Melissourgoi

Melissourgoi

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INTRO

“… and I climbed the mountain peaks gazing at the sun and the fir trees smiled at me and the fragrant cedars softened my aching body… » Κώστας Στάμου (Τζουμερκιώτικα Χρονικά 2014 σελ. 193)

High and inaccessible mountain ranges with deep folds in which basins are formed, wild and at the same time beautiful mountains, snow-capped and lost peaks, rushing rivers, impressive waterfalls, seasons with color changes. It is the Athamanian Mountains or Tzoumerka that are a mountain range whose main trunk forms a horseshoe that in its unique opening to the N.D. rolls the impetuous Arachthos that flows into the Amvrakikos gulf.

The village of Melissourgoi is built on this passage at 1100m height and in the basin that is formed between the volume of Kakarditsa and Stroggoula.

Click on the map below to be able to rotate it and don’t forget to zoom to get the full experience.

3d-mapper.com | The Gorilla Media

3d-mapper.com | The Gorilla Media

GENERAL INFO

Useful phone numbers:

Police: 100
Tourist Police (EOT Information): 171
Fire Service: 199
Pramanta Health Center: +30 2659 360100
Pramanta Pharmacy: +30 26590 61888

How to get to Melissourgoi: From Arta you take the direction towards Vourgareli and Agnanta. From Ioannina you take the direction towards the village Elliniko and then following the signs towards Melissourgoi. Alternatively, with KTEL (national bus service) from the Prefecture of Arta.

The exact date of creation of the settlement is unknown. There is a view that the settlement of Melissourgoi were created by the contraction of micro-settlements during the Turkish occupation. It is very likely that the attack and the destruction caused by the Mani pirate Lyberios Gerakaris, who had joined the service of the Venetians, contributed to this, and we invaded Arta and its villages, looting and killing.

In general, the area of ​​Athamania is an area in which extensive and systematic excavations have not been carried out, with the result that the history and culture that concerns the very old times remain in the dark.
The archeological findings (looted tombs, charcoal remains, etc.) found at Melissourgoi at the sites of Kastania, Dovru, Gritsana, Skripta, Zizina and Zileousi prove an organized society.

Other historical sources useful for the study of the creation and evolution of the settlement are drawn from the written traditions which are dates in buildings of temples and monasteries that have been renovated or rebuilt as well as inscriptions on the lintels, hagiographies and church bells.

However, a Golden Bull of the Emperor of Constantinople (1321) who abolishes an arbitrary act (1272) of the military commander Kavasilas with which the latter had given the settlement of Melissourgoi to the Diocese of Dryinoupolis, , restoring the village to the Diocese of Ioannina, is an indisputable testimony of the existence of the village from that time.

Historical information:

The waterfall of Kefalovryso

One of the most beautiful places in the area is the waterfall of Kefalovrysos that springs from the north side of Strongoula having a length of 350m. and continuous flow all seasons. The waterfall in its course forms the stream of Koferita which flows into the stream of Melissourgoi. The route is easy and marked and starts either from the Pramanta Refuge or from the Melissourgoi Refuge. We walk in a fir forest for about half an hour until we get out. Following the course and having visual contact with the waterfall we walk for about forty minutes. Leaving the gaze to wander from right to left we see the northern part of Strongoula, Gerakovouni and the peak Agathi, the Neck of the Ear and finally the impressive mountain range of Kakarditsa.

The bridge of Koferita
(Σπύρος Ι.Μαντάς, ΓΕΦΥΡΟΓΡΑΦΙΑ ΤΗΣ ΠΙΝΔΟΥ, ΤΟΜΟΣ Β΄, ΤΟ ΓΕΦΥΡΙ ΤΗΣ ΚΟΦΕΡΙΤΑΣ σελ. 324)

It is located outside the village south of Koferita location and bridges the homonymous river. It is single-arched and its semicircular arch has an opening of 10.60 m and a height of 5.80 m. The passage corridor is flat and with a crown outside having a length of 21 m. and useful width 1.75 m. It is one of the last stone bridges in the area since it was built during the German occupation of 1942-43. The bridge was gradually built by local craftsmen and was completed with the help of craftsmen from Raftanei village. The inhabitants paid in kind, mainly corn. It was used for the first time by ELAS guerrillas and then by the village cattle breeders.

The village Melissourgoi belongs to the area of ​​Tzoumerka, one of the most impressive areas of Greece and is offered for all kinds of activities. Canyoning and rappel in the gorges, mountain biking and riding motorcycles and 4X4. Hiking trails on easy and difficult routes. Visit to the surrounding villages, bridges and monasteries that are architectural treasures.

A short distance from the village is the Mountain Refuge of Melissourgoi. Built in the forest with a wonderful view of the mountain peaks, it is offered not only for accommodation and food but also for activities of small and high difficulty in the surrounding mountains.

Information: http://katafigiomelissourgwn.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_40.html and https://www.facebook.com/Katafigiomelissourgwn/

Accommodation and dining in the area meets all the specifications for a comfortable and interesting vacation. The area of ​​Tzoumerka has been used for tourism in recent years and the proof is that the traffic remains high during the winter.

The Mountain Refuge of Melissourgoi

ΙΣΤΟΡΙΑ – ΛΑΟΓΡΑΦΙΑ ΠΡΑΜΑΝΤΩΝ

Η ημινομαδική κτηνοτροφία ως κύρια οικονομική δραστηριότητα των Βλάχων της Β. Πίνδου ( Β. Τσακανίκα και Ι. Ισπικούδης)

ΤΣΙΦΛΙΚΙ ΚΑΙ ΤΣΕΛΙΓΚΑΤΟ:Η ΣΥΜΠΛΗΡΩΜΑΤΙΚΟΤΗΤΑ ΔΥΟ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΚΟΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΙΚΩΝ ΣΧΗΜΑΤΙΣΜΩΝ Βασίλης Γ. Νιτσιάκος

ΟΙ ΚΟΥΔΑΡΑΙΟΙ ΤΟΥ ΧΩΡΙΟΥ ΠΡΑΜΑΝΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΙΝΩΝ • Κοινωνικά & λαϊκά δρώμενα μέσα από τη ζωή & το έργο τους (Διπλωματική εργασία Συρίδωνα Παπαγιώτη)

http://gefyri-plakas.ntua.gr/

Τα Ηπειρώτικα γεφύρια Σπύρος Μαντάς

Τα 55 γεφύρια του Άραχθου Αριστείδης Σχισμένος

www.petrinagefiria.uoi.gr/

https://discovertzoumerka.com/

https://www.facebook.com/874551622575314/posts/3162047787159008/ (1 ΜΑΪΟΥ 1944 , Μενέλαος Χαραλαμπίδης)

Ο δίδυμος καταρράκτης στα Τζουμέρκα https://www.naturagraeca.com/ws/217,281,139,1,1,%CE%94%CE%AF%CE%B4%CF%85%CE%BC%CE%BF%CF%82-%CE%9A%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%B1%CF%81%CF%81%CE%AC%CE%BA%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%82-%CE%A4%CE%B6%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%BC%CE%AD%CF%81%CE%BA%CF%89%CE%BD

http://canyoning-caving.blogspot.com/

ΗΠΕΙΡΩΤΙΚΑ ΝΙΚ.Χ. ΠΑΠΑΚΩΣΤΑ

Ι.Λ.Ε.Τ. «Αρχαιολογικές επεμβάσεις και έρευνες στην περιοχή της αρχαίας Αθαμανίας και του βυζαντινού Τζεμέρνικου» (Αγγέλη Ανθή,Ζήδρου Κωνσταντίνα, Τζουβάρα-Σούλη Χρυσηίς )

https://typos-i.gr/article/ena-istoriko-twn-seismwn

Χοροί και Τραγούδια των Τζουμέρκων https://epirusmusic.weebly.com/taurhoalphagammaomicron973deltaiotaalpha–alphakappaomicron973sigmamualphataualpha1.html

ΜΟΥΣΙΚOΣ ΧAΡΤΗΣ ΤΟΥ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΣΜΟY Μουσική από την Ήπειρο-ΤΖΟΥΜΕΡΚΑ

Η ένταξη της Μουσικοχορευτικής παράδοσης των Τζουμέρκων: Γεώργιος Αθ. Μπαζούκας (Τζουμερκιώτικα Χρονικά 2015)

Σπύρος Ι.Μαντάς (Γεφυρογραφία της Πίνδου Α΄τόμος Οικογένεια Γεωργάκη σελ 465)

Σπύρος Ι.Μαντάς (Γεφυρογραφία της Πίνδου Α΄τόμος Οικογένεια Μπέκα σελ 470)

Click on the images below to get a better sense of the village in full screen.

Click on the images below to get a better sense of the village in full screen.

HISTORICAL & GENERAL INFORMATION

According to tradition, Zileousa is considered the first city to be destroyed in pre-Christian times. Zileousa experienced a period of prosperity due to the place where it was built. The safe place 200m. over the river, the fertile arable land and the bushy land for grazing sheep and goats covered the food and maintenance of about 50 families. Foundations of houses were not found because they may have been built with bricks, not even a cemetery.

The conquest of Epirus by the Romans had painful consequences for Epirus and Athamania of course. Some of the inhabitants were killed, others were taken captive and those who managed to escape left their place irrevocably. The Romans, appreciating the importance of the mountain pass “Afti” to Thessaly, it is very natural that they established a military base with a guard and gave the sites Latin names, something that is not observed in the neighboring area. Thus the toponyms retain their Latin root to this day. From the subsequent developments it is concluded that the population that remained after the destruction of Athamania remained in the location where the settlement of Melissourgoi is today and no indication supports the existence of another settlement or settlement.

Tzoumerka, a predominantly wild and inaccessible area, was a refuge for the oppressed by the tyrannical regime and the savage taxation of the Turks. The Turks on the one hand had a hard time approaching these areas and on the other hand there were many shelters in case of a Turkish invasion.

One version is that those who took refuge in the remote valley of the Beekeepers engaged in beekeeping, the products of which were not taxed. So they settled in this place and with the concentration of others the settlement was created.

Another version that wants the village to be the continuation of the old settlement (1346-1385) Dovrou is considered exclusive. There is also the third version in which the name is given to the inhabitants metaphorically, likening them to the bee that is a model of hard work and consequently to all the inhabitants is given the nickname “Melissourgoi”.

The location of the settlement is in the center of the valley and at the exit of the basin at an altitude of 870m and is surrounded by spruce forests. Forests have long provided the building material and fuel with wood and foliage to feed the animals. Flowering contributed to the development of beekeeping, the soil was fertile and arable and around the village there were areas suitable for grazing herds.

Some of the farmers who had few sheep and goats, in order to increase their income, engaged in beekeeping, settled in the center of the valley and built small stone houses with fixed roofs. They continued to be engaged in beekeeping and with the few domestic animals (sheep, goats and cows) they met their own nutritional needs. Along the way, the farmers with large herds decided to permanently settle their families and live with the beekeepers, so that the families are in the village in summer and in winter to have a permanent home. Thus, building their houses, they united in a settlement, were connected with kinships and formed the village that was later named “Melissourgoi”.

Throughout its existence the settlement suffered raids and abandonment by the inhabitants and desertions for long periods of time. In the middle of the 17th century, at the end of spring, on Sunday, most of the inhabitants were in the church for matins. The rise in temperature resulted in the melting of the snow and what followed. The terrifying click heralded an unprecedented disaster. The entire peak of Stariza (Mega Plai) located next to the peak Gerakovuni was swept away by an avalanche which distorted what was in front of it. For the history, after three centuries and during torrential rains, the iron wreaths of the mills came to the surface, far from the village. 

The stream that was found in the orbit of the disaster turned into a torrent that has since been named Koferita which is a corruption of the word “kofterida” which refers to a terrible landslide.

After the terrible disaster, the residents gathered in the church of Agios Nikolaos where they found that everyone – fortunately – had survived and those who still had their houses housed the homeless villagers until they built new houses.

The number of the first inhabitants is not known, but it is speculated that the meadows with their area could maintain 7-8 flocks that would belong to a corresponding number of fathers with about 50 families in total. They are the first to form Melissourgoi. They were mountainous people, prosperous and had many children. The population was often reduced due to raids, famines, deadly epidemics, fires, wars, revolutions. However, every desolation of the village was followed by a rapid increase in population. The return of the inhabitants who returned to their homes together with other families of foreigners with whom they had established friendly relations, increased the population.

Population growth occurred during the first century of the Despotate of Epirus, and mainly during the Despotation of Anna Palaiologina Katakouzinou (1296-1315), who was the widow of Nikiforos A΄ Komninos. Also from the Greeks, after the failure of the revolution of Dionysius the Philosopher, many who participated took refuge in the mountains of Melissourgoi to escape from the Turks .The devşirme (“child levy” or “blood tax») and Islamization were another reason for people to flee to the mountains.

The first houses were small and covered basic needs. In the course of time with the development of the building art they were replaced by bigger, more comfortable and elegant ones, always depending on the financial level of the owner. At the same time, the population was growing.

But the years did not pass peacefully. Violent events upset their lives. In times of famine the inhabitants left to find resources to survive. Deadly diseases decimated the population, raids by Northern peoples, Crusaders, hordes of Serbs, Albanians and Turks devastated entire settlements. And people gathered that they could get up and hide in the ravines, in nearby places, or leave far away, and when the lightning stopped, some would go back and rebuild their dilapidated houses trying to “live” until the next disaster.

In the middle of the 14th century, an avalanche from the mountain swept away part of the mountain and spread panic to the inhabitants who feared a complete collapse of the mountain.

During 1346 AD. Stefan Dusan, king of Serbia, conquered Epirus. However, he was forced to return to Serbia and left his brother Symeon as leader and successor to continue his work, who returned to Serbia a decade later to take the throne after the death of his brother Stefanos. The people of Epirus then recognized as Despot of Epirus the claimant to the throne Nikiforos II, who was killed in 1358 while fighting against the Albanians. Thomas Preloumpos, despite coming from a Byzantine Greek mother, was tougher than his predecessors and also settled landless people from Serbia in Epirus. In 1385 he was assassinated.

Meanwhile, the Albanians, led by Gjin Boua Spata, continued the raids after the occupation of Arta. The Slavs and other invaders preferred the lowlands and fertile places, but also used the mountains as resorts and pastures.
Somewhere at this point, the tradition wants the old village of Melissourgon “to be in Dovros. The word is of Slavic origin (Dobrou-dobru) and means good. The location was advantageous, with a smooth area suitable for cultivation, there was water and an area suitable for pasture, hence the name Dobrou (= suitable, good). This settlement was not the old village of Melissourgoi but an independent one that was founded a hundred years after the first settlement and was later dissolved. Of the few facts about this settlement, it must have been a summer farm of cattle breeders and it was located at a distance of about three km from Melissourgoi.

One year, unknown when, a terrible avalanche collapsed dragging a part of the mountain and buried the settlement “Dovrou” disappearing every trace and completely deformed the face of the ground by opening a ravine where the stream “Asprolagado” flows today. A huge rock rolled and stood at a flat point in the “Scripta” position to the right of another ravine of the Mavrolagado stream. The rock known as the “Scripta” stone hosted tree trunks that took root in its cracks. One night a hurricane moved the stone which rolled into pieces in the ravine. The cattle breeders of the settlement “Dovrou” were absent in the winter. After the disappearance of the settlement they never returned. The period of existence of the settlement was about 40 years.

The Livestock

Initial livestock was limited to small herds. Gradually livestock farming developed, the number of animals increased and ranchers extended their grazing to the hitherto deserted justify.

From the first half of the 18th century, when they rented a Venetian guard for rural security and from 1740 the Armatolikia were established by Christian Captains, those conditions were created for the rapid development of large livestock. This was due to the winter grazing in the lowlands of Ioannina and the endless barren plains of Arta and Preveza.

At that time, livestock numbered thousands of sheep gathered in more than 50 herds. In addition, apart from the Tseligata, an equal number of sheepfolds were formed in the mountains. Each sheepfold was a complex of patriarchal settlement of cattle breeders (families), flocks of sheep and goats, oxen and horses.

Tseligas was the leader of the homeland and there were the smihtes (the ones that had fewer animals), the shepherds, the cowherds and the valmades (guardians of the horses). Also in every 2-3 groups of Stanis there was a priest who performed the religious services and taught the children the basic letters and maths.

In these inaccessible areas which were dangerous for the Turks, people from the plains and other parts of Epirus fled, leaving their homes in search of new safe places. Temporary stay was usually followed by permanent residence with intercourse and resulted in an increase in population.

There in the sheepfolds and in the freedom of the mountains the concept of resistance created the Thieves. Many of them became chiefs and captains. They went down to the plains, looted and burned the tsifliki of the Turkish Beys.

Animal husbandry developed in the period 1479-1481 (with the acquired privileges of autonomy) and much more in the decade 1730-1740 when Sultan Mahmut I after his defeat by the Russians in the Sea of ​​Azov and fearing a revolt by the Greeks he showed kindness to them. They also had a livestock development during Ali Pasha, mainly after the eight-year liberation struggle (1821-1828) when they managed to save their herds, leading them to hiding places inaccessible to the Turks. Finally, the period 1860-1876 is the period of the greatest prosperity of animal husbandry.

In 1881 the former Ottoman territories of Thessaly and a part of Epirus together with Arta were liberated. And the city of Arta may have been liberated, but not its plain. The bridge of Arta was the border between the Greek and Turkish state and its plain remained under Turkish occupation. The Turkish customs blocked the livestock of the free areas, forbidding the passage to the plain and therefore the renting of the meadows.

They were forced to turn to unknown and unsuitable places. Elsewhere the civil war was causing problems for the farmers and elsewhere the weather conditions were such that they did not favor grazing.  For livestock, the declining course had begun. The impending expropriation, the Asia Minor catastrophe and the restoration of refugees significantly reduced grazing areas. In addition, the areas that used to be given as pastures had started to be cultivated systematically, leaving little room for grazing.

Cultivations

The inhabitants were engaged in agriculture to meet their food needs. Those who were exclusively engaged in animal husbandry exchanged their products (wool, cheese, butter, etc.). Apart from these crops in the fields, in substandard gardens they grew herbs (lapata, dill, fennel, etc.) Almost all the areas were irrigated.

Almost all the families were engaged in viticulture, having on average up to a thousand vines. Because most of the population was absent in winter and the first months of spring, the cultivation of their vineyards was entrusted, with a fee, to those who lived permanently in the village. Places for viticulture were those with a mild climate such as Zileusti. The export of raki and wine was originally used for their own consumption. About 150 years ago there is evidence that they sold wine in villages of Eastern Athamania. In 1897 downy mildew infected the vines. His fight was complex and long and it was not possible for them to leave their main occupations and so the vineyards were abandoned. Only a few farmers – vine growers were involved in the cultivation of “Isabella” which is said not to be affected by downy mildew.

Arboriculture was another occupation they engaged in. The trees, mostly native, were: pears, walnuts, chestnuts, cherries, hazelnut trees, apples, peaches, mulberries, mirabelle trees and and rose bushes. Cherry and walnut were sold for wood and rose flowers were exported to Bulgaria.
From 1479 with the acquisition of the special privileges of Tzoumerka, Melissourgoi came under the protection of Valide Sultana (mother of the Sultan). The Turks imposed cultivation because they profited from taxation. In fact, until 1821, they imposed intensive cultivation, agricultural security and the harvest of ripe fruits. After the liberation the cultivation began to relax and the livestock was not enough for the natural fertilization of the fields.

There is no information about the administrative system of Melissourgi since the creation of the first settlement remains unknown. However, vague information is provided about the years of the reign of Amyandros regarding the villages of Athamania to which the Beekeepers also belonged and which constituted separate Communities and together formed the “Common Athamanon”. After the Roman conquest of Epirus, the administration was assigned to military commanders and then in the period of the Despotate of Epirus, the command was exercised by military-political commanders.

When the settlement was inhabited by the tribes of the cattle breeders, the administration was exercised by the leaders of the tribe families. During the Turkish occupation, privileges were given by the Turks, in return of course. One of the most important privileges was the system of self-government that was granted and implemented with small differences in places throughout Epirus. The inhabitants freely elected the Elders, the election was approved by the Metropolitan and was formally announced to Kaimakamis (Governor) of Arta.

Any work concerning the community was carried out after a meeting of the Council of Elders and any disagreements regarding the decision were settled amicably by the Metropolitan or with a 12-member board of directors at the headquarters of Kaimakamis. The most serious cases were resolved by a decision of the above board of directors in Ioannina, where he was also the seat of the Governor (commander with enhanced responsibilities) and in which Christian advisors also participated.

They avoided in any way the appeal and solving of court cases by Kadi (judge of a Sharia (religious) court). The criminal cases, however, were tried by the Turkish Military Court.
Over time, many of the privileges were violated, but not that of the self-government. In fact, Ali Pasha himself made the decisions for the cases and even more so when the complainants came with their “hands full”.

The gradual violation of privileges resulted in the imposition of new taxes. Ali Pasha, excluding the real estate of monasteries and churches, imposed savage taxes on the population. The unbearable taxes were not only in favor of the State but also in favor of its own fund. Grabbing as he was, he appropriated the assets of the ruthless, the expatriates, the criminals or those who had taken refuge in the mountains, not enduring the tyranny and who were under his jurisdiction. He used every illegal means to increase his fortune. From 1807 onwards, by enticing or threatening demagogues or representatives of many villages of Tzoumerka, he managed to turn many of the villages into his own estates.

Melissourgoi avoided this risk because the community representative Anagnostis Chronis rejected the proposal by refusing to sign and this resulted in him being dragged to the gallows. Luckily for him, the immediate intervention of Ismail Pasombei, Political Commander of Ioannina and fierce opponent of Ali Pasha, saved the Reader Chronis.

With the creation of the State of Epirus, efforts were made in the field of Education, but the Turkish period extinguished all hope for the Greek spirit and culture. The people of the spiritual world took refuge in Europe where they transmitted Greek culture. A dark period for Greek education began in Greece. A dark period for Greek education began in Greece.

There is no historical evidence of education at that time. The population of the village was mainly engaged in animal husbandry having a semi-permanent residence and difficult living conditions. Livestock communities on the move were constantly unable to maintain an elementary school.

During the summer season (May-October), when all the families were in the village, the Community appointed a teacher who was paid by the Community and the Church. In case the residents did not agree with the choice of the teacher, each district of the three that existed hired a teacher who supported with a fundraiser by the students’ families.

The historical data for the operation of schools are placed in the middle of the 18th century. During the period 1750-1880 the school of the Beekeepers operated periodically, and in the period 1860-1881 the attendance of girls in the School of Melissourgoi is ascertained.

Education was initially inadequate until 1895. In the beginning they learned the letters of the alphabet and the textbooks were religious in content and in an ancient language. After the liberation, the wide influence of the Greek State Education began with the regular attendance and the application of the methodical teaching. The method used in the schools of that time was peer teaching, a system in which some students selected by the teacher taught younger students. Few students had the opportunity to attend a school in Arta.

The School of Melissourgoi was officially recognized as a “Greek Public Literacy School”. The old school building did not meet the capacity requirements due to the large number of students and the need for a new space was imperative.

With donations and with the unanimous agreement of the residents for personal and unpaid work, the project was assigned to the master builder Konstantinos Bekas from Pramanta and began in February 1884.

The school located in the central square of the village operated for many years, but today is used for other purposes.

From the first years of the creation of the settlement, the occupations that the inhabitants were engaged in were those of shepherd, shepherd, dairy farmer, cheese maker. The movement of people and products from these inaccessible mountainous places forced a part of the inhabitants to engage in parallel with the other occupations and the profession of the kiratzis (mule driver) using the mules on the inaccessible paths. Most of the inhabitants were usually engaged in agriculture, who usually stayed in the village all seasons of the year, and at the same time some of them were also engaged in beekeeping. Later and mainly from the 17th century, they indulged in other professions such as tailors, carpenters, masons, “tsarouchia” manufacturers, etc.

From the liberation (1881) onwards a part of the male population was engaged in trade and urban professions and especially from 1885 when scientists and civil servants (political and military) appeared.

Anastasia G. Karra, the granddaughter of an agogiatis, writes a very nice and interesting article about the carriers of Melissourgos “Agogiatis or Kiratzis” in the Magazine Melissourgoi of Arta
We present part of it.

…Caravans usually consisted of 10 to 40 animals most of which were mules as they were more durable than horses. Each large caravan, along the way and according to the rules of the synagogue, you had the right to hang bells on the animals, made of brass and harmonized with the sounds.

The muleteer usually accompanied his caravan on horseback called the “binekiko” (or bineiko or bineki) and never weighed more than 7-8 okades. On this horse the chief muleteer often loaded children or wealthy travelers who paid more.Each “falkari” (that is, all the families with all their assets, including livestock) stood out from its coat of arms which they had woven with various colors and designs on their woolen textiles.

This was done in order to distinguish the horse mules of the Sarakatsans from those of the Tzoumerkiotes. In the last mule they had the horseshoe case with the tools for the use to shoe and to trim horses.

During the night, the rucksacks formed a circle with the heads out to protect the loads in the center of the circle. In addition, there were guards as an additional protection measure. After a short rest and despite the fatigue and without an alarm clock, the muleteers got up around three in the morning, loaded the goods and set off again before the heat of the day begins. The starry sky guided them to the right path, with the constellations, on the basis of which they were oriented.

And just before dawn they caught the long songs, Greek and Vlach, which with their choruses and repetitions, rested them, while allowing the time of the long journey to pass more easily and quickly

The products that were transported at short distances were usually salt, cereals, cheese, timber, tar, lime, etc. The salt as well as the lime put the cornflakes in great concern for the fear of rain. The salt melts the rain, while the lime lights up with the water, threatening to burn the animal that carries it. That is why they had thick and waterproof goat wool covers and capes with which they covered the cargo. The villages of Tzoumerka needed large quantities of salt, due to the large production of cheese products, as it was the only means of preserving them.

Until the 60’s, when the bus reached Agnanta, the moleteers transported travelers and goods to Pramanta and Melissourgos with their animals. There were many muleteers from Melissourgoi and the surrounding area due to the double movement of most of the population of the mountain villages and the lack of any other type of transportation…

Traditional costume of Melissourgoi

Women used to be excellent connoisseurs of the weaving art, covering the whole range from the processing of the wool to the last stitch in the sewing. They themselves weaved all kinds of weavers, sewed clothes and embroidered them.

The women of Melissourgoi stood out for the different tying of the headscarf (tsemberi) which was dark blue, indigo or black with designs of birds or flowers in light blue. Their hair was braided in one or two braids, their earrings were hung with gold and silver pennies or with a thin pendant design with a small white stone at the end. Women wore jewelry and a cross while widows wore only jewelry. Younger women wore colored clothes, while older women wore dark blue or black.

The women’s underwear was made of cotton fabric and the socks were knitted with a byzantine or small flower design or scattered small flowers.

The long stockings for the “fustanella” were made of thin fabric in the natural color of white hair. Men’s “tsurapia” (short and thick, woolen socks) were dark blue or indigo. The jerseys were knitted or woven usually in the natural color of the hair but also dark blue or black). The belt was what adorned the men’s suit, hand-knitted in always dark blue or indigo. Fringes were inserted at both ends with a special design that was tied to the left.

Woven pillows with patterns of birds, flowers or geometric shapes were the ornament of every house. Most houses had a tapestry hanging on the wall with the theme of the village history. The design had beautiful colors and themes taken from nature, the buildings and the chapels that existed in the area.

In the afternoon of the day of the festival of Agia Paraskevi (July 26-27) or of Panagia (August 15-16) the circular dance “Kageli” is formed in the square “Kampos” of the village with the participation of all the residents but also of the foreigners who are in those days in the village. After sunset the organists retire and the “Kageli” begins. Initially the dancers dance with a heavy and slow rhythm and gradually the circle folds in two or more maneuvers (double or triple kageli).

The first of the dance, during the Turkish occupation, also held a flag depicting the Saint who celebrated or, usually, Saint George who was the symbol of the National Idea.

In the relevant bibliographic sources, the Kagelari is also presented with other names such as “Circles”, “Kagelaria”. It is said that the relevant names arose from the special shape that the dance chain erases during the unfolding of the dance act. The “turns left and right” made by the dancers in the «Kagelari”, that is the turns or the circles, are similar to the turns made by the wheeled vehicles on uphill terrains, which in Tzoumerka called “kagelia”. Relevant written or oral testimonies state that the Kagelari must have been created during the Turkish occupation. However, apart from the “national purpose” of the dance, the dance also provided the opportunity for bride’s choice.

On the day of the dance, those from the male inhabitants who belonged to the revolutionary and who knew in advance that only on that day they could communicate effectively and efficiently with their fellow villagers, entered the dance without raise the suspicions of the conquerors. Even the expatriates who had visited the village, had the opportunity through the kagelari to say goodbye to their fellow villagers shortly before leaving for their distant places of residence.

There are many songs and their variations that were heard in the dance. At first they dance with a slow rhythm which then becomes faster. It is the preparation for the kagelari so that the people enter the big dance line so that all those present can participate. When the dance line is formed with the men leading the circle and the women following, those who silently conduct the dance give the signal to stop. So, at the moment when the sun sets and everyone’s attention is turned to the leader of the dance, he slowly and longly begins the first verse. The dancers, motionless or slow-moving, repeat the same verse. From the second verse the leader of the dance with the first male section sing at a faster rhythm and at the same time the whole dance line begins to move and the dance of kagelati till the end.

MONASTERIES & CHURCHES

The place where the first houses were built was the central district of the village. The small, initially, square with the plane tree gathered the inhabitants and was the center that gathered for every issue that concerned the small society of the village. Next to it, higher than the square, next to the cemetery (the burial took place until 1929) was built the church of Agios Nikolaos which is the parish church of the village. The exact date has not been determined, however it is speculated that it was built by the first inhabitants who lived in Mesochori and formed the core of the village.

It is a three-aisled vaulted basilica without a dome. It was built in 1778 but because it was set on fire by the Turks in 1821, it was rebuilt for the most part with a stone roof and a shed supported by columns. During the earthquake of 1967 it was severely damaged and was poorly renovated. Inside the church is recorded by frescoes made by snow painters in 1846, according to an inscription, and are kept in very good condition. It has a magnificent wood-carved iconostasis, a work of the early 19th century. It is said that two of his portable icons were brought with them by the fighters from Melissourgoi who survived the heroic exit of Messolonghi.

According to tradition and written sources, at the end of July 1821, the Turkish army reached Melissourgoi, looted the village and burned some houses, continued the persecution of the women and children who left Kalarrytes (after the revolution of Kalarrytes with the known consequences) to avoid slaughter and captivity.

At the site of Stavros in Theodoriana the Turks suffered a crushing defeat by the Greeks and, retreating to Melissourgoi, which had been abandoned by the inhabitants, set fire to the whole village as well as the church of Agios Nikolaos.

When the residents returned, they saw everything – houses and church – burned. The church was dilapidated and no one dared to enter. They started repairing their house and later around 1827 -1830 because freedom had begun to be foretold they decided to restore the church. After procuring the necessary materials, they invited craftsmen from Konitsa to entrust them with the restoration work, who, fearing for the danger of the building, refused to undertake the entire work and agreed to do work only outside the church.

In that difficult moment, the project was undertaken by a builder from the village known as Mastro-Giannis who undertook to place the vertebrae. And here the technique of the craftsmen of Tzoumerka is proved once again. Exactly measuring the dimensions of the columns (thickness and height) he assigned to the craftsmen from Konitsa the construction of vertebrae and pilaster caps. Then with the help of experienced villagers he managed to support the dilapidated domes and replace the poles by placing the vertebrae reaching to the last. He was next to the pew of the right cantor. But because during the installation the canopy creaked, for fear of collapse he did not insist on applying it in the right place, so it protrudes a few centimeters, something that is obvious if one notices it.

In the following years the internal construction took place and it was finished in 1846 with the hagiography. In 1930-31 renovation and landscaping works were carried out.

The bell tower of Agios Nikolaos

In Greece, during the years of Ottoman rule, the use of the bell was banned, so as not to disturb the sleep of the dead Muslims, according to their own religious perception. Exceptions were Mount Athos, Ioannina and some islands, where the use of the bell was allowed as a special privilege.

On Sundays and holidays the “barker” of the parish passed by the houses, lightly knocking on the doors with a wooden hammer and calling the inhabitants. Only after years was the use of initially wooden beacons and later iron allowed. In 1798 Ali Pasha besieged, occupied Preveza and handed it over to the Turkalvans who looted, burned and killed. Residents of Melissourgoi, who were in Preveza at that time, asked the commissioners of the Metropolitan Church of Agios Charalambos to take the church bell for a small fee. The bell, from the fall and the bullets, had cracked and had a defective sound, but it did not cease to be a religious heirloom of historical value. Without the approval of anyone and with the tolerance of Ali Pasha (because the village as a “big village” maintained privileges) the bell was transferred to Melissourgoi and was dedicated to Agios Nikolaos. It was placed on a wooden tripod and for 70 years it invited the faithful to the vespers and the divine service.

In 1868 it was decided to build the bell tower where the old and a new bell were placed in two specific exposures and at the same time a larger one was ordered which was placed in a third box. Later, because the church of Agios Markos and the Monastery of Melissourgoi “the Entrances of the Virgin” did not have bells, one was given to the first church and the other – the first bell of the village – was given to the abbot of the Monastery.

In the surviving engraved inscriptions the construction of the monastery is placed in 1745 at the time when the Metropolitan of Ioannina was Gregory (1736-1752) who helped in its foundation. Some tradition wants the monastery to have been built many years earlier, during the Byzantine era, perhaps by five monks of unknown origin and to have been destroyed by raids like so many other monastery and church buildings.

After the destruction of the original monastery, the new building was built in 1745 on its foundations by the monk of Mount Athos Iakovos (from the Beekeepers), two other monks and a clergyman, who in 1756 drafted the rules of operation.

The original manuscript (1756) of the Regulation of administration and internal operation of the Monastery mentions only the date 1745 and any other conjecture lacks a historical basis.

The monastery had several incomes from agricultural crops, dairy products from goat pastures, beekeeping products, two mantanias, three dristeles (whirlpools) and a millstone that received 3% for the grinding cereals. In addition various offers (such as oil from the area of ​​Souli) and income from the rituals, the vows and of course from the religious festival.

Today only its katholikon survives and is located directly opposite the Melissourgoi on the mountain slope above the bee stream and a little below the chapel of Agia Paraskevi. The katholikon of the monastery is in good condition outside and the surviving frescoes are very few.

At the time when the monastery was operating, the Monasteries of Vyliza and Rovelista belonged to it with their properties. Today, when the monastery is dissolved, it is part of the Monastery of Kato Panagia of Arta.

Today only its katholikon survives and is located directly opposite the Melissourgoi on the mountain slope above the stream and a little below the chapel of Agia Paraskevi. The katholikon of the monastery is in good condition outside and the surviving frescoes are very few.

The monastery was built on the site, where today the homonymous church of the village in the NW of Melissourgoi is, and which, according to its founding inscription, was completely renovated in 1843. According to tradition, the church was built before the church of Agios Nikolaos around 1747 and had two cells which were demolished in 1843 when its katholikon was renovated.

Also, 3-4 simple tombs found are attributed to dying monks. The monastery complex was surrounded by a high wall. The entrance was on the south side and the exit on the west. Near the church of the Assumption of the Virgin and the monastery there used to be, again according to tradition, a temple. It is unknown at this time what it was a “pre-Christian” or “Christian” temple.

Agia-Paraskevi-chapel-Melissourgoi

Above the katholikon of the Monastery of the Entrances of the Virgin there is the chapel of Agia Paraskevi which is not hagiographed and, according to the marble slab on the west wall, the date of its initial construction is unknown

It is a small wooden-roofed basilica without a dome. It was founded in 1770 on the site of an oldest – probably Byzantine – church, which was destroyed in 1696 by Maniatis Gerakaris Lymperakis and in 1870 it was completely renovated. The interior has magnificent frescoes from 1877 that are preserved in relatively good condition. It is located in the village and has access from paved paths

Αγιος Κοσμας

In a place with an amazing view is this chapel dedicated to Kosmas the Aetolian who passed through the village was hosted, catechized and inspired the inhabitants.

Τζουμερκα-Μελισσουργοι

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