and what I’m assuming man sweat, and to me looked like the edge of the Earth was below us.
And there you go for this week’s round up of the alternative side of Greece. This country is so magical with every stone, wave, and plate of tomato put in front of my face. Have you visited any villages in Greece? Did you stop to think about the word village and if I’m wrong about villages in the States? Have any other places I should trek my butt out to? Holler at me!