It never ceases to amaze me how an island, of relatively small size, like Corfu can hide secrets of cultural heritage such as this. As a local breed, I was surprised to discover that the northeastern village of Podolakos, which literally translates as Footpit, above the town of Kassiopi is home to a heard of around 500 sheep. These in turn belong to one Mr Koutsouris one of the last remaining stock farmers on the island.
Like many affluent industries that where set aside in the 50’s in favor of the promising tourist market, Podolakos was inhabited by a number of herdsmen before being absorbed by the new wave. Today the remaining signs of a different time and life are celebrated during the month of June. True to tradition Dimitris, Stavros, Andonis and Lambis meet every year to shear their livestock.
The “Kouros”, as it is called, is about shearing each sheep one by one so that the animals can bear the heat of the summer months ahead. Originally the wool would have then been used for making mattresses, pillows and prepared for knitting by the women. The tradition of “Kouros”, however, has also been about the coming together of families and friends in the area for decades to share and make merry.
From the early hours of the morning pots of food are put to the fire whilst Napoleon, the best cook in the area, gets a ceremonial beast onto the spit. Everyone brings a long food and drink to share from home and the shearing gets under way. Whilst the “Scissors” (name given to the sheep shearers) do their job the rest of the party make jokes and get the festive spirit blazing.
Alas when the “Scissors” have completed their arduous task they all come together at the table to share the feast. By night fall long after food and drink have settled in the appointment is set for the following year.