Epirus occupies the N.W. corner of the Greek peninsula, to the South
of Albania and is the most
mountainous region in Greece.
The skyline of the Pindus range
forms the natural eastern boundary of the area, separating it from but also linking
it with other sections of the country. Beyond the Pindus
range lie scores of other large and small mountains, scattered all over the
district and leaving only very few plains. To the West stretches the vast expanse
of the Ionian Sea with its
attractive beaches, lagoons, and river estuaries where thousands of waterfowl
Although large portions of Epirus have suffered denudation at the
hands of mankind, others remain thickly wooded. In fact, some of the largest and
most beautiful forests in Greece
are to be found in Epirus. The Black Pine (Pinus Nigra) is predominant as well
as dessiduous trees, such as beech and oak, while the higher peaks are clad in
the famous Rombola tree, a form of pine peculiar to the Balkan peninsula. The
variety of wild flowers which grow in Epirus runs into thousands. Some are quite
impressive in appearance, such as the Lilium Candidum or Wild Virgin Lilly as
it is called in Greek, the Albanian Lilly the "Poet's Narcissus", Ramonda Serbica
and many others.
The fauna is as impressive as the flora and includes, bears, wild
boar, wild cat, wild goat and the almost unknown Rissos quadruped plus a number
of birds of prey and waterfowl.
Well preserved traditional settlements in Epirus, in their unique
local style, serve as live museums of the recent phases in the area's history,
covering the years of Ottoman rule and more recent times. When the Turks overran
Epirus in the 15th century, certain mountainous districts managed to ensure for
themselves a degree of self-rule. This enabled both their economy and culture
to flourish. Architecture, especially, made great strides with the construction
of large private mansions, schools, churches, bridges and roads. The arts flourished
with a continuation of the genuine Byzantine style of painting, untouched by any
western influence. Woodcarving attained a high artistic standard as seen on elaborately
carved altar screens which, today, form unique examples of popular culture.
The outstanding feature of these traditional settlements in Epirus
is the local grey stone out of which they are built. It is a form of slate found
in successive layers of varying thickness. Quarrying and chiseling it is easy,
and it is therefore used, not only for building the walls of houses but also for
enclosures, floors, courtyards and roofs. In this manner, an entire village blends
in with the surrounding rocks and forests in an unbroken entity.
During the years of Ottoman rule, the arts and crafts flourished in
all forms. Many of the villages such as Sirako,
Hionades and the capital,
Ioannina itself, grew into noteworthy artistic centres with brisk activity in
the establishments of goldsmiths and silversmiths, in gold embroidery, woven fabrics,
woodcarving, etc. These traditional arts and crafts have carried through to the
present day, especially at Ioannina and Metsovo where several notable mastercraftsmen
are to be seen in their workshops.
On various dates each summer, village fairs are held all over Epirus.
A point is made on these occasions to revive and observe old customs, folk dances
and folk songs, of which there is an extensive repertoire. The best known celebration
is that of Agia Paraskevi (26th July) which takes place at Metsovo.
At this celebration, the inhabitants have to dance in their local national costume.
For those interested in ancient drama, there are the theatrical presentations
during the Dodoni Festival which takes place in the open-air ancient theatre of
This text (extract) is cited June 2003 from the Greek
National Tourism Organization tourist pamphlet (1988).