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Anelion - the name explained and my sister's panda

Tom Winnifrith
Sunday 29 January 2017

As you know, I head off soon for Greece and will be making a pilgrimage to the tiny village of Anelion in the snow covered Pindus mountains of Northern Greece. The aim is to see if my father's oldest Greek friend, Mike the Vlach, is still with us, as I explained here.

My sister N was, I think, seven when we first visited Anelion and she is today with my father so we chatted about the forthcoming trip. I had been puzzling about the name which means "without sun". My father offered up the Vlach alternative which means the same but which I cannot remember. He noted that Anelion is on the south side of a deep valley, Metsovo - from where I shall walk to Anelion - is on the North side.

Hence Anelion is deprived of sun by the mountains all around it for much of a winter day and so it will be far colder then Metsovo (minus 6 last night, just above zero today). It explains, perhaps, why Metsovo grew into a town and Anelion stayed as a village.

For my sister on that first trip the abiding memory was of her small panda, known by the Greeks as kukla. N was devoted to it and would burst into tears if, knowingly, parted from it for any time at all. On our last day in Anelion we walked with battered old suitcases and with my father carrying N down to the valley bottom and up the other side to Metsovo to catch a bus to Ioannina to begin the journey home.

Miss the bus miss the flights, there were few buses or flights in those days. As we arrived at the bust station N realised that kukla was missing. We searched our bags but it was nowhere. My father being a man who has never missed a train or bus in his life, punctuality being his middle name, had allowed a bit of time but the bus was due in 20 minutes.

It had taken us forty minutes or more to walk to Metsovo but Mike the Vlach started to sprint to see if we had dropped Kukla. He ran down the valley to where the rover flows and then he ran up the other side to his house where Kukla was lying on a bed. He then ran back, arriving a sweaty wreck but able to reach through the bus window and put Kukla into N's hand as we sat waiting for the bus which was, in true Greek fashion, running a bit late, to leave. The story of Mike the Vlach and kukla is one we all know in our family and one we could happily reference in conversation today.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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