Any trip longer than seven hours in the car can indeed be considered a very long and exhausting drive, even for someone like myself who is used to driving from Scotland all the way to Cornwall direct. The fact that Athens to Ioannina is an extremely boring drive does not help either, nor does the state of the road at some parts of the journey, all of which reminds me how dangerous some Greek roads can be.
However, seeing the sign to Papigo village wakes you up from the constant driving trance and puts you in a mood of discovery and inspiration. Leaving the main road and starting the twisty dance of the necessary road bends for gaining height is one of the exciting factors that made me visit this remote but amazingly beautiful area of Zagoria (or Zagorochoria) in Greece, with its houses that bear the signs of classically traditional yet simple Greek architecture of the previous centuries.
The 15-mile long gorge of Vikos is the area’s best feature and many people visit the area thirsty for a walk along its heart, however, my visit here does not have such intentions. Drakolimni (Dragon Lake) is a lake high up the Camel Mountain above Papigo village with stunning views and breathtaking sunrises – a place I would love to visit, and yet, an 8-hour steep circuit is enough to put me off; although one can spend the night at the shelter with its basic accommodation and walk for only 60 minutes in the morning. The problem is that I planned staying up here for three nights only and there is not enough time to do all the things I would like to do.
Ovides and more
I must admit that although the very old and traditional house architecture is beautiful, it is less attractive than I thought it would be; so, my high expectations on this part of the trip were not satisfied in their entirety. However, I was met with other very surprising discoveries that left me with a huge smile and full of excitement. The small and yet full of potential location of Ovides was something I did not expect. This can be found between the villages of large and small Papigo, the latter located at the end of the road, right under the shadow of the mountains. The local stream that drains part of the mountains has carved stunning looking cauldrons and the water contained in these displays an emerald colour; although the water is not glacial, I can only suspect that it contains some kind of sediment. One good thing is that the place goes into the shade quite early in the day and, with the light beautifully diffused, there is a lot of potential for close-up photography. I could photograph here for hours but I soon had to head for the small Papigo village, as I wanted to photograph the promising sunset from the village’s square with its panoramic views.
I was at the Canadian Rockies in late September 2013 and was disappointed not to get the usual autumn colours, as this year there was almost none. Driving around Papigo and witnessing colours that can be found in areas such as Vermont is indeed a huge surprise. I also enjoyed the foliage reflections on the main river at the bottom of the gorge, as well as the gorgeous architecture of the more than 200-year-old stone built arch bridges. There will be more of them further afield as I will be traveling further south on my way to Meteora. Now, here is a place that I am really looking forward to, seeing as this is the major part of this journey back to my roots.