Kastoria: after 73 years of desolation, Yiannohori has a permanent resident

The endless stream of cars, horns, crowd noise and the fast pace of everyday life in the city, according to the downshifter, turned his life into an unequal struggle for survival.

And he made an important decision – he “turned away” from the noisy Thessaloniki and decided to move to an abandoned village in Kastoria. Nikos Nikolaides has been working in the city center for decades. However, the love of nature and life in the countryside was an unrealizable dream, and at some point pushed to make a difficult decision. He turned the page of his life, requested and received a transfer to Kastoria, and is now the only permanent resident of the village of Yiannohori, which has been abandoned since 1949.

“Life in Thessaloniki has become unbearable for me in recent years,” says Nikos Nikolaides in an interview with APE-MPE and explains: “If we also take into account the burden of measures against COVID-19 and its varieties, you understand how much the quality of life has fallen. Locking myself in an apartment is not an option for me. For several years, no matter what I did every day, my thoughts were about how to escape from the city to the countryside. After losing my wife two years ago, it was time to make the final decision and leave.”

Yannochori abandoned since 1949

The couple started building a house next to the river in 2009 in the village of Yiannohori, in the municipality of Nestorio (Kastoria). The village, he says, was abandoned in 1949 by its inhabitants as the civil war raged on, and since then none of them have returned.

When the couple saw the area, they were fascinated: “it was love at first sight.” And they decided to settle here. Alas, Nikos was widowed 2 years ago. And now he alone is a resident of the village. According to him, now he has made a new start in his life. He lives all alone in the whole village! He does not have at hand the urban infrastructure that makes life easier – shops, a bank, pharmacies, a post office. However, he makes sure to have a sufficient supply of essentials, as the nearest supply point is Nestorio, which is 21 km away.

“Communication is a basic need, and by communication I mean having a good telephone signal and the Internet that is needed now, because there is no telephone line (for a landline) in the village. The fact that I am alone in the village does not bother me at all (and does not bother me yet). In general, the inhabitants of the surrounding villages are good, hospitable, they will not be afraid to let them into their homes or treat them to coffee,” he notes.

“Even bears don’t live there”

“When someone goes to live in a village that hasn’t seen a permanent resident since 1949, you understand that they are initially treated with distrust … Stop joking that you live there permanently. Even bears don’t live there,” Nikos says about the “joke” of acquaintances from a neighboring village. And then they ask me: “How did you decide on this?” In response, I laugh.

The government services and DEKO of Kastoria were also quite surprised when I told them that I live in Yiannohori. “First they will laugh, and then they will say: “Now tell me where you live,” Nikos says. What was the surprise of the ΕΛΤΑ employee of the village of Nestoriou when I told her that she should deliver my mail to Yiannohori. Like the others, she laughed and then said, “Okay, now really, tell me where you rent so I can deliver your mail.”

Thessaloniki, as he confesses, is a city that he loved very much, since he has been living there since 1980. However, the city did not keep him, home-work, work-home. Life has become a routine, lost its taste. “I think I did the right thing by leaving the city for the countryside, away from people,” says Nikos.

“My life is just perfect now”

Describing his daily life, he says that it has changed radically, as calmness, natural beauty and harmony have become the main components that fill his everyday life.

“In the morning I work in a neighboring village, 21 km from home. When I return at noon, I will feed the cats (I have two), eat, and then do various chores around the house or in the yard. Housework is never finished. When I am not working “I take a backpack, go to the forest in the morning and come back in the late afternoon. When I don’t want to do any of this, the book is my best companion. My life is now simple and beautiful.”

“The fact that I am not close to nature, but in it, is what fascinates me the most in my new life,” admits Nikos Nikolaidis. “The only sounds I hear are the flow of water in the river, the singing of birds and the ‘calling’ of wild animals. In the morning I will make coffee and enjoy it while admiring the beautiful view that opens before me. No more traffic lights and angry voices. Work is 21 km from home. Walking along the road, all I meet are hares, roe deer, wild boars. Sometimes, from afar, I saw bears a couple of times,” says Nikos, and it can be seen from him that he is absolutely happy in the full sense of the word.

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