Old , traditional, peculiar. Professions that are near extinction. I always enjoyed watching and taking pictures of these professions which are nowadays kind of rare to find.
I didn’t have to travel far away. The charcoal producers can be found in only a few km away from my home. I had seen the smoke rising to the sky before, but had never been close by. So, one day that the weather was nice, I decided to pay a visit.
Kalamaki village is just 32 km away from Larissa city, capital of Thessaly region, Greece. The village is located Southeast, right next to Karla lake.
You could see the source of the smoke at about 3-4 km away from the village so it was easy to navigate. I could smell it but I could not see any fire. I had to drive carefully because the road is rather bad. It would be much better if I owned a 4 wheel drive pickup truck.
I parked my car a few meters away from the area. The place was hidden between small hills. It was a working area with three smoking handmade kilns. The ground was black. The tools used by the workers were also black. The four men working there were totally black. I saw that a few meters away there was a small hut so I figured that these people were actually living there.
The charcoal producers, at the age of 40-45 years old were very busy, and when they saw me, looked surprised. I came closer and told them that I found their job very interesting and I wanted to make some photos. They had no problem at all. After getting permission I was ready to explore the small area with my camera in hand.
These people were hard workers. No machine were used. Only their hands, some forks, shovels and carts. The worst thing was the air that they were breathing. It was a very unhealthy environment because of the smoke, the bad smell and the thick layer of ash everywhere around us. The ash was rising up straight up to our faces in every step we did.
A man stopped working for a while to smoke a cigarette. I asked him to explain to me a few things about the process. He briefly told me that the production takes place in open-air kilns and lasts from Spring to Autumn. First, they have to collect wood from mountains and fields and then cut them into billets. After that, they make the kiln, by arranging the pieces of wood in a circle on the ground.
They pile them on top of each other, with an inwards inclination to form a funnel. They make some openings so that the kiln can breathe. Then, they cover it with wet pine needles and above them they throw sifted (cleaned) earth, sprinkled with water for another layer of earth to stick on it. The kiln is then ready for burning. After two weeks they gradually remove the earth and start storing the charcoals in sacks.
I didn’t stay a lot. I thanked them and started walking to my car. A few minutes later, while driving back home, I was thinking of them and their rare profession.