On a week’s holiday earlier this month, we based ourselves in the Central Zagori village of Vitsa. The area is in the wooded Pindos mountains of Epirus, a National Park north of the city of Ioannina. The Vikos gorge and numerous smaller gorges divide the peaks. It is an area where traditional Vlach villages are located and where sheep and goat herding is one of the mainstays of the economy (after tourism). Vitsa is on the edge of the Vikos gorge; indeed, the village is often called “the balcony of the Vikos”. On our first evening, we went out to the Oxyá viewpoint north of Vitsa to see the gorge. The next morning we intended to hike down.
Starting out early in the morning, we set out on our walk from the village, passing our first door – the little one on the iconostasis or little roadside shrine. Perhaps we should have taken it as a sign of divine intervention might be required for an arduous journey ahead.
Into the narrow streets of Lower Vitsa, you come to a large plateia (with café, of course) with an enormous plane tree. Everywhere in Greece where there is an old plane tree shading a plateia, it is said to be the “oldest”. And, on one side of the plateia is an interesting structure – a well house for the village. Most of the villages here in the mountains have well houses which cleverly harvest the runoff from the winter snow melt on the surrounding mountains into underground cisterns.
Just beyond the plateia, the village cobbled road takes a downward trend.
Here there are many interesting doors. Below are two with arched entranceways – one with stone supports for the roof.
Another interesting wooden door, a bit weathered had recesses on either side. The recesses were carved – a cross with birds.
The door below is painted blue and highlighted in a faded red.
It must have been in fashion sometime in the past as we encountered another faded blue and red (pink?) door in the nearby village of Koukouli – below. In fact, we were told in the Lazaridis Museum (Koukouli) that they are traditional colours of the region.
More doors in Vitsa, some well tended and other in splendid states of decay, were spotted as we get further out of the village.
Just at the end of the village a little gate leads into an overgrown area.
The cobbled street or calderimi, still on its downward way leads you out into the countryside to the little church of the Taxiarches (Archangels). The architecture is simple, typical of this area: stone built rectangle, simple apse and a porch on the side protecting entranceway from the rough winters in the mountains. The church bell hangs from a nearby tree.
Just beyond the little church begins the Scala Vitsas, sometimes translated as steps, but it is a narrow calderimi with numerous switchbacks leading you down, down to the bottom of the gorge. These are age-old pathways between the villages of the Zagori region.
At first the calderimi is a new replacement with sharp rocks, constructed in a similar manner to older more traditional ones with a row of slightly raised stones every few courses of cobbled pavement.
But halfway down, the new gives way to the old weathered stone road. Neither are easy on the foot.
But, we persist and are rewarded with stunning views along the way.
And lovely early autumn wild flowers: cyclamens and crocus (colchicum).
Finally we reached the riverbed (dry this time of year) and the bridge – the Bridge of Misios. Bridges here are named after the patrons who financed their construction. This one was built in 1748 by Alexis Misios. It is considered to be a single arched bridge with a smaller “false” arch to the side.
Going back up was indeed arduous, but we survived, collapsed in the plateia of the lower village with a gallon of water followed by a cold beer, shaded by the wide branches of the plane tree.
There are many more bridges linked by calderimia in the area. We managed to see a few more, but none as difficult to reach as the Misios: the double arched Milos Bridge built in 1748 to access the ecclesiastical mill, the Noutsos bridge of 1750, a tiny bridge called the Kapitan Arkouda “Bear” bridge dating to 1856…
… the little bridge to the tiny church of Ayios Minas, the 1753 Kontodimos bridge, and the Plakidas triple arched bridge dating to 1814 (below).
There are many more in the region … and many more calderimi trails.
I’m combining a travel post here with Norm’s Thursday Doors. Check out Norm’s page for many more posts on fascinating buildings and their doors.