Pelion’s last saddler

Traditional craftsmanship in Greece – the worrkshop of Pelion’s last saddler

Konstantinos Vogiatzakis is the only saddler in the region of Magnisia that still makes traditional Greek saddles for donkeys and mules.

Palia, the old part of the seaport Volos is located a bit outside of the modern city centre. The small ouzeries near the paltia are very busy around noon. Only few tourists find their way to this district. In one of the one-storied houses, next to shops selling animal food, hardware and ropes, we find Konstantinos Vogiatzakis’ saddlery. The small, light flooded room with high ceilings resembles more a barn than a workshop. Straw is scattered on the floor. There is a smell of wood, leather and dried grass. Konstantinos is working on the wooden construction of a saddle.

Transporting heavy loads with donkey and mule to remote mountain villages
There aren’t many saddleries like this left. In the region of Magnisia Konstantinos Vogiatzkis is the only saddler that still makes traditional saddles. When he was 16 years old he took on a five-year saddlery apprenticeship. When his master stopped working ten years ago Konstantinos quite naturally took over the workshop. “The order situation is good” Konstantinos says pleased. This type of saddle for the transport of heavy loads with donkeys and mules is especially indispensable in the mountainous region of the Pelion.

The animals can easily pass through the narrow paths and steep slopes. They transport cmaterial, bags of cereals, wood, water containers and other heavy loads to remote areonstruction as that cannot be reached by car. This type of saddle can be found throughout Greece, it varies from region to region however. The specific decorations give information about its origin.

Konstantinos compares his work to that of a tailor. Each saddle is adjusted for a donkey, a mule or a horse, much like a custom-made suit. “They are all single pieces.” Konstantinos takes a bundle of straw and pads a felt pillow; he covers it with leather and then fits it into the wooden frame. Each step is manual work. He needs one to two days to make a saddle. Depending on the effort, a saddle costs between 300 and 400 euros. Serenely Konstantinos continues to upholster the saddle while lively coming and going prevails in the workshop and friends are stopping by for a little chat.