Presentation of Geographical Unit Pogoni

On the northwest side of Epirus, surrounded by verdant mountains, is the area of Pogoni. Nature has endowed the frontier corner of Epirus with lush greenery which is crossed by gurgling rivers, whereas areas of unspoilt natural beauty and value, such as Gormos valley, Delvinaki Lake and Merope forest, complement the natural wealth.

Description of geographical features

A rich terrain, wooded from end to end, characterizes the whole area of Pogoni. The mountain range which dominates the region is the mountain Kasidiaris. This is an elongated mountain range that starts than the height of Lake Zaravina and ends in the village of Despotiko. It is a part of a wider complex of mountain ranges of the area which begins from the Greek-Albanian border and includes the mountains of Makrykampos, Kourenta and Tomar. Its height might not exceed 1,329 meters, but it is a part of a major ecosystem. Its highest peak is the Karavamia (1,329m). Other peaks of the mountain are Elatos (1.278m), Agrochladia (1.299m), and Profitis Elias (1.314m). Tectonically, Kasidiaris belongs to the Ionian zone, with limestone being the primary rock and flysch the secondary one.
The watercourses that spring from the mountain are many, with springs that start from an altitude of up to 900 meters. For the most part it is forested, except its high peaks.
Rich, of course, is also the water table of the area since some of the most important rivers of Epirus cross the area of Pogoni. And of course not forgetting the lake ecosystems of the area which are located in areas that are stand out both for their natural beauty and their ecological value.
Of special significance for the water table of the region is the river Kalams. Having the springs on Mount Dousko and after 115 km, it flows into the Ionian Sea. Its direction is from north to south, crossing the plateau formed between the mounts Kassidiaris and Mitsikeli, forming the homonymous valley. Along the length of Kalamas are also the Zitsas highlands and the Kourenta mountains (altitude 1,172 meters) to the east, while to the west are Kasidiaris (altitude 1,329 meters) and the mountains of Paramythia (altitude 1,657 meters). The main feature of the area is the number of low hills, plateaus and plains, which in combination with the large number of streams creates a distinct cluster.

Historical and cultural significance of the stone bridges

The natural terrain however, especially in the mountainous areas, was not always an ally of the human needs, often acting as a drag on the ardent desires of man. The ingenuity, of course, and the abundant craftsmanship that was cultivated over the centuries, was the instrument to overcome the physical difficulties.
Even if we do not know how the primitive manufacturer was inspired to make the first bridge, we can safely assume that a fallen trunk between the two river beds or some fallen rocks after a landslide perhaps gave birth to the idea of building the future architectural masterpieces.
A long tradition of bridge construction has been established for centuries all over the country. From the placement of the first trunk between the two beds of a river the crossing and of the first man effortlessly, the art of bridge construction evolved dramatically, enhancing the development of transport and giving us lasting memorials of constructional showmanship and minimalist beauty.
The priority of the construction of the bridge was to ensure land movements. The rivers and torrents of the region, especially in winter became impetuous and dangerous. This made it impossible to travel frequently. Indicative is the case of river Kouvaras, which in times of rainfall and throughout the winter it was impassable and dangerous. The geographical position, however, of the region which was for centuries part of an important road crossing, required the bridging of the rivers of the area rendering imperative the foundation of safe passages.

Traditions and customs on the stone bridges

Man, therefore, in an effort to expand the limits posed by nature, had to confront and collide with it. This conflict, as indeed happened in many similar cases, is surrounded by a cloak which popular tradition has embroidered with many myths, beliefs and traditions.
The most characteristic of the beliefs that accompanied the foundation of the bridges was that of human sacrifice. The roots of human sacrifice, of course, are lost in antiquity, after having found several cases in which the gravity of the situation required the sacrifice of a relative of the person concerned. The same pattern is also found in the mythological tradition of many cultures.
The relationship of man - nature is materialized by taking into account the trend of personification of rivers and their worship as separate deities. In many cases, it is even assigned to the river a specific form such as a bull or a snake. People, in fact, with various events of mysticism sought the favor of the river for the purpose of either the fertility of the land or the fertility of the man.
In the area of Pogoni the folk legend surrounds a rare natural bridging phenomenon which is found in the village of Zavroch, close to the traditional water mill of the area. It is a rocky narrow passage in which two facing rocks are joined together. The natural passage always caused the interest of the residents who often attributed its formation, as indeed is the case with similar cases in other parts of the country, to supernatural forces. It is known, indeed, the story: "It was once, they say, a pasha in Damala, who wanted to bridge Kremastos. He commissioned it to the best mason in the area by promising a lot of money to him, but at the same time he also threatened him that if he did not manage to do it, he will 'chop his head off. The craftsman tried artfully -it was hard work, but he was unable to make it stand. Thus, helpless, he waited on the bank of the river for his end. Then, suddenly, the devil appeared in front of him, cunning, who he promised that not only would he build the bridge, but also whatever else he wanted, as long as he give him his soul. Desperate, the mason agreed, but also asked for the daughter of the nobleman as his wife, and asked for a lot of money to become rich, and even three years of life to enjoy all these. They agreed and the deal took its way. The devil, generous even, gave him six years of life.
When everything went as planned, pleased the ... lucky bridge builder as he was, began to live his life pleasantly. Until one day a storm so destructive happened, that killed the mason, killed his wife, and demolished his house. Because the six years had already gone by. All that was left was the ... Diavologiofyro (devil's bridge)."
Of course, the construction of the bridges, apart from the mythological background created, often highlight stories of humanitarianism and unconditional offering. A unique story of sincere offering and devotion to the place and to the villagers is concealed by the bridge of Nonoulos in Dolo of Pogoni. The bridge was built in 1880 in the Kouvaras ravine to bridge the namesake creek of the Drin river. The rushing waters of the stream made it difficult, especially in the winter, for a poor woman, grandma Nonno or Nonoulo, who lived alone in the village of Dolo. The poor old woman had to cross every day the old wooden bridge of the area to sell her merchandise in the surrounding villages. Realizing the danger which she herself and her fellow villagers were exposed to, decided to raise funds and allocate them to ensure the passage of this dangerous torrent.

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