Guide to SKOPJE



Froutopia was a landmark TV puppet-show for children from the Greek 1980’s that in a magical way has managed to fascinate audiences across generations. The TV program remains a reference point to this day – not least by its special language getting into formal primary school curriculum. With exceptional wit that uses endless funny puns the story unfolds along 47 episodes, describing the adventures of a land where fruits and vegetables live free and independent away from the greengrocer’s menace!


  “Who kidnapped Manolis the Greengrocer?”

The plot begins at the HQ’s of Newspaper Treha-Gyreve (Go Figure) where the “shrewd reporter” Pikos Apikos (right on time) receives a mission to unveil the mystery of Manolis o Manavis (Manolis the Greengrocer) that has suddenly disappeared. Serious clues point to the distant land of Froutopia, where Manolis’ mysterious vanishing has scared all other greengrocers away – and good riddance! Fruits and vegetables declared Manolis as persona non grata, decided to live without greengrocers and humans in general and elected Emilios to Milo (the apple) as a governor. Froutopia is distant but by no means inaccessible: it is known that to the West it borders with Avgatiganistan (fried eggs-land) and to the East with Piperou (pepper-land). So, Pikos Apikos arrives in Froutopia by hot-air balloon and goes after the scoop of his lifetime, including an interview from Emilios, now evidently Froutopia’s Very Important Apple (V.I.A.).


Pikos interviewing Emilios in his office at Froutopia Town Hall

The quest for Manolis the Greengrocer continues in the background, while concurring stories of exciting intrigue, agony and heroism reveal the outstanding caliber of Froutopia’s celebrated citizens. The narration uses idiomatic expressions that refer to plants (e.g. “to be cabbaged” = to be out of breath). The very names of characters are often based on puns and metaphors, as of course traits of plants can refer to actual human ones (as the Greek vernacular goes, people can be tough as a walnut, insubstantial as a courgette, dumb as a dandelion etc).

Nevertheless, the protagonists are able to twist their attributes as they courageously overcome various obstacles in the same way that the plot is full of surprising twists and turns; and nothing ever is taken for granted! There is morale in that everybody has their own special virtue, to be enhanced with a little encouragement.


“Froutopia belongs to its fruits – now!”  Emancipated fruits use slogans alluding to ones common in 1980’s real-life politics – after all, kids can perceive politics as a joke.

Some of Froutopia’s protagonists

Thanos to Kolokythaki (the courgette) becomes a boxing champion and one of Froutopia’s celebrities.


Thanos the Courgette

Frangiskos to Frangosyko (the prickly pear), an ingenious inventor, has fabricated a machine that turns greengrocers into bolts (lit. destroys them) and therefore he is a primary suspect for Manolis’ disappearance.

Maroulita to Marouli (the lettuce) is Froutopia’s pretty one; for her love Vrasidas the Onion would give away his shirt (lit. onion skin) – even though we know he has many. But Maroulita is in love with Thanos and the feeling is mutual.

frutopia5Maroulita the Lettuce feels a bit “dried out” and goes to the doctor – but he is in fact a greengrocer in disguise! Will she be saved? See next episode!

On the other hand, there is Mata i Domata (the tomato). Albeit over-ripened, she is eager to organize the meanest intrigue to win over the love of Vrasidas, such as stealing for herself the pretty spots off Ananias to Peponi (the melon).

While cunning greengrocers have the nerve to infiltrate Froutopia in disguise, Vlasis to Vlito (the dandelion) proves one of Froutopia’s cleverest and helps saving the day. In another instant, although he is always out of breath, Arhelaos to Lahano (the cabbage) also becomes Froutopia’s savior. And Pikos is always there to report on every adventure as a pursuer of truth and justice.


Pikos interviewing a greengrocer

Froutopia’s outstanding creators

Froutopia was written by Evgenios Trivizas, one of the most popular contemporary authors of children’s books in Greece. The initial idea sprang from Trivizas’ regular column in the pioneering children’s’ monthly magazine To Rodi (The Pomegranate) in the early 1980’s. Among the many Letters from the Island of Firecrackers that Trivizas was mailing to his child-readers as a “foreign correspondent” to the magazine, one was about an interview/photo-reportage taken by the author from Emilios the Apple. Emilios took himself very seriously already and complained that the magazine is biased over pomegranates and should consider including apple-related topics as well. The wonderful “Letters” were later published into separate illustrated stories for children, translated into several languages (and recently into Turkish by Altın Kitaplar publishers).


Trivizas in Turkish: “The Bull who played the Windpipe” decides to learn this unusual instrument, considering he comes from Ispeponia (SpainMelon land)

Trivizas’ “Island of Firecrackers” was in reality England, the place where he actually resided at that time as a researcher on Criminology. He later on continued his academic career in Athens, while he still keeps writing popular books for children.



The author and the citizens of Froutopia

Froutopia soon turned into a comics magazine in cooperation with comics designer Nikos Maroulakis, reaching 50 issues in total.


It was a matter of time before the popular story found its way into the Greek public broadcaster (ERT), then a state-monopoly comprising of only 2 channels transmitting nationally. The highly original artists of the Sofianos Family puppet theatre, freshly arrived from Germany, were called upon to help with TV realization. They constructed from scratch a multitude of puppets and an elaborate 900 sq. m setting.


A view of a Froutopian street

The first episode was released in 1985 and the shootings took 3 years in total. The voices of well-known actors dubbed the puppets, while over 30 original songs accompanied the plot.

The song heard in the opening titles is the most famous one:

“There is a distant land

A country fantastic

Where live only fruits and vegetables

Without humans, only themselves!

It is one and only – the dream-like Froutopia

It is one and only – there is no other!”

Froutopia was never actually completed on screen: the mystery was left open for kids to guess any possible outcome. There was a faint hope for more episodes to be produced, yet less and less resources were given for children’s programs by public and private channels (the latter appearing in the 1990’s).

At the time when this article was being written, ERT itself was closed down. Obviously, a fairly extended TV zone for own-production, top-quality programs for children is a thing of the past. Nevertheless, we can trust that a child’s imagination will always have opportunities to get triggered by humor, playful mystery and paradox, come what may.


Sophia Nikolaou