Europe’s last semi-nomadic peoples the Vlachs have lived in the Píndhos Mountains for centuries. Each summer, the melting of the winter snows finds the vast slopes here coming alive with the sound of bells, as the Vlachs bring their flocks up from the plains to graze in the mountains. Though the ethnicity of the Vlachs (from the ancient Germanic word for “foreigner” Walh) is a subject of much scholarly debate, most claim to be descendants of Roman soldiers stationed here in Classical times, and they speak a Latin-derived, unwritten language similar to modern Romanian. Today, although the Greek government keeps no records of ethnicity, it is estimated that perhaps 40,000 Vlachs live in small communities scattered throughout the Píndhos range, where you can still see shepherds wearing the distinctive goat-skin cape and wielding their fanciful crook. In the remotest areas, traditional Vlach pagan beliefs are only thinly overlaid with the Orthodox faith; many elderly women still have a black cross tattooed on their foreheads, to ward off the evil eye, and their gossip is rife with folktales of sorcery and curses.

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