Monday, November 25, 2013


"Tzoumpa" is a hill above the village of Margariti in Epirus, Greece. The word is not Greek nor is it from the local dialect, Albanetika, and I've never been able to find anyone who knows the origin of it. The structure atop Tzumpa is one of the abandoned homes from the old Margariti Village and it was once a place we would walk to frequently. Now when you look up at Tzoumpa, you see a wall of lush green vegetation, with no visible hint of a structure. 

Before the modern world came to the Margariti valley, the hills were picked clean as the women collected the wood and used it for heating and cooking. At that time, most people also kept their animals close to the village so the goats would wander up onto Tzoumpa to graze, eating every small sapling and twig.

Entertainment back then was in the form of whatever could be done locally because there were very few cars. No one really left the village other than on buses for work or official business in the surrounding areas. Hiking up Tzoumpa was an evening activity after the heat of the day began to subside. The view of the valley was spectacular.

The last time I hiked up there was with my brother, Bob, and his family in 2006. Most of the grazing animals were no longer kept in the village and the cutting of wood had ceased all together with indoor heating and kitchen appliances, so the vegetation on the hill was just beginning to take over. There were enormous spider webs across the path, stretched between the branches of young saplings that had finally been allowed to grow, and the spiders those webs were as big as my thumb.

Bob had taken a big stick and held it out ahead of us so he could knock down the spider webs. The motion of pushing the stick back and forth in the air sort of looked like a dance and when I mentioned that, he started doing a crazy dance, jumping up and down in the air, pirouetting with his hands held high and the branch pushing out in front of him. I imagine any villagers who saw us, wondered what those crazy Americans were up to. We laughed so hard we could barely talk.

Today, the vegetation has completely taken over and you cannot see the house on top of Tzoumpa at all. In fact, the vegetation is so thick, it is very difficult to get to that house. The greenery is of great pride and satisfaction to the locals who lived during a time of barren landscape. But frankly, I miss that brown scenery and those naked hills . . . or maybe it's just my youth that I'm pining for. 

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