Κυριακή 18 Φεβρουαρίου 2024

Samarina, the highest village in Greece and the Balkans

Samarina is a village in the prefecture of Grevena in Macedonia and before its inclusion in the Municipality of Grevena with the Kallikratis program it was a community of the same name. It is located in northern Pindos on the eastern slopes of Smolika at an altitude of 1,500 or 1,450 meters. It is considered one of the highest villages in Greece and the Balkans.

Samarina is one of the most famous Vlacho villages in the country and is located near the border of Western Macedonia and Epirus, in the prefecture of Grevena. It is said to be the highest village, not only in Greece, but also in the Balkans. Unfortunately, I could not confirm this. The literature and the Internet write various. What is certain is that it is built on the north-eastern slopes of Mount Smolika, whose highest peak is 2,637 m. The altitude of the village "plays" between 1,350 and 1,650. According to another, unverified, information, the highest village in Greece is not Samarina, but Vigla Florina, at 1,550 m.

Its permanent inhabitants, who spend the winter in the lower parts of Thessaly and Macedonia, are for the most part Vlachs or Kutsovlachs, as others like to call them. Their language is the Latsovalachian dialect. The main occupation of its inhabitants is animal husbandry and logging. Women weave coarse woolen cloth, blankets and carpets.
Before its inclusion in the Municipality of Grevena with the Kallikratis program, it was a community of the same name. Its permanent inhabitants, who hibernate in the winter in lower parts of Thessaly and Macedonia, are mostly Vlachs. Their main occupation is animal husbandry, logging and tourism. 

Samarina has a warm-summer humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification: Dfb) using the 0 °C (32 °F) isotherm, or a temperate oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification: Cfb) using the -3 °C (27 °F) isotherm for the coldest month. Samarina experiences cold winters with high precipitation and warm, drier summers.

History
In the highlands around Samarina, at an altitude of up to 2,100 meters at the foot of Smolika, a significant number of Palaeolithic tools made with the Levallois technique, workshops and other sites dating from the Mustaean period have been found. Also, deposits of good quality flint have been found near which areas of stone peeling have been found. The findings show that Neanderthals settled in the area about 70,000 years ago, in a time period with a better climate. In addition, tools from the early Mesolithic era have been found. There are traces of more permanent habitation during the 6th millennium BC, in the late Neolithic era. Traces of habitation in the highlands of Samarina go back to the Bronze Age, in which pits, stone tools and pottery fragments are dated.

"The research in NW. Pindos is based on two main axes, the study of the archaeological material and the paleoenvironmental study. First, reference is made to the image of the Paleolithic Age in the region of Northern Greece as it has been shaped until today with a sub-chapter on the research and the most important sites of the region and special reference to the presence of the Middle Paleolithic in the Greek area.

Then, referring to the NW area. Pindos, its geomorphological description is highlighted, as well as the history and problematic of the research in it. Then, the characteristics of the research on the "site" Samarina 8, where the archaeological material under study comes from, are developed, with the description of the site in relation to the landscape, the paleoenvironment and its archaeological investigation. The methodology of the study is developed and the characteristics of the archaeological material are presented, while finally, there is a discussion about all of the above and the conclusions of the research are developed."
The founding inscription of the church of the Transfiguration of the Savior (1819).

The founders and first settlers of Samarina must be considered the inhabitants of the village of Praitoria in Thessaly: historical maps of the area dated to the 16th and 17th centuries refer to the location of Samarina as Santa Maria de Praitoria. The first mention is made on a map of 1560, so then it must already be considered inhabited. Then the first mention of the newer type ΄΄Samarina΄΄ is found in 1819 in an inscription of the church of Agios Sotiros in the monastery of Samarina. The oldest written reference of the patronymic ΄΄samarniotes΄΄ is in memory of 1786, according to the northern Greek idiomatic pronunciation, ΄΄Samar' niot's and with a transposition of ΄΄ρ΄΄ ΄΄Sarmaniot's΄΄. The etymologies of the word that have been proposed are, either from the word samari or from Agia Marina, in Vlach Sta Marina. The first is arbitrary as it comes from the apparent external-phonetic affinity of the two words. The second etymological version is more likely because of the original type of the name of the town Santa Maria and because the town is Vlach we had the following development: sta Maria > Sta Marina (confusion of names Maria-Marina as they are considered equivalent in some parts of Greece and are interchanged) or Sta Marina has the toponym ending -ina, which is assigned to the continental toponyms, such as Sarakina, Vostina etc.

In the 1740s - 1750s, the Samaritan smuggler Ioannis Priftis operated in the area. In Orlovika, Samarina participates with chieftains Akarmos Hatzimatis and Ioannis Floros. The latter was killed in the Peloponnese.

Primarily a livestock village, it flourished at the end of the 19th century. Michos Sarmaniotis was also a great thief from Samarina. A great figure of the revolution of 1808 was the new martyr Agios Dimitrios the Samaritan. During the Greek revolution of 1821, great Samaritan commanders were Voulis Iotsas, Michas Griziotis and Nikos Griziotis (the later general), who fought in the Battle of Maniaki. During the siege of Messolongion, the Samaritans participated with a body of 120 fighters under Michos Floros. During the exit of Messolonghi, the Macedonian Guard was the vanguard of the besieged and as a result suffered the most casualties from the Ottoman fire. Zisis Hatzimatis and Ilias Manakas also participated in it, as well as Makris, Avramoulis, Syrakos, Bousias, Yoldasis and Tzimou. The surviving Samaritans of the exodus were 33 and in their honor the well-known folk song "Children of Samarina" is still sung. During the Macedonian revolution of 1878, the Samaritan chief Leonidas Hatzibyros (1855 - 1880) distinguished himself. During the Macedonian War, the contribution of the Samaritans was important. A great figure of the period was the commander-in-chief George Lepidatos (captain of Bear).

Today, Samarina is mostly a holiday village, with open access all year round. It is connected by a paved road to Grevena (52 km) and to the ski center of Vasilitsa (about 15 km).

On August 15, there is a 3-day festival of the Virgin Mary.
The church of Megali Panagia

Sights
Megali Panagia, the metropolitan church of Samarina, dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin. It is a large basilica with a gynekonite, which was built according to the inscription at the southern entrance of the church on July 15, 1816. A pine tree grew in the sanctuary of the church around 1850, which still exists today. The interior of the church is painted by the local hagiographers X. and I. Papaioannou, and according to an inscription the church was built in 1829. It has a gilded wood-carved baroque iconostasis and the despotic throne and the pulpit are also of interest. In 1876, a three-story spire was built in the southwest corner of the church. Due to the risk of partial collapse of the eastern wall, fixing works have been carried out, with the construction of concrete supports and metal supports.
Mikri Panagia, parish church in the northern part of the settlement. It was built in 1869 on the site of an earlier church. It is a three-aisled basilica with a wooden, almost square-pitched roof and a nave. The door of the temple is decorated with stone carvings. Inside it has a wooden baroque iconostasis, from which icons were stolen in 2009. The temple has stability problems due to ground subsidence.
The church of Agios Athanasios. The temple was built at the end of the 18th or the beginning of the 19th century and is the oldest surviving temple of Samarina. The temple had fallen into ruins in the 1960s but was later restored. It is a three-aisled basilica with a nave. He doesn't have a splint.
The temple of Prophet Ilias is located west of the settlement, on a hill. The church dates from 1800. It is a three-aisled basilica with a nave and a narthex. The church's frescoes date from 1828 according to the foundation inscription, but many were covered with clapboards in the 1980s. To the north of the church is a chapel of 1877 dedicated to St. Kosmas.
The monastery of Agia Paraskevi is located 4.5 kilometers south of Samarina. The monastery is not known when it was founded. The catholicon of the monastery dates from 1713. It is a four-column church with two large domes and four smaller ones in the corners, but the roof of the church is two-pitched. The interior of the church was frescoed in 1819. Next to the catholicon there is a three-aisled, wooden-roofed church dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Savior, which was painted in 1819. In the 18th century, a painting school operated in the monastery. The monastery was abandoned for a few years at the end of the 19th century.

For skiing in Vasilitsa: The ski center of Vasilitsa is one of the largest in northern Greece with a winter season that usually starts from mid-November and ends in May. The chalet and facilities are located at an altitude of 1,750 m. The ski resort has 18 pistes (22 kilometers) as, while the transport of the skis has been undertaken by 1 three-seater, 1 two-seater 4 toboggans and a baby lift.

Sources
Dinas, Konstantinos (1980). "The place name of Samarina Grevena" (pdf). Macedonian (Macedonian Studies Society) 20: 307–341. doi:10.12681/makedonika.410.
Simeonidis, H.P. (1967). "Samarin" (pdf). Macedonian (Macedonian Studies Society) 7: 200–209. doi:10.12681/makedonika.977.
https://en.wikipedia.org
A.J.B. Wace, The Nomads of the Balkans: an account of life and customs among the Vlachs of Northern Pindus, London 1914 (This is an account of Samarina and its Vlach inhabitants)