THE REGION OF ZAGORI/NATURAL GEOGRAPHY
Between Mitsikeli (1810 m), Timfi (2480 m), the Aoos and Vardas rivers and Mavrovouni of Metsovo, an area of 1,050 km, with the Slavic name Zagori (meaning the area behind the mountain), hosts miracles of nature and mankind. Being the spot where the winter flora and fauna of central Europe meets the Mediterranean summer flora and fauna, it is full of wild life: 167 birds species, 230 animal species, among which rare mammals such as brown bears, wild goats, wolves, lynxes, deer and otters. It is covered by numerous trees and plants, flowers and herbs. Naturalists have recorded more than 1,700 types of flora. Rocks, rivers, steep deep gorges, alpine meadows, light and a deep blue sky, grey stones and all types of green, all in unprecedented abundance. Virgin, untouched, endless. Its communities, made of grey stone in East and Central Zagori and white stone in West Zagori, blend into the landscape respectfully and with harmony. Its residents, Vlachs, Sarakatsani, Zagorians, Gifti, lumberjacks, cattle-breeders, tradesmen, blacksmiths, musicians. Excellent negotiators, they maintained their autonomy throughout the Turkish occupation thanks to the treaty they signed with the conqueror. The mountainous and inaccessible area played a decisive role in the whole procedure. Industrious and active, from the 17th to the 19th century, they constructed a full road network with cobbled roads, paths and bridges (140 have been recorded in the area). They traveled to Romania, Russia, Constantinople and Middle Europe. Their caravans traveled as far as Amsterdam. They earned money abroad and invested it in their hometowns. They built residential houses with simple exteriors but very elaborate interiors and walls covered with frescoes. They filled the area with schools, churches, libraries, springs, mills, bridges, and stairwells. This significant prosperity was succeeded by decay in the mid19th century. Zagori, like other communities, did not withstand the problems brought on by the industrial revolution. From the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, its 45 villages suffered the consequences of four wars (1821, 1912-13, 1940-44, 1946-49) and experienced the desolation of emigration. With the new road technology, Zagori could no longer be considered a shelter. However, its natural and cultural wealth, as well as its precious heritage, attracted scientists, historians, botanists, nature lovers, tradition lovers and everyday travelers. The state undertook to protect it by listing its communities and many of its monuments and by setting up the National Park of Vikos-Aoos and the National Park of Pindos (covering the east edge of the area).