Dozens of channels cut through the steep Pindos mountains of the Zagoria region, northern Greece, separating the villages that hang on their slopes. There are streams in them that create huge canyons, see the Vikos Canyon entry; Others, albeit more humble and less famous, have dug deep channels of their own. The growling winds in the winter inside the canyons and the snow piled up on the slopes placed additional obstacles for those walking the roads.
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In the 18th and 19th centuries, the days of Ottoman rule, the Zagoriya region flourished. The Turks preferred not to waste their time fighting in the wild and remote area. Instead, the authorities reached an agreement with the residents of Zagoria and granted them, in exchange for high taxes, the right to self-government. Zagoriya became a “free trade” zone. Rich merchants, with world-wide connections in the terms of those days, settled in Zagoriya. Well-known artisans and builders there built mansions, beautiful churches and arched bridges for them.
Building the bridges required special skill. Most of the builders came from the villages of Voio and Konitsa. The financiers were rich, Ottoman government officials and sometimes nearby monasteries, and many of the bridges are named after them. Nowadays, about 80 bridges have survived in the Pindos mountains, which reveal skill and artistic sense.
The bridge builders did their job faithfully. They moved from village to village, built bridge after bridge and adapted each one to the character of the place. Most bridges are made of one large arch, but there are also two and even three arches. Paved paths and winding staircases lead to the bridges from the top of the slopes.
At a distance of about half a meter from each other, horizontal strips about a centimeter high stand out from the pavement, to reduce the risk of slipping during rain and snow. Most of the bridges are not equipped with railings, and those crossing them are required to concentrate on the task of crossing the bridge, otherwise they will find themselves in an abyss. On bridges that stood in places where a strong wind blows, they used to hang bells, and by the loudness of the ringing passers-by knew how dangerous the crossing was.
The bridges of the Zagoriya region have stood the test of time for more than 200 years. Now, instead of peddlers and farmers, who used donkeys and laden mules to transport their loads, they are used by the many travelers visiting the area, a romantic echo of the days gone by and gone.
Here are five bridges in the Zagoriya region.
Plakidas Bridge (Kalogeriko) (Plakidas (Kalogeriko
The three impressive arches on which the bridge rests, reminiscent of the body curves of a butterfly caterpillar in its movement, are what gave the bridge its glory. The bridge was built in 1814 over the famous Vicos Canyon. The railing is not continuous, but is made of columns and columns that accompany the bridge along its entire length. In this place, the Profitis Ilias monastery operated a flour mill, which utilized the water power of the river. Later, a wooden bridge was built on the spot, but thanks to the support of Serapim, the abbot of Kifo, it was replaced by the stone bridge that stands on the spot to this day, which gave it the nickname “Calogrico” (of the abbot). In 1863, Alexis Plakidas repaired the bridge, while Eugenius Plakidas did more when he restored the bridge and built a fountain next to it to serve the villagers who passed through it. Obviously the bridge also bears their name.
Kontodimos (Lazaridis) Bridge Kontodimos (Lazaridis)
The stone bridge was built in 1753 with the donation of Tellis Kontodemus from the village of Vardeto, who was an interpreter for the French embassy in Istanbul. The bridge is also named after Kostas Lazaridis, a teacher in the village of Kukuli and the owner of a flour mill that operated near the bridge and served the surrounding villages. The bridge leans over the Mikros Vikos river channel near the village of Kipi and is easily reached by a stone-built path. Above the bridge is a “Candela” rock. According to the legend, in 1853 robbers burned down the church of the village of Kipi and stole the icons of St. Constantine and St. Eleni. Since then, every night on the eve of Shrove Tuesday, the locals could see a candle hanging on the rock above the bridge. The custom stopped when the Kokoli people found the symbols near the river.
Kokoros (Noutsos) Bridge
It is hard to believe that there is a traveler who misses a visit to this bridge, because it is located in the heart of the hiking area of Zagoria, between the villages of Kukuli, Dilupo and Kipoi. The impressive bridge, with its unique stone arch, was built in 1750 over the Vidomatis River, with the money of Notsos Contodimos. This bridge suffered from bad luck and many times it had to be repaired and maybe even rebuilt. Many residents of Zagoria participated in the maintenance of the bridge, including Grigoris Kokouris from the village of Kokoli, who operated a flour mill near the bridge and won the bridge to bear his name as well. The bridge was later renovated by Alexis Notsos.
Klidonia Bridge (Voidomatis) Klidonia (Voidomatis)
The long-arched bridge was built in 1853, near where Vikos Canyon opens into the open air and becomes the Vidomatis River. From here you can go on a relaxing river cruise, or go on a hike along the path that follows the tree-lined river.
The Pepigo Bridge is not very big, but this does not detract from its beauty and especially from the beauty around it. The bridge leans over the canyon channel of the Vogos stream, which descends straight to the edge of the Vikos Canyon. The bridge used to connect the village of Pepigo with the village of Micro Pepigo, a smaller village from which a mountain path leads to the Dragon Lake (Drakolimni) and into the heart of the Pindos Mountains. Parts of the old road can still be followed nowadays.
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