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A beautiful village in a mountainous valley

Vovousa is a distant but beautiful village in East Zagori. It is built at an altitude of 1000 m. in a mountain valley that is divided in two by the river Aoos that springs in the south. It belongs to the human-geographical and cultural unit of the Vlach villages of Pindos, is located 70 km northeast of the city of Ioannina and administratively belongs to the Municipality of Zagori. Vovousa together with the villages Doliani, Vrysochori, Greveniti, Elatochori, Iliochori, Kavallari, Kastanona, Laista, Makrino, Tristeno and Flampourari make up the so-called Vlachozagoro.

This integration in the administrative unit of Zagorochoria shaped its historical course and influenced its economic organization and its relations with the Vlach villages of the surrounding areas, close and varied relations.

«The famous Valia Calda which many times served as a refuge for the infamous thieves extends above the village… There are green forests, from which the wood and the torch are extracted for Zagori and the other provinces of Epirus, where in summer men and women go there to carry home the torches they need, and their songs are very strange and their dances are inimitable…»

Ioannis Lampridis in” Zagoriaka “(p.83)


The village is surrounded by large and dense forests of fir, beech and black pine. It is an area where the abundance of water makes it a great hydrological basin. The verdant valley in which the primary bed of Aoos is formed is defined south and east by the mountains Tşucă Roşă (Tsuka Rosa = red peak) and Ou (Egg) to the west and north of the Morfă(Morfa) and Flamburu (Flamburo) hills. At its lowest points, at an altitude of about 1000 meters, the river that now follows a northern course, passes through the settlement of Vovousa.

Impressive is the predominance of water-related names such as vále and fîntînă which have a place as constituents in many place names. The predominance of water-related names such as vále and fîntînă, which have a place as constituents in many place names, is impressive.

The word vále means any pit in the ground into which water flows. Therefore depending on the dimensions of this pit the word Vale can mean valley, river or ravine. Similarly, the term fîntînă refers to both the fountains of the settlements and the natural springs that gush drinking water. Here, the liquid element determines not only the nomenclature, but also the history of the area and shapes the economic and social life of the inhabitants.

Here, the liquid element defined and defines not only nominally, but also historically the space while shaping the economic and social life of the inhabitants of the valley. The settlement took its name from the river Aoos that crosses it. The name Aoos is a restoration of its Roman name which was imposed by the scholars and the administrative services.

According to Fanis Dasoulas, Doctor of Folklore at the University of Ioannina, all idiomatic and linguistic types of the historical name of the river are variants of a common root with the most thorough scientific study to date, according to which it is a remnant of a hydronym derived from the popular Latin phrase Amnis or Aqua or Fluvia Vivosa or Viosa.

The use of the adjective vivosuς, which essentially means alive, presupposes the fast and impetuous movement movement of water or its cool texture. After the cut of the noun, only the aggressive definition that constituted the beginning of the medieval Viosa type remained as a name. This name, after being transferred to the Italian coast, evolved into the Voosa type, which formed the basis of the medieval and modern type.

However, the historical name of the river is found for the first time in a sigil (sigil (official imperial document) issued in 1019 by the Byzantine emperor Basil II, byname Basil Bulgaroctonus (Greek: Basil, Slayer of the Bulgars). In the same century, Anna Komnini in her work “Alexiada” clearly mentions in the river of Aoos. Since then, references to the river have increased and we find them in almost all Balkan languages ​​as variations of its historical name.

The linguist Theodor Capidan in the place name Baiasa sees the continuation of the ancient pronunciation of the B pact as the most irrefutable presumption of the existence of the Vlachs in Pindos since the time of the Roman presence in this area. Costas Krystallis in 1891 mentions it as Vojusa, and the linguist Gustav Weigand in 1895 as Vovusa and Baiasa.

The livestock in Vovousa was very prosperous and this is inferred from the information that the settlement Vriziatsino located near the present Doliani of East Zagori was bought in the middle of the 18th century by the inhabitants of Vovousa to be their winter pastures. However, Vovousa is not characterized as an absolute livestock village because even before the development of the wood economy the inhabitants were engaged in both animal husbandry and agriculture.

Today’s Vlach toponyms refer to places of older medieval settlements of the valley. According to unsubstantiated traditions, the village was formed by the union of these micro-settlements-exappeared today- between the 16th and 17th century and since then it has the name of the river that crosses it. From the researches the first reference of the settlement is made in 1592/93 in a manuscript of the Monastery of the Transfiguration of Meteora which is a valuable archive of toponyms and names of the period 1592/93 – 19th century. So the settlement pre-existed or had just been established.

The original settlers were basically farmers and additionally engaged in the exploitation of forest wealth. In the course of time, it is very likely that the existing agricultural settlements of the mountain valleys coexisted with groups of moving cattle breeders who were looking for stable mountain homelands and who then integrated with the inhabitants of the settlement.

The French traveler F. Pouqueville, who passed through Vovousa in 1806, gives a brilliant picture of the village, describing the houses surrounded by gardens with many vegetables and many roses. It is an image that refers to a permanent settlement and not to a seasonal one like the neighboring settlements of the Vlachs with their herds that had occupied the surrounding subalpine meadows.

The people of Pindos were connected with applications of water mobility and mechanisms of processing of agricultural production such as watermills, mantania and water mills, managing to exceed the local production. Vovousa, having the possibilities of water movement, was an important derveni (mountain pass) with a fully developed processing function, as well as other settlements of Pindos. Merchants and producers of grain and woolen fabrics, processed and processed there, safely, the products that moved between different regions.

The technological starting point of these developments was the water saw, a real water-powered wood chopping machine, which achieved greater and higher quality production at a lower cost in time and effort and contributed to the rapid growth of logging production. The water saw has been known in Europe since the 14th century and its use became known in the Balkans in the late 16th century. Its use in Greece and specifically in Pindos is unknown when it started. What is certain is that at the end of the 19th century it was widely used in all the productive forests of the mountain range.

According to the residents of the village of Vovousa, the water saw was imported to Pindos from Bulgaria. The know-how of making a forest water saw and the methods of wood production were common for the whole of Pindos, since this art was practiced by specific groups of craftsmen who roamed throughout the mountain range. However, there was a continuous and massive use of the water saw in Greece only in Pindos. Technologically, this mechanism can be considered as the most complex tool ever built by the inhabitants of Pindos, in the pre-industrial era.

In the 19th century with the first attempts to industrialize the Greek area, the exploitation of the forests of Pindos is an important economic activity and the contribution of some settlements of the mountain range in the development of this activity was decisive. A large part of the inhabitants belonged to the mpouloukia (groups of craftsmen), organized by the prionades that is the manufacturers-operators of water saws.

The participation of the residents of Vovousa was important. The endurance of the groups in the difficult geographical and climatic conditions of the mountains and the art of the saw operators was admirable.

The linguist Theodor Capidan in the place name Baiasa sees the continuation of the ancient pronunciation of the B pact as the most irrefutable presumption of the existence of the Vlachs in Pindos since the time of the Roman presence in this area. Costas Krystallis in 1891 mentions it as Vojusa, and the linguist Gustav Weigand in 1895 as Vovusa and Baiasa.

Vovousa during the Turkish Occupation

During the Turkish occupation, Vovousa, like the area of ​​Zagori, came under the jurisdiction of Valide Sultan (the queen mother) and by paying taxes, like the rest of Zagorochoria, managed to maintain the privileged status under which the institution of self-government operated. It was the period of the great prosperity of the village and was considered one of the largest villages.

When in 1803 the youngest son of Ali Pasha, Salih, lent to the inhabitants a sum of money which, when they collected it, he refused to receive it asking for the amount in Venetian coins, as he had lent them. Refusal to accept another equivalent currency has cost residents around 4,000 grosses. This trick of Ali Pasha and his relatives was aimed at turning Vovousa (as well as those villages that could not repay the loan) into a feud (ciftlik). Anagnostis Hadjigeorgiou, one of Ali Pasha’s grammarians in Thessaly, who came from Vovousa helped in this difficult situation,and giving 20,000 “white” (silver coins), relieved the village of its debt. Unfortunately, Hadjigeorgiou lost not only his position but also his life.

Robberies and expatriations

The pressure of the Turks, the tyrannical domination of Ali Pasha and the robbery raids, forced the inhabitants to emigrate, both inside Greece and in the wider Balkan and Central European area. In 1817 about 120 families, belonging to the ruling class of Vovousa, left in groups in search of better fortune in eastern Macedonia and eastern Romulia where a group established a colony near Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

During the Greek revolution, the conductors from Vovousa were forced to provide their services to the Turkish army. In 1824, during the siege of Messolonghi, the Turks recruited them along with 1000 pack animals.

The fear of retaliation and the general insecurity that existed in Zagori forced all the inhabitants to leave the village, taking refuge in places where the jurisdiction of Ali Pasha was not enough and to wander in search of a new homeland. So the village was deserted, but in 1833 they returned, setting up their households again and continuing the logging and supplying with wood not only Zagori but also many other parts of Epirus they reached again the prosperity they had before.

Between 1878 and 1883, robbery was rampant. Vovousa was at the center of this crisis, as a transportation center that was, but also as the more vulnerable village in Zagorochori in the presence of robbers from the villages of Grevena such as Perivoli, Distrato and Samarina.

In general, robbery was a permanent situation in the southern Balkans and was a consequence of the uprising of 1878 in which Greece participated on a limited scale, creating three fronts (Macedonian, Thessalian and Epirotic). In Epirus these companies are known as “Radoviziana” and “Lykoursiaka” because the war broke out in Radovizi and in the coastal sector near Lykoursi.

The failure of the movement that resulted in a large number of casualties and destruction at the expense of the Christian element pushed the Greek government on the one hand to withdraw the regular army units on the other hand to disband the voluntary armed forces (guerrillas) and to stop any fighting action. Most of the armed forces did not comply with the government’s decision and continued their military operations against the Turks.

However, their activity was mixed with indescribable robberies that resulted in the complete destruction of Zagori. These bandits, which had their beginnings initially with national purposes, were dazzled by the wealth and culture of the area and acted criminally against the inhabitants of Zagori. The predatory corps, which had their beginnings initially for national purposes, were dazzled by the wealth and culture of the area and acted criminally against the inhabitants of Zagori.

The damage suffered by the villages of Zagori was incalculable and to such an extent that the inhabitants were forced, in that decade, to leave their place.Towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, with the abolition of privileges and due to the looting raids, the decline of both Vovousa and the general area began.

The liberation of Vovousa

In November 1912, in an engagement involving between a Turkish detachment and the inhabitants, ten houses and a large clock made exclusively of wood were burned. After the liberation, Vovousa with the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913 was annexed to the Greek state and underwent the changes of the mountainous volume of the Greek countryside. Unlike other neighboring villages, Vovousa did not show a strong population outflow because a large part of its economy turned to various craft activities, such as logging and transporting timber to Ioannina with sacks. There was a small influx of immigrants to Romania and later to the United States.

Romanian propaganda in Vovousa

The causes of the issue were Romanian grandeur and the need to disorient the Vlach-Moldavians due to loss of Transylvania from Austria-Hungary, and Bessarabia from Russia. Because any reaction to these Great Powers posed serious dangers to the hegemonies turned their attention to the Vlachs of Thessaly, Epirus and Macedonia whom they characterized of the same nationality. The creation of the Kutsovlach issue was first created in 1849. In 1863-64 it was officially supported by the Romanian government.

In 1860 the “Societatea culturala macedo-romana” was founded and its leaders with proclamations called for the establishment of the “Great Romanian State” in Macedonia, Epirus and Thessaly because they themselves were mostly inhabited by Romanians. The commune’s financial support was taken by the Romanian ruler Alexandros Kouzas with money from the numerous Greek monasteries in Wallachia, which he had confiscated.

In general, the aim of Romanian propaganda was first to attract the Vlachs of the regions of Macedonia, Thessaly and Epirus, with Greek consciousness, and secondly, the separation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the securing of ecclesiastical and educational autonomy.

From 1885 onwards, Romanian propaganda was highlighted both in the vilayet of Ioannina and in the area of ​​Pindos. Before schools were established in Ioannina, intense proselytizing activity preceded in Vovousa because the village, due to its location, could be a base and center of operations in eastern Zagori, Konitsa and the accesses of Pindos for the proselytism and the establishment of schools in the wider area and would ensure a stable number of students for the operation of the schools of Ioannina.

According to press reports from that time from 1881, when the Romanian school of Vovousa was founded, until 1886, it operated only by name, due to the reluctance of the inhabitants to send their children to it. In 1886 the conversion of Zisis Papathanassiou was a great success of propaganda, because he was a doctor-scientist, because he was a doctor-scientist, a student of the Rizarios School and a graduate of the University of Athens, with influence both in his village and in the surrounding villages.

With promises and generous offers he managed to get the majority of the inhabitants with them, and at the same time with persecutions of the opponents he managed to close the Greek school during the three years 1886-1889. This period was for propaganda the time of its prosperity and at the same time of its ordeal.

Over time, the national feeling of the people who were seduced and who reacted strongly was awakened, as a result, the Greek school reopened after struggles that created dangers for the Greek-minded and led them to the verge of imprisonment and exile, due to the complaints and lawsuits of the propaganda executives.

Between 1917 and 1940 there was a new resurgence of Romanian propaganda causing a new source of division and unrest in the Vlach population of Pindos. Some of the Vlachs, led by Alcibiades Diamantis from Samarina, collaborated with the Italians with the aim of establishing an autonomous Vlach region in Greece, the “Principality of Pindos”. Some of the romanianizing Vlachs, led by Alcibiades Diamantis from Samarina, collaborated with the Italians with the aim of establishing an autonomous Vlach region in Greece, the “Principality of Pindos”.

The Italians tried to install consuls in the Vlach villages, but met the reaction of the Greek-Vlachs. In the autumn of 1918, the “Principalityof Pindos” was proclaimed by Vlachs from Korytsa, who prevented the Greek army from taking Vovousa from the departing Italians. This Republic lived for only one day, while 10 families of the propagandists were forced to move, for fear of retaliation, in the region of Northern Epirus.

At the Peace Conference in 1919 the Romanians sent a letter, reiterating the demand for an independent canton. In response, the Greek-Vlachs of the area sent a new letter denying the above claims. Diamantis, although he escaped to Albania, was sentenced to death. In 1927, however, he was pardoned by the Greek state.

The battle of Vovousa

At dawn on October 28, the Italian attack began outside Kalpaki of Ioannina, in Thesprotia and Pindos. Five of the nine divisions of the Italian army invaded Greek territory passing through the outposts of Grammos. At the same time, in the Pindos sector, the alpinists of the “Julia” Division penetrated through mountain passes and, repelling the light Greek divisions, arrived on November 3 in Vovousa, 20 km northwest of Metsovo, threatening to cut off the Ioannina-Kalampaka road.

That morning, Captain Anastasios Pappas arrived in the village first with all his soldiers left wandering for three days in Pindos, exhausted and with little ammunition and also cut off from the forces of Davakis who was defending on the line Smolikas-Kastaniani-Kiafa-Katafiki. Arriving in Vovousa, they found that the Italians and specifically the vanguard of the 3rd Alpine Division Julia were arriving in the village. Not having a radio, the captain immediately notified the military administration in Metsovo from the telephone line of the Gendarmerie Station. The lieutenant colonel who was in Metsovo, with whom Pappas spoke, was taken by surprise. He was not waiting for the Italians there, nor for Pappas, who normally had to be somewhere else. However, he was found at the right time in the right place.

The lieutenant colonel asked Captain Anastasios Pappas to keep a defense until reinforcements arrive. Thanks to the heroism of the captain who attacked suddenly with the few men of his company, and gave a victorious battle against the men of the Division Julia, the first retreat of the Italians was achieved. Pappas’s company played an important role at the beginning of the war. Despite the suffering of the soldiers and the lack of ammunition, he kept the Italians in Vovousa. And what is worth mentioning is that the Italian division consisted of warlike men with capable command. On November 9, 1940, the commander of “Julia”, General Mario Girotti, ordered the retreat of the division. A few days later, Greek forces recaptured the border crossings of Pindos.

“In the military history of Italy, the Greek-Italian war is one of its darkest pages. It was a useless, shameful war with negative consequences “, writes the Italian journalist and writer Mario Cervi in ​​his essay “

History of the Greek War” (Storia della guerra di Grecia

The Germans in Vovousa

On October 19, 1943, German troops invaded Vovousa. They were accompanied by Italians, who did not accept the capitulation of Italy, coming from villages of Konitsa. Due to the fact that the Hellenic People’s Liberation Army (ΕΛΑΣ)in March 1943, attacked, disarmed and executed the Italian carabinieri, they carried out a complete robbery of the existing ones and set the village on fire.

Out of the 84 total houses, 80 and together the two schools (boys and girls), as well as the church of Agios Athanasios were set on fire and destroyed. They also took 90 large animals (cows, halves) as well as clothing, furniture and food. In July 1944 in the framework of the operation “Steinadler” (Golden Eagle) (against ΕΛΑΣ guerrillas in the area of ​​Grevena, Metsovo, Konitsa and Kastoria) Vovousa together with the nearby villages of Tristeno, Flampourari, Elatochori, Doliani and Leptokarya suffered looting and new destructions.

Civil War

The suffering of the village continued in the civil war as Vovousa, due to its geographical location, was the focus of hostilities between the National Army and the National Liberation Front and mourned victims on both sides. In 1948 some families of Vovousa left the village due to the civil war and settled in Ioannina where some stayed permanently while others returned after the civil war and organized their life in the village.

Post-war period

After the war, in the context of housing the fiery settlements, the reconstruction of the destroyed village began and one-storey houses were built. Many residents settled permanently in Ioannina, Thessaloniki, Trikala, Athens and others emigrated to North and South America, Germany and Australia. However, the village did not present the image of desolation that most of the mountainous and semi-mountainous settlements of the Greek province had suffered because a large part of the population remained there and was active in logging.

As one of the most remote villages of Epirus, it was left in isolation since the old road network was abandoned and the new carriage roads that were built bypassed Vovousa and marginalized it. The dirt road that connected it with Perivoli was built in 1965, the road to central Zagori was used seasonally by loggers and Forest Services and until the 1970s there was no electricity supply. The women take care of their households and gardens. There is a single-seat primary school in the village. The rapid growth of tourism in recent years has turned the activities of many families in the tourism sector.


The Bridge

The large single-arched bridge that dominates the center of the settlement built in 1748 with the sponsorship of Alexis Missios from Monodendri of Zagori is the main feature of the settlement and was the only passage of Aoos for travelers heading from the area of ​​Zagori to Grevena and generally to Macedonia and Constantinople. Especially in winter this arterial road was more accessible than the main one, which crossed the town of Metsovo and for travelers who wanted to travel from Ioannina to Macedonia. The control of the bridge presupposed the control of the valley and consequently of the surrounding mountain passes.

The place names testify that the valley was not only an organized passage but also the seat of an important armatoliki. For the men of arms the control of the valley helped in the exercise of local authority, and when they disagreed with the central then they came into conflict with it. The construction of the bridge, made this passage of Aoos in one of the most important roads of communication of Epirus with Macedonia and it is very likely that it contributed to the final unification of the surrounding small settlements.

La Puntika Bridge

Small single-arched bridge at 995 m altitude, in the homonymous location in the south shortly before entering the village above Asprorema (Aroulou Albu in Vlachs), which flows into Aoos river. The villagers call it “La Puntika”, a Vlach name meaning “small bridge”. It is unknown when it was built and who built it.

Water Power Museum

It is worth the visit because after many years, the historic water saw was put into operation with the assistance of the experienced craftsman Alekos Drougias. The magnificent construction that the lumberjacks of the area dismantled and rebuilt depending on the place where they worked to cut the logs, is an achievement of the versatile craftsmanship that combines technology with the power of nature. With minor repairs and the power of the Aoos, the engine started again on the first day of August 2020.


The churches of Agios Georgios (building of 1814), Agia Paraskevi (where the divine service takes place every July 26 and the traditional three-day festival of Vovousa) and Panagia stand out, as well as the Primary school built at the expense of Petros Kazanas.

The Forest of Agia Paraskevi in Vovousa

In Epirus, in the mountains of Zagori and Konitsa, there are many natural places dedicated to churches, chapels, icons, where old trees and age-old forests are found. Along with the effort to systematically record them and highlight their importance as valuable elements of our natural and cultural heritage, the idea was born to study whether these sites are of particular value for the conservation of nature and biodiversity.

This idea finally took shape with the project Project: THALIS-SAGE (Sacred Groves of Epirus), which was coordinated by the University of Ioannina and in which scientists of many different specialties, both natural and humanities, from five different countries participated. The five-year cooperation and research provided many interesting facts, most importantly that the sacred forests of Epirus functioned as sanctuaries for the conservation of biodiversity, long before words like “sustainability” or “nature protection” are heard that have now become part of our daily vocabulary. The example of these places, both in the research area in Epirus and elsewhere, shows how the local communities of the past managed to preserve Nature. Because these small communities have been able to preserve these forests for their own values ​​and by serving their own goals, they are now gaining in importance.

In 2015, the sacred forests of Zagori and Konitsa, which are home to dozens or even hundreds of centuries-old trees, were included in the national list of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO. According to the UNESCO definition, intangible cultural heritage refers to collective representations, practices, expressions, values, knowledge and skills associated with specific communities, groups or individuals and passed down from generation to generation.

One of these forests is the forest of Agia Paraskevi in ​​Vovousa which is dedicated to the church of Agia Paraskevi. It is located at the top of the homonymous hill and celebrates on July 26. There are some of the largest black pines of Pindos and many trees that die naturally from old age. It is one of the most well-preserved forests in the area. The forest is about half an hour away from the village and is approached following a path that starts from the stone bridge of Vovousa


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