ΨΗΦΙΑΚΟ ΜΟΥΣΕΙΟ ΒΛΑΧΟΚΕΡΑΣΙΑΣ

xeimadia

Geographically, the “winter settlements” (Heimadia) of Vlahokerasiostes are located south of the village and on a lower altitude than Vlahokerasia. The weather conditions and the winter are much milder there than in the village. Vlahokerasiotes take their herds there during the winter and/or go there to harvest their olive trees. Although, as we said in the unit on stockbreeding, most of the villagers no longer have herds of goats and sheep, the overwhelming majority (mainly the descendants of the early 1900s generation) still cultivate their olive groves, as the olive constitutes one of the basic – if not the most basic – products of agricultural famines. However, even in the cultivation of olive trees, there has been a downsizing in the cultivated areas with the aging of the second generation cultivators.

The Vlahokerasiotes have winter settlements in eight locations south of the village. These locations, from the closest to the most remote, are: Kaltezies, Agia Irene, Rahes, Polyderou ti Houni, Bokovina, Kouremenos (east and west), Kopelias, and Mouriki[1]. The distances from the village (in kms) fluctuate between 15 (Kaltezies) and 40 (Kopelias) kilometers approximately. In past times, migration to the winter settlements (e.g. Kouremenos) by foot and with the beasts of burden (usually mules and donkeys), took about 4-5 hours, depending upon weather conditions and the load transported by the beasts of burden. The dirt roads (usually a trail), had several uphill and downhill goings, and were not as passable as the dirt roads going to our irrigated fields close to the village. The migration of herds from the village to the winter settlements (e.g. Kouremenos) followed a different route and took double time (e.g. 8-9 hours). A significant number of compatriots had their winter farmlands close to the Evrotas River delta (e.g Kopelias. Kouremenos, Rahes). From their houses/lodges the compatriots in Kouremenos and Kopelias could/can scan over the mountain top of Taygetos and the villages/towns on its slopes (e.g. Koniditsa, Pardali, Pelana, Kastania/Kastori). Finally, it is necessary to note that most of our winter settlements (e.g. Polyderou ti Houni, Bokovina, Kouremenos, Kopelias) were in arid land. For their water needs, the compatriots in these settlements depended upon cisterns (natural or built), natural earth catchments or water catchments on large rocks. These were fed by rainfall, either directly or by canals (natural or dug) and the gutters of the tiled rooftops.

Migration to the winter settlements took place after the 6th of December (St. Nicholas Day) for the harvesting of the olives and mid-October for the goat/ship herders. The return to Vlahokerasia was in March for the farmers and mid-May for the herders. That means that residence in the winter settlements constituted their second house and lasted between 4 and six months. The farmers took pre-school children with them to the winter settlements; on the other hand, children who had started their schooling went to the winter settlements only for the Christmas holidays[2]. The families stayed in the lodges/houses[3] furnished with chimneys for cooking, heating and warming water for washing, while the beasts of burden were kept in the cellar (katoi). The herds were kept in a stockyard with a “shack” (loja) to serve asrefuge during bad weather conditions and with stonewalls reinforced by stacks of tree branches surrounding the yard.

The opening of roads to all the winter settlements, the advent of modern forms of transportation and cultivation (tractors, farm trucks, cars), the new types of energy (electricity, generators) and last, but not least, the availability of foreign workers have rendered the conditions of mobility, transport, work and life much easier for most of the Vlahokerasiotes. In our days, many of houses/lodges in the winter settlements have been refurbished, renovated, and rebuilt by the 1930-50 generation of cultivators. Some of these winter houses have been equipped with all the modern appliances. Although these technological changes have brought some changes in the levels of interpersonal life, they nonetheless constitute incentives for the aging 1930-1950 generation to keep cultivating their olive groves and perhaps their children not to abandon them – given the importance of olive oil for the family.

In the case of winter settlements, we managed to collect materials for most of the areas. Decisive was the role of Maria Kopitas and the landowners themselves. Among the latter, the contribution of Vasilis Apostolopoulos (“Karagiannis”) was significant. Thus, we have photos from the areas of Kopelias, Kouremenos, Polyderou ti Houni, Bokovina, Rahes, Mourini and Agia Irene – materials which depict the migration of herds, the harvesting of olive trees, the lodges/houses, the abandoned olive-presses, and the rough trails. In addition, the collection contains and some hyperlinks (with narratives, video-clips from the landowners/stockbreeders etc.) which have as an object the migration of herds, the history of Kopelias (with references to the Ottoman period), the construction of a bridge by the landowners in Kopelias themselves, the problems confronting today’s stockbreeders, the benefits of olive oil, the modern means of olive-harvesting (connection with YouTube) and a dedication to the multi-talented Georgia Kopitas on the occasion of “Woman’s Day”.

We are searching for additional materials (e.g. photographs, documents, narratives, etc.) for the olive groves in Kaltezies (or other areas we have not sufficiently covered), as well as for the other phases in the cultivation of olives (See footnote 1) in order to enrich the collection and for a deeper understanding concerning the demands of the olive cultivation process.

Nikos P. Petropoulos
VDM Committee Coordinator

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[1]There still remains to be done a complete history of these settlements and a census of farmlands in these areas. Some of our compatriots have farmlands and olive groves in more than one areas. We hope that someone will take up the challenge. 

[2] Children also helped in the harvesting of olives and the shepherding of herds, with the type of task depending upon their age. Another activity, which especially absorbed the children, while simultaneously contributing to the menu of the family, was the hunting of  wild rabbits and thrushes, with the placement of wire snare(or loop) in the path of the first and camouflaged hooks or traps with baits in grassy areas or in bushes. With the ending of Christmas holidays, the school-age children returned to the village, where grandparents, relatives or older siblings cared for them,

[3] Some of the houses had only a ground floor, while many were built on a slope with a separate entrance for residents (on the higher level) and a separate one for the cellar (on the lower level) for the beasts of burden.

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