A cluster of 46 providentially preserved mountain hamlets, the Zagorohoria takes its name from an old Slavonic term, za Gora (behind the mountain), and horia, the Greek word for villages. Tucked into the Pindos range, these villages conceal inexhaustible local legends and boast marvellous houses, ranging from humble cottages of stone and slate to grand fortified mansions made of the same hardy materials. These remote villages were once connected by paths and old stone bridges. Today you’ll see the bridges arching over riverbeds and valleys, though paved roads now connect the villages. The Zagorohoria’s fascinating history is bound up with the dismemberment of Byzantium by the Latin Crusaders in 1204 and the subsequent Turkish capture of Constantinople in 1453; in both cases, numerous important Greek families fled the capital for the mountain fastnesses of Epiros, where Greek culture and traditions could be safeguarded. In Ottoman times the Zagorohoria also received privileges and autonomy for guarding the mountain passes. This, together with the remittances and gifts sent from the large Epirot diaspora abroad, funded the upkeep of the villages and their great churches, in whose lavish decorations we can appreciate what the holy shrines of Byzantium would have looked like in their prime.
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