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August 23, 2006 – A journey to Metsovo, Greece in Europe

A Bit of Wishful Thinking is Granted

Ended up back in the Greek Alps in the serene little mountain village of Metsovo. If you want to see another side of Greece, this is definitely a place to stop at - a great place for some R&R and an escape from the summer heat, too.

a traditional slate-stone home overlooking the Greek Alps

Found it interesting that even Greece has its own mountain culture and it's different in each region (e.g., Meteora/Kastraki). Metsovo's heritage is from the Vlach shepherds. They used to guard the Katara Pass from enemies for the Greeks awhile back. The Vlach dialect is still widely spoken today. They also make some delicious organic smoked cheese (metsovone) that comes only from that region.

a family hearth with traditional Vlach decor

Vlach tools and garb for sale

delicious pites (pies, usually stuffed with something delicious), another regional specialty

The Vlach shepherd culture is really quite apparent in Metsovo. For instance, after a dinner of regional specialties, went for a walk and came upon a local celebration at the town church. Seemed like the whole town was there. The townsfolk, especially the older generation, were in traditional dress. Watched the rest of the celebration and wished I had a translator at the moment.

regional specialties: Katoyi red wine, horta (wild mountain greens), feta noodle soup, mountain bread

the whole village seemed to be at the town's main church for a local celebration

head priests singing and talking around what looked like a brightly-lit big birthday cake

an elderly couple in traditional garb at the celebration

People are incredibly friendly here too. Wherever Rick and I went, we were greeted with a 'Yasas' (Hello), 'Kalispera' (Good Afternoon), or even an 'Opa!' Being from America, that took a bit of getting used to (of course, we said 'hi' back!).

Another example - for preparation for next morning's venture out and to see how long it would take, we went for a walk in the afternoon. We hiked up the long windy mountain main road out of the village to the bus stop, which is located on the main highway. The uphill walk took a good 40 minutes. This is the only way to get to the bus stop - there aren't any taxis or local short-distance public buses that can take you there.

In order to catch a bus that goes the opposite direction of Ioannina, you have to wait at that bus stop, and then flag down the Thessaloniki-bound bus. (Strangely enough, the Ioannina-bound buses pick passengers up in the main town square - don't ask me why they can't do both). Needless to say, we weren't looking forward to next morning's hike with our heavy backpacks. Turned out, the people at the hotel offered us a free ride to the bus stop the next morning!

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