Did You Know What Other People Say about Us?

“One of the southernmost Vlach settlements in the Pindhos, [Kallarites] was a veritable El Dorado until the close of the last century. Fame and fortune were based on its specialization in gold- and silver-smithing, and even today the smiths of Ioannina are mostly of Kallaritiote descent as is Bulgari, one of the world’s most expensive contemporary jewelers. Though all but deserted except during summer hoolidays, the grand houses of the departed rich are kept in excellent repair by their descendants. The cobbled platia, with its old-fashioned shops and statue commemorating local emigre Kallaritiotes, who helped finance the Greek revolution, has probably remained unchanged for a century.”

The Real Guide: Greece (NY, 1989)

“The [Wallachians] occupy various other flourishing towns in this line of elevated country, forming in fact the most interesting and important part of its population. They are descended from those wandering tribes of Wallachians, who, as we find from the Byzantine historians, migrated southwards about the eleventh and twelfth centuries, from the districts near the Danube, into Thrace, Macedonia, and Thessaly, forming settlements in the mountainous regions of these countries, partly from the greater security they here obtained, partly from the accordance of this situation with their ancient habits as shepherds. This insulation, and mode of life, have tended to preserve them in great measure separated as a people; and the Wallachian towns and villages of Pindus, which are very numerous in those parts of the chain between Albania and Thessaly, have all a distinct character, which probably has continued for centuries. The Vlaki are a hardy and active people…The more considerable Wallachian towns are generally engaged in the woolen manufacture of the country, or in some branch of overland commerce; and their inhabitants are in much repute as among the best artizans of Greece. It may be further remarked, that there is an air of active industry, neatness, and good order in these towns, which, while it distinguishes them from all others in the south of Turkey, affords a singular contrast to the wild and rugged scenery by which they are surrounded.

–Dr. Henry Holland, Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, etc.

“Costumes in Greece, especially those of the women (and most notably those of the Vlach women), change, even more frequently than accents, from village to village; yet the garb of the Sarakatsanissas, with the barest minimum of variation, is the same all over Greece. So are their customs, down to the last detail. Everything, especially their feeling of solidarity and of aloofness from everyone else, underlines their common origin. It is very noticeable in their attitude to to the Vlachs: ‘If you hear a shepherd use the word lapte‘ — the Vlach and Rumanian word for ‘milk’ — ‘hit him over the head.'”

–Patrick Leigh Fermor, Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece (London, 1966).

“There are almost certainly other small pockets of Vlachs which have escaped my notice. A waiter in Corfu told me that he spoke Vlach at home in the village of Kefalovrison on the Albanian border, and no doubt in Epirus, Thessaly and Macedonia there are Vlach settlements, probably of recent date and comparatively little historical interest. There are also Vlachs in all the large towns in the area, particularly Florina, Veroia, Naousa, Trikkala, Larisa, Ioannina and Kastoria quite apart from the Vlachs in Salonika, Athens, Canada, Australia, Germany and Russia. It is these Vlachs who are most in danger of losing their language and their identity; muco of the strength of the Vlachs in Greece depends upon the strength of the village. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Leake estimated that there were five hundred Vlakhiote communities in the Balkans. Now there can hardly be a hundred, and very few of these give signs of linguistic health. Nevertheless in view of the events of the last hundred years any kind of survival is remarkable.”

–Tom Winnifrith, The Vlachs: The History of a Balkan People (NY, 1987)

“Sadly, though probably inevitably, the Vlachs’ unique traditions are in danger of extinction. A young Vlach lawyer in Athens told me that in his grandfather’s day the family had 10,000 sheep, and when they set off on the annual migration from their lowland winter pastures to the mountains, it was like a small army on the march, with two or three complete generations together with all their families and belongings. Nowadays few flocks number more than 250 ewes, and the annual migration takes place in trucks…[Many] have sold their flocks and moved to the town or emigrated…The hardships of their life are too many and the economic returns too small.”

The Real Guide: Greece (NY, 1989)

“In the flurry of impending arrival in Kalabaka and the screeches in Vlach as the truckload of migrants assembled their babies and poultry and their bundles, the Meteora went almost unnoticed. Only when we were nearly in the streets of Kalabaka did we gaze up at the tremendous spikes and cylinders of rock that soared for perpendicular hundreds of feet into the sky …Even the Koutzovlachs, blunted to this phenomenon by their migrations to and from their summer villages in the Pindus and their Thessalian winter-pastures, seemed lost in wonder. They only sank their glance at the cry of some fellow villager making the month-long journey by road with the village flocks. For the streets were a moving tide of sheep, and the air was full of golden dust and baas and shouted greetings in the strange Latin dialect of these black-clad shepherds.”

–Patrick Leigh Fermor, Roumeli (London, 1966)

“I have seen the excellent Greek school for girls at Monastir where Vlach maidens are painfully taught to construe their Xenophone. The ludicrous mistakes of grammar which one heard in the lower forms were enough to show that the teachers were drilling these children in a foreign tongue. It is easy to taboo every word of Vlach within the schoolroom walls. But outside on the steps when Urania quarrels with Aspasia over her broken doll, she expresses her feelings in fluent and natural Vlach.”

–H.N.Brailsford, Macedonia (London, 1903)

“Though much of the history of the Balkan Vlachs is obscure, one fact stands out clearly, that from the time when they first appear in history they have been allowing themselves to be absorbed gradually by the larger nations that surround them. The natural increase of the hill population, the Turkish conquest and the slow advance of education and trade have all been causes that have retarded their extinction. Nevertheless their numbers have been steadily, but slowly diminishing, and they themsleves have helped this by their lack of national feeling, their dispersion and their power of self-effacement. Sir Arthur Evans has found abundant traces in the north…that the Slavs have there absorbed a Vlach-speaking people…In the west, the Farsherots are gradually becoming Albanians. Finally in the south it is well known that Greece herself has drawn into Hellenism large numbers of Vlachs and that in Thessaly a large proportion of the town population is of Vlach origin.”

–Wace & Thompson, Nomads of the Balkans (London, 1914)

“There is no region of the earth where the national idea has wrought such havoc or rioted in such wantonness of power as in Macedonia. It poisons and secularises religion. It sanctions murder, excuses violence, and leaves more kindliness between man and beast than between the adherents of rival races. In its name peoples have done great deeds which liberty should have inspired, and perpetrated oppressions of an iniquity so colossal that only an idea could have prompted them. The miseries of ten centuries have been its work, and the face of the Balkans to-day, furrowed with hatreds, callous from long cruelty, dull with perpetual suffering, is its image and memorial. One turns from a survey of these races and their rivalries, asking what future of peace and common work there can be while the curse of this national idea still teaches men that the vital fact in their lives is the tradition, or the memory, or the habit of speech which divides them from one another.”

–H.N.Brailsford, Macedonia (London, 1903)

Vlach folk wisdom
“He who chases two rabbits catches neither.”
“Think ten times and then speak only once.”
“To catch a big fish, first find a big river.”
“He who listens will be heard.”


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