Monday, July 6, 2015

A Warm Traditional Zagorian Home

When I read his book, The Ionian Islands and Epirus: A Cultural History, Jim Potts' description of Zagori, an area in the Epirus region of Greece, was somewhat familiar to me as I'd been there several times. However, I never expected to be as fortunate as I was recently when Nick and I were invited to Zagori's village of Vitsa to spend time with authors Jim Potts and Maria Strani-Potts. Entering their restored Zagorian home was like passing through the doors of time, into another world and era.

Though the materials used for the restoration of the old house were new, the design remained true to that area's ageless architecture which makes use of the most abundant construction materials of those mountains: a variety of stone and wood.

The original front gate has the charm of its weathered wood. That gate leads into a courtyard that is partly covered by an upstairs room of the house. It is adorned with wall coverings taken from the sides of an old cart, while a metal milk container is fashioned into the pedestal of a small table which sits between two comfortable-looking chairs, making a very inviting sitting area, so inviting in fact, that a small bat has taken up residence inside a small blue light on the ceiling.

A working cistern also sits in that covered part of the courtyard and Jim told us that it was used at times when the restoration rendered the indoor plumbing unusable.

From there, the courtyard opened up as we walked through a lovely archway into an open space with trees and flowers. The front door of the home sits unassumingly in that bright courtyard and walking past the strings of beads that hang in the doorway, we were led into an adorable well-stocked kitchen from which Maria and her friend, Fantina prepared us a wonderful local feast.



Off the kitchen is a narrow winding staircase that leads to the second  floor where the main sitting room is full of fun artifacts from the couple's life in different countries.

The home is like an interactive museum. Jim has an interesting collection of Greek country music and Rebetika--both on CD and vinyl LPs! They share the built-in shelves with an interesting array of books.

Maria is not only a published author with such books as THE CAT OF PORTOVECCHIO: CORFU TALES  and WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN: ISLAND STORIES, but she is also a talented quilter. Some of her creations hang on the walls of that sitting room and in the bedrooms as well as on her Facebook page about quilting

After some coffee and delicious conversation in the backyard, we were treated to a hike down the Vikos Gorge to the Misios Bridge. In Jim's book, he writes about Lord Byron's declarations of beauty when he visited the area in 1809 and Jim writes, "Almost the same sensations and impressions as Byron felt then, can be conjured up even today." And it's true; as we walked the ancient path, we could feel the energy as we were enchanted by the beauty.

I must admit though, toward the end of the hike, I was a bit worn out and thought of Maria and Fantina back at the house, resting comfortably, but I refused to show any fatigue, unwilling to be outdone by Nick and Jim--both a bit older than I--and both always a few paces ahead of me!

At one point we came to a rocky overhang. Jim, the British diplomat, warned us with a well-formulated suggestion that we should not go any further than the rocks in front of that overhang as it might not be stable. I, the obedient and sufficiently-anxious American, obeyed that warning. And Nick, the Greek, said: "Don't worry about it," then passed us both and stood atop the overhang looking down at our destination.

Half way down we entered the woods where the original stone path pushed up through the grass. The most exquisite absolute silence surrounded us as we were engulfed by trees.

Then we came upon a tiny church, it's door unlocked.

It's not an uncommon sight in the mountains of Greece. Greeks often bargain with God, asking for assistance with one problem or another and in return, the worshiper builds a church as a sign of thanks.

In 1990 when the political climate between Greece and her northern neighbor, Albania, not far from Zagori, resulted in the opening of the borders, many illegal Albanian immigrants made their way over these mountains and this church was a place to rest or to find temporary shelter. You can see some of the comments written in Albanian on the outside wall of the church: perhaps a message to a family member who might pass through at a later time or maybe a mark to relieve the fear of not making it to the destination and disappearing in those woods--a mark to say, "I made it this far, if anyone wants to know."

At the bottom of the precipice, we finally exited the woods and stood atop Misios Bridge which had a bone-dry river bed beneath it.

After our hike back up the mountain to Vitsa and before we headed back to Margariti, we stopped at the local taverna, owned by Kostas and Anna Vasdekis, to drink in the view.  At least Kostas and Anna claim that they own the hotel and tavern, En Hora Vezitsa Hotel, but I'd say their dogs rule the area.

As is the custom in Greece, we were served some hors d' oeuvres with our drinks. Kostas presented us with a small plate of the local butter beans cooked to perfection in a tomato and onion sauce with bread for dipping. It was a perfect end to a perfect day!

Jim's blog Corfu Blues, is also an interesting read.

Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or 


  1. What an inspiring account, with beautiful photos! I almost wished I lived there myself, it seems too good to be true! Jim

    1. fantastic, Linda. I always Love reading what you write. The pictures are amazing too. thanks so very much for this -- it's wonderful, what you've presented. I'm so glad for your being able to go there.