The History of Zagori.
Zagori (Greek: Ζαγόρι), is a region and a municipality in the Pindus mountains in Epirus, in northwestern Greece. The seat of the municipality is the village Asprangeloi. It has an area of some 1,000 square kilometers and contains 46 villages known as Zagori villages (or Zagorochoria or Zagorohoria), and is in the shape of an upturned equilateral triangle. Ioannina, the provincial capital, is at the southern point of the triangle, while the south-western side is formed by Mount Mitsikeli (1,810m). The Aoos river running north of Mt Tymphe forms the northern boundary, while the south-eastern side runs along the Varda river to Mount Mavrovouni (2,100m) near Metsovo. The municipality has an area of 989.796 km2. The population of the area is about 3,700, which gives a population density of 4 inhabitants per square kilometer, very sparse when compared to an average of 73.8 for Greece as a whole.
Zagori is an area of great natural beauty, with striking geology and two National Parks, one including the river Aoos and the Vikos Gorge, the other around Valia Kalda, to the east of the imposing snow-capped Mt Tymphe. The 46 or so villages of Zagori were interconnected by mountain roads and traditional arched stone bridges until modern roads were opened in the 1950s. The stone arched bridges were built by benefactions from expatriate merchants in the 18th century and replaced older wooden bridges.
Houses until the 18th century were simple rectangular dwellings, often with only a ground floor and with ancillary areas in the basement used as stables. Indeed, this appears to be the style of construction of the dwellings in the excavated Molossian site near Vitsa. Houses are built of local stone and have a roof made of stone tiles (either of limestone or sandstone) which are held together without cement, only by the weight of the tiles above them. The stone roof therefore requires continual upkeep, subjected as it is to heavy snowfalls during the winter months.
That older type was developed through the 18–19th centuries into more complex styles all the way to the multi-storied manors of the wealthier families of the late 18th century. Many houses are fronted by a walled courtyard or garden. The courtyard gate is an edifice in itself, covered by a stone roof and connecting the house to the rest of the village. In addition to the house, there are ancillary buildings, usually a “mageirio” (kitchen), an external toilet at the furthest corner from the kitchen, and stables. The main house is built with walls up to a meter thick that may have an internal sand compartment for insulation against the cold. The house entrance opens into the foyer called “hagiati” which leads to adjoining rooms called “ondas” or “mantzato”. The hagiatioriginally was and sometimes still is a partially open area in front of the house. The name is probably derived from the Persian word Hayāt, a style of Persian garden with pavilions or other edifices. The mantzato is the main room for the winter months with a fireplace, a “tavla” (table) and seating areas that can be used as beds, called “basia”. Opposite the fireplace there is a walled closet called “mesantra”. As an aid to its function, the mantzato often has a location in the south of the house.
A usually wooden staircase leads from the hagiati to the upper floor landing called “krevatta”. This is a space between the bedrooms. In rare cases, the krevatta opens into a small balcony covered by a wooden roof. “Glavané” is a small entrance to the attic. The basement of the house contains cellars and other storage areas that may be used as additional quarters for animals.
Few of the old manors survive, most having fallen victim to disrepair. In those that survive, the ondas room is the most spacious, has a large fireplace and may have floral frescoes. It was used for the reception of guests.