The present introduction deals with the physical environment, which however, is essentially social, because every inch of it is associated with experiences, representations, memories and activities of the local residents. Vlahokerasia is a green-clad village, which is surrounded by hills that protect the residents from strong winds while at the same time gave the opportunity for the installation of aeolic energy parks. After the entrance to the village, we start with a panoramic view of the village from the air, we continue with the parceling of the village in sectors (south, west etc.) as we look over it from the heights of Agioi Apostoloi, and end up with a presentation of neighborhoods and houses.
We included neighborhoods and houses to demonstrate the diversity of the built environment. In accordance with the contractor, Kostas Georgaklis (“Balkanas”), 90% of the houses in the village are built of stone, from the foundation, although a large proportion of them are covered by plaster of various colors. Among the non-plastered houses, there are both old and new structures, as we will see. The rest (10%), especially the new ones, are built of bricks and cement. Nonetheless, they all have housetops with tiles, as in most villages of the country. The Vlahokerasia Digital Museum presents the diversity and multi-color nature of the houses, traditional and modern, those occupied and those not occupied (the abandoned ones), which in the past were homes of well-off families. Our purpose was to show the traditional as well as the modern, and at the same time the progress marked overtime. Anyway, in the case of Vlahokerasia, almost all houses, regardless of their architectural type and whether they are occupied permanently or periodically, they all have been renovated and furnished with modern facilities. That is due, to a great degree, to the contribution of compatriots, who live in Greek cities or abroad in various countries.
In the presentation of the neighborhoods and houses, there were some differences of opinion among the members of the Committee with regard to the surrounding environment and, specifically, whether or not the photos we have used should show vehicles (e.g. cars, motorcycles, jeep, tractors, etc.). Some members, namely Angelos Bistolas and Anna Martinou. preferred to focus on the traditional beauty of the village houses (without vehicles). Others, namely the undersigned, felt that the photos should reflect the actual situation. It is indeed a fact that the beasts of burden (mules, donkeys and horses) have been replaced by the new means of transportation and cultivation, the braying of the donkeys and neighing of the mules by the honking of automobiles. For pragmatic and substantial reasons, we decided to also include the surroundings with the modern means of transportation and production, to record the real situation and to document the village “progress”.
Contrary to the trend of “modernization”, three compatriots ( Angelos E. Bistolas, Vasilis G. Stasinos and Alecos Ch. Mitsios) have created a space – I would call it a “locus of folklore attraction” – within the confines of their houses for the exhibition of folklore collections, that include traditional materials (e.g. tools, implements). These materials depict the occupations of their parents/ancestors and/or the tasks of the farmers. The visitors can view a part of these collections virtually by a simple click on the hyperlinks of the present unit or the whole collection and in person after making arrangements with the owners/founders.
Besides the “Loci of Folklore Attraction”, the present thematic unit includes a number of other hyperlinks (poems, articles, video clips) which refer to past times and revive the neighborhoods. Several of these were first published in the “Voice of the Village” (“I Foni tou Choriou mas”) (VoV), organ of the “Vlahokerasiotes Attica Association”. Specifically, the hyperlinks include (1) a poem by the “Tapeinos Vlahokerasiotis” (Giorgos Ziakas) on “Vlahokerasia” (|VoV, No. 7, 9/1985) (2) another poem, “My Old Neighborhood” by Ismini Mandros “ (3) an article by Giorgos Mandros on the “Goneika” neighborhood (VoV, No.20, 12/1988) (4) two articles by Tasos Giannopoulos –“Travelogue in Skiritida” (VoV, No. 87, 12/2005) and “The Jewel of our Village” (VoV, No. 82, 9/2004) – which guide us through known places of the Skiritida region and reveal to us the renown people (e.g. Alex. Papanastasiou) who had passed through the small village square with the huge plane tree (5) an article (in both Greek and English), on “Our Beautiful Village”, written by Stefanos Sotos (|VoV, No. 82, 9/2004) (6) an open letter by Giannis Ittounas to VoV about the conditions of the relocation of his father to Vlahokerasia (VoV, No. 60, 12/1999) and (7) two video clips of the undersigned where one can hear the songs of blackbirds, nightingales and swallows.
With regard to the identification of the neighborhoods and houses, and the composition of the photo captions, the Committee took into consideration various alternatives. One of these, which would conserve space, was to restrict ourselves to the identification of the neighborhoods (e.g. “Goneika”, “Kopiteika); however, we rejected this option, because there has been internal mobility among Vlahokerasiotes and resettlement of Greek citizens from other towns/cities of Greece, resulting in a loss of the original homogeneity of neighborhoods. Instead, we opted for the identification of houses, when we know the owners. In cases where we were uncertain, we marked “house of the heirs or descendants of [the ancestor’s name] or the paternal residence of [the offspring’s name]. As we do not cross-check our knowledge of owners with official registers, and we relied mainly on the knowledge of the Committee members, we invite whomever it concerns to inform us in case of errors and omissions.
Nikos P. Petropoulos
VDM Committee Coordinator
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