Oh no, not again. I was drifting off to sleep, snug in our tent in the deserted village of Ano Kranionas. Suddenly, we heard barking coming closer, then the sounds of an animal padding round the tents and campfire. But it was definitely a dog this time, not a bear. Still, lying prone and almost naked in our sleeping bags, it was scary. The shepherd dogs were enormous, aggressive, trained to attack wolves and permanently hungry. What would we do if it pounced on one of the tents? We lay still, not daring to move.
It had been a beautiful evening. The lovely sun-baked red brick houses, now used only to shelter livestock, were crumbling gently into ruin, and all around were rolling hills with fertile farmland, largely abandoned to rough pasture. We camped by the church, and prepared supper at the picnic table, next to the little spring and water trough. The church bell hung high in the branches of the plane tree above. Nearby was a plaque with a map, inscribed “for our people”. It showed all the houses in the village, and the names of the families who used to live there. But war and civil war had uprooted the thriving little community forever and scattered it throughout the world. The new village of Korestia had been built for the remaining inhabitants of the five surrounding villages, with modern houses, shop, cafe and guesthouse.
As we cooked supper, an Albanian shepherd brought his small flock to drink at the trough. He was employed by a Greek family, and had first come to Greece illegally 15 years ago, walking through the mountains for five nights and sleeping during the day. He lamented the fact that his Greek was still very poor, since he had nobody to talk to all day but his sheep. He made the most of the chance to talk to us. Meanwhile, the three large shepherd dogs were watching Alan cooking. Unthinkingly, he left the stove for a second, and the largest and leanest of the dogs took a flying leap for the saucepan, knocking over the stove, still burning, the saucepan and its contents.
“What happens to the sheep and dogs at night?”, we asked with some concern. No problem, the dogs would stay with the sheep safely locked up in one of the derelict houses, while the shepherd went off to sleep in the village below. But the Hungry One had clearly escaped, and returned for another attempt on our food. We could hear it rattling the saucepans, stopping to bark occasionally, and sniffing round the camp fire and the tents. At last all went quiet, and we fell into an uneasy sleep, broken once or twice by more barking and the rustle of movement nearby.