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South | Fterre

FTERRA the village of the streams

First Impressions

Fterrë lies directly east of Corraj on a small rise, and is surrounded by trickling sources of water. The presence of that water is felt immediately: the village is green and lush even in the summer months when the mountains beyond are parched. Fterrë feels smaller and even more ancient than the other villages of the province. It never had glory: it has been humble for its entire existence. But that is what makes its charm. Fterrë is a dot. What surrounds adot becomes all the more extreme. The ruggedness of the mountain, the steep crevasses down to the valley floor become sharper and more threatening, more impressive as dumb deep earth, when the view of that which is mediating them, through your window, has meager company. In villages like these one can feel the solitude that once was human existence: the same kind of huddling, pathetic insecurity that gave rise to religion and superstition. To spend the day in Fterrë is to revisit a human condition long overcome by technology and belief in the dominance of human kind over the environment. It is precisely this kind of village where we can be reminded of the fragile, constructed boundary between civilization and the wilderness.

The People

The people – economic activity

Residents of Fterrë are mainly involved in agriculture and farming. Trees—including those of olives, nuts, figs, oranges, lemons, tangerines, and grapes—are abundant in the village. The many perennial shrubs throughout the village protect the soil from erosion. Many trees and herbs are grown in Fterrë, including, oak, ash tree, and mare (the cherry tree), heather, oregano, chamomile, and sage. Agriculturally, Fterrë relies on fruit and vegetables as opposed to grains. The Mediterranean olive is the most precious among the fruit trees of the area, the fruits of which are used for quality oil. Citrus—primarily oranges—are cultivated, as are figs (varieties include perdhikulë, shënjinas, and kallamac), walnuts, pomegranates, quince, and mulberries. Inaddition to agriculture, raising indigenous goat and sheep is a primary economic activity for the village

The roots- the History

Archaeological record states that Fterra has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, with human evidence dating to nearly 3,000 years ago. But the first written document about the existence of the village is the Ottoman Defter of 1431, which indicates that Efteran (alternatively spelled Ifteran or Fterrë) was part of Sopot Nahiye, the Kaza of Gjirokastra. At that time, it had twelve inns, and was home to families of diverse income, as reflected in the historical tax structure. In the defter of 1583, over one hundred years later, the name of the village Ifteran appears again with twenty-four homes and then, according to another source, with forty-five homes. Historical documents subsequently exclude Fterrë, but Fterrë residents are mentioned in records of historical events of Labëri and beyond, where they are said to have participated actively in the struggle for freedom and independence. In the 1833–1834 uprising against the implementation of the Tanzimat Reformation, residents of Fterrë participated with guns in hand. Tafil Buzi and Zenel Gjoleka were at the forefront of the Labëri uprisings, while Lazo Kofina was the commander of the army battalion of Fterrë and advisor to Zenel Gjoleka. Zenel Gjoleka (died 1852) was an Albanian revolutionary famous for his role in Albanian revolt of 1847 also known as Zenel Gjoleka revolt [Schwandner-Sievers, Stephanie (2002). Albanian Identities: Myth and History. Indiana University Press. p. 180]. After those events he was pardoned by Abdülmecid I, the Sultan of Ottoman Empire at that time. In 1852 he died fighting as a mercenary against Montenegrin forces.

The people – the history

Inherited from an early medieval tradition, Fterrë applied to the canon of Pope Julius for the administration and maintenance of urban life and economic and social relations. And while its provisions likely ceased to function by the mid-nineteenth century, many of the customary norms of the canon can still be felt. Distinct from the rest of the region, the family structure of Fterra is far less patriarchal—men and women exist more or less as equals.The traditional costume of Fterrë is very similar to that of other villages of Labëria, though somewhat more elaborate. Men wear a doublet, white kilts that hang below the knee, a multicolored woolen sash (predominately in red and black), traditional socks, and leather shoes with tassels. They wear a white hat and long, wide-sleeved white collarless shirts. In some cases, instead of the kilt, Fterrë men wear pants in the shape of traditional breeches.

The people – tradition and culture

Women’s costume is characterized by a layering of clothing that covers the entire body, reaching the ankle; a woolen jacket, a woolen cardigan, colorful woolen socks, a woolen waistband or slash, and traditional ornaments, including silver earrings, a silver necklace or string (teshin with butterflies), metal or even silver buckles, a silver slash, a belt with silver embroidery, a bracelet, and traditional charms. The jacket is always embroidered in gold, while the dress (slightly updated in the twentieth century) is green, and is paired with simple black shoes. Around the neck of the dress they wear talisman crafted with lace, like those of Arbëresh women in Calabria. In some cases in women’s costume we also find Turkish influences, such as traditional Turkish trousers called“ çitjane.” Like in men’s costume, red dominates—with embroidered gold embellishments.

landscape: water sources and the caves of Fterra

A visitor will immediately notice the many water sources flowing in Fterrë at 200 m above sea level, which are also Natural Monuments. They are of karstic origin. The characteristic feature creates a lush landscape and clean, cold drinking water . The nearly forty-five springs flowing throughout the village are all named, examples of which include: Spring of Pears (referred to as “Kroi i Dardhave”), Spring of Crete, Spring of Gorge of Lale, Spring the Great Square, and Spring of the Foot of Stairs. The springs of Fterra have great hydrological, didactical, economic and touristic values. Near the mountainsides of Fterrë, which plunge into its valley from steep heights, are a large number of still unexplored caves. Among the best known are Cave of Kazhan, Cave of Buçke, Cave of Soro, Cave of Guva, Cave of Gjolek, and Cave of Zane. Each of these has unique features and differing sizes. Their origins, however, are yet to be explored by geologists and archeologists.

the setting – architecture

The houses of Fterrë are built with stones and covered with stone slabs, a tradition that is quite unique and especially well preserved in the village. The entrance doors of the houses are vaulted and surrounded by walls, which are mainly made of dry stone. On the other side of the walls, residents maintain small gardens where they grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables. The interiors of the homes are covered with wool carpets and rugs, crafted intensively by local weavers. The village streets are paved with stones, which for years have been maintained voluntarily. the setting – urban fabric Fterrë is a ‘dot’… this is how one can describe the small compact village; where a bunch of houses are dipped into the dense greenery and mountainous scenery. Due to the very favorable climate, many fruits are grown in the garden, among which the most distinguished are figs, apples, pears, quince, pomegranages, etc.

A legend – the creek of deer tears (Përroi i lotëve të drerit)

Legend has it that the village was established in ancient times. At that time of its founding, a group of hunters with bows and arrows were seeking to kill a beautiful deer in that area. After many unsuccessful attempts, one day the hunters found that the deer went into a fairly dense woodland—too dense for them to traverse. Realizing that traditional means of the hunt were ineffective, the hunters decided to set fire to the entire woodland to force the deer to come out, at which point they would kill it. They set the forest afire, but the deer did not come out. When the forest was burned and completely ruined, the hunters came to see what happened to the deer. Suddenly they noticed that a tiny trickling stream was gurgling under their feet. They followed the stream and to their astonishment they saw that it has been created by the tears flowing from the eyes of the slain deer. It was there that the hunters established their village, a village in the midst of which multiple sources still flow: Fterrë.

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