"We used to stay at home all the time, we didn't know any cafés or other places to go out to. We've only finished primary school, but we often talk to well-educated people at work. We learned to cook from our grandmothers and mothers. Important people come here to eat. A convention took place in our village a few years ago and we made a buffet for about a thousand persons. We used to be 130 of us women in the association, but only eight of us remain".
After the wildfires of 2007 in the Peloponnese, Greeks anxiously awaited the forest workers who barricaded the slopes of the burnt mountains with tree trunks. They were viewed as saviours. But how many people wondered where they came from and how they learned this job?
"We're talking about poverty here. Do you think that horses don't eat much? How am I supposed to feed them? Each one of them eats a tone of barley per year, not to mention the hay. Three thousand euros isn't enough for me to buy a horse, plus five hundred for the saddle and the leads. The cheapest chainsaw reached the price of a thousand euros. All these years, I only have a tyrannical life to remember, and nothing else".
Livadi is hanging on a slope of Olympus Mountain at an altitude of 1160 meters and it is inhabited by Vlachs, members of a tribe of highlander Greeks, who were latinised by the Romans and speak a language similar to Latin. At their majority they are breeders, mule drivers and woodcutters, who live an authentic life on the mountain and into the forest. Even the children's toys have to do with trunks and animals there. At the same time when other villages are in decline, Livadi keeps its people at it and preserves its rare customs.
"Gkini vinish, tsi phatsi?" (welcome, how do you do?). This is the Vlach greeting Stella Kratsiotis used as she welcomed us into her home. "Gkini, voi hits gkini?" (fine, how are you?), answered my Vlach friend, who set up the interview with Stella.
Syrrako is located at an altitude of 1,200 meters at the foothills of Peristeri Mountain in eastern Epirus. In the beginnings of the 15th century it was inhabited by Vlach-speaking Greeks and developed a strong livestock and wool products trade. During the 17th century, its fame as an important productive and commercial centre of clothing products, had surpassed the Balkan borders and had travelled all over Europe.
"I don't even have the time to go to Ioannina for a coffee. I'm occupied with the animals 24/7; if I abandon them they will abandon me as well. I'm not a civil servant, so I have no vacation time. The prime minister has more free time than I do". 45 year-old Tolis Psochios is the last shepherd left in the historical Syrrako, which is located on the slope of Peristeri mountain in eastern Epirus, at ab altitude of 1,200 meters.