This is the feeling you get looking at Vourgareli. When you approach it driving, the bare mountain ranges of the Athamanian mountains (Tzoumerka) are revealed to you. They end up on the gently pine filled slopes of Prophet Elias on the east and Omalis on the west, where the village is nested. Vourgareli is located in East Tzoumerka (Athamanica Mountains), at an altitude of 800m and is the seat of the Municipality of Athamania. The origin of the name is believed to come from the surname of Vourgarelis, which was a logger in the region, or from Bulgarian loggers who settled here due to forests and running water for the transfer of buildable timber to Arta.
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Useful phone numbers:
Local Police Station: +30 26850 22288, +30 26850 22413
Pharmacies: +30 26850 22215, +30 26850 24407
Fire Service: 199
According to the philologist Vaso Rapti:
The history of the village is related to the history of the wider region of Athamania, as this was one of its centers. Athamania took its name from the mythical king Athamantas, who reigned in the Orchomenos of Boeotia and after the murder of his son Learchos he migrated to Athamania and became its king. The Athamanians have an ancient history and their name was mentioned for the first time in the sacred war of Phokeans (355-346 BC), where they took part. Their most important cities were Argithea, Theodora, Tetrapylia, Iraklia, etc., which have not been identified with certainty.
The most important king was Aminandros (220-184 BC), who organized the state. After the death of Aminandros, the kingdom was abolished and the area was administered by the public of the Athamanians. Macedonian currencies certify their submission to Macedonia. During the period of the Roman occupation, residents were forced to live in Nikopolis, resulting in a decrease in the population.
From the 3rd century. BC, Celtic nomads settled in the area, leaving a lot of toponyms, not Greek. In the Byzantine years, Athamania is part of the “topic” of Nicopolis (where the issue was originally large military units of the Byzantine army and later administrative districts). In the Ottoman domination, it retained a form of semi-dependence and self-government. It was part of the Army of Tzoumerka and Radovizi and followed the fate of the rest of Greece.
In 1820, when the Turks fought with Ali Pasha, the Klephts (self-appointed soldiers, anti-Ottoman insurgents, who lived in the countryside when Greece was a part of the Ottoman Empire) of the area and Markos Botsaris were assembled at the monastery of Ag. Georgios, in Vourgareli, to prepare the uprising in the area of Arta. A second meeting must have taken place, on the same spot, before May 30, 1821, with the blessings of Abbot Christopher. It was attended by G. Bacolas Karaiskakis, M. Koutelidas and 200 Captains, with the aim of liberating Arta. Officially, the revolution in Arta began on May 30, 1821, when Karaiskakis and G. Koudeidas hit the Turks in Komboti. Another important event was the Battle of Vourgarelli, on 23 September 1823, where Omer Vryonis was defeated, thus rescuing the Revolution in the West Roumeli.
Despite the constant uprisings of the residents of the area (1854, 1867, 1878), the area of Arta was liberated in 1881 and it was incorporated into the Greek state. In fact, this liberation concerned only 14 villages, because the rest were not own by residents, but some of them were owned by some squire, so the inhabitants were not free but slaves. The Turkish landlords sold their estates to the Greeks before they left, at a small price, which in turn became even more tough rulers than the Turks.
Vourgareli was Abraham Pasha Karakehaya’s. In order to reach its inhabitants, it was necessary to buy it, which was achieved after a hard struggle. The Mayor Theodorias Georgios Oikonomidis was the leader in that struggle. In the first contract in 1884, the inhabitants bought Vourgareli, by Abraham Pasha, for the sum of 4,416.66 golden Ottoman pounds. However, since there was an amount of 80.16 pounds that some residents were unable to pay the village was in danger of falling back to Pashas. Therefore, in the second contract in 1889, the landlord K. Karapanos from Arta was the guarantor, assuming the repayment amounting to £80,16 (2,244 drachmas) and thus became the new ruler of the region for the next 40 years.
In 1924 the inhabitants were able to repay the debt and the Cooperative of Co-ownership of Vourgareli – Paleokantouno was established. The Cooperative’s action was significant and at its expense, many charitable works were made. During the Italian-German occupation, the region suffered much, due to the cruelty of the conquerors, and in the difficult years of the civil war many residents of the village were forced to emigrate. In April 1943, Nap. Zervas installed his headquarters at the home of Doctor Anagnostis. Vourgareli became the first capital of free mountainous Greece. The Germans retaliated and on May 5, 1943, they bombed the village. German planes dropped more than 400 bombs. The victims were 13 dead and 30 injured, most of them village residents. Many homes were destroyed and many people were left homeless. The evil was completed on 3 October 1943 when the Germans burned it together with the surrounding villages. Then the church of St. Nicholas was burned, which was rebuilt in a design by architect and academic Anastasios Orlandos.
Another event related to the years of Occupation and National Resistance is the first theatrical performance of the Mountain Theater, the cultural department of EAM, played in Vourgareli square. The villagers also took part in this show.
The people of Vourgareli rebuilt their houses and set their lives from scratch. In the difficult years that followed (civil, post-civil years), many residents of the village were forced to immigrate, others to the cities, to study or search for better fortune and others in overseas countries, resulting in the weakening of the village as well as the entire Greek countryside.
Such a place so favored by nature could not be left secret for a long time. The location with the unobstructed view, the green of the trees, the running waters and the stone fountains, the three beautiful bridges and the square (one of the most beautiful ones we met in Epirus) could only be a pole of attraction for those who love nature and are looking for the unspoiled life of the mountainous villages of Epirus and even the region of Tzoumerka.
And don’t even think for one moment that you will get bored. Beginning from the village you can explore the surrounding area. Starting from the beautiful square with the amazing view and walking along the old houses you first hear and then see the two stone taps that constitute the “trademark” of the village, Archonto and Kristallo which were built in 1926 at the expense of the Cooperative.
Do not miss the following:
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Double click on the images below to get a better sense of the village on full screen.
WHAT TO SEE
For over 80 years, water is running from the 4 mouths of Archonto and the 7 mouths of Kristallo. There are also mythical myths that if you believe in them and drink water you can get married in Vourgareli and stay there forever. The locals will show you the house that Napoleon Zervas chose for his headquarters and there is a sign in the village square that will remind you that in 1981 during the Rallis government, Vourgarell was chosen to give farmers and livestock farmers the first EEC subsidies.
The three stone bridges of the village are among the places that deserve your visit.
1. Traditional stone bridge Neraidogefyra: One-arched bridge located in Barda Place. It was built at the end of the 19th century (1950) and the sponsor was Konstantinos Poulis. Underneath it passes a stream of Sarantaporos that ends up in Arachthos. You will meet it when entering Vourgareli from Arta! It is located on a path that you follow in your right hand.
2. Bridge at Korais Stream: One-arched bridge located in Vourgareli on the road to Athamanio. It bridges the homonymous stream of the Kalentini river, the tributary of Arachthos.
3. Bridge at Megali Vrisi: Single-arched bridge located in the same location outside the village of Vourgareli, going to Athamanio. It bridges the Kalentinis tributary of Arachthos. Its construction took place probably in the late 19th century.
About 4 km outside of the village is the Red Church or Panagia Vellas which is one of the most important monuments that the glorious Komninodoukades dynasty created in the 13th century in Epirus.
It is located in the village Paleochori, 4 km south of Vourgareli. It was built in 1281, ie before Parigoritissa of Arta, at the expense of Theodoros Tsimiskis, protortor (high military post of the Byzantine Court during the reign of the Komnenos and Paleologists Dynasty). The name Red Church is obviously due to the lively red color of the briquettes, of which the masonry of the temple is composed. Traditionally, it is also called the “king monastery”, probably because it was once the catholic (mainly temple) of a royal monastery which, when abandoned, became a part of the monastery of Vellas, from which it was named.
For the particular importance of the Temple, it has been designated as a Historic listed monument.
Surely the Saint George Monastery just outside the village is worth your visit as well. The monastery was founded in 1690 and it was rebuilt in 1714, according to an inscription found on the wall. Today’s cells are later constructions. In the middle of the 19th century, the monastery was in great prosperity and its charitable action was significant since, as mentioned in sources, it donated large amounts to local schools and assisted poor families.
It played an important role, in the sense that it contributed to the beginning of the revolution in Epirus, since the rebellion of the area was prepared there. During the Ottoman domination it served as a refuge for the troops and thieves of Tzoumerka, but it also covered the religious needs of the inhabitants, when the Germans burned the Saint. Nicholas In 1957 it was named a preserved historic monument.
In 1957 it was considered a preserved historic monument.