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Researchers To Preserve Village's "old world" charm

Date: Arpil 12, 2001
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photo by: Lisa Ventre
Archive: Campus News


A University of Cincinnati research team working to save Crete from the curses of massive tourism will be expanding its studies into the picturesque city of Arhanes this summer.

Each summer since 1999, UC planning professor Michael Romanos has led research teams of cross-disciplinary scholars to Crete, the largest of the Greek islands and his native homeland. More than one-fourth of the 12 million tourists who visit Greece each year make Crete their destination. This popularity is threatening the island's beauty and environment.

In Arhanes this July, a handful of UC faculty and graduate students will spend three weeks making a rapid assessment of priorities for further study in summer 2002. Next year, a larger team of faculty and students will return, said Romanos. Recently declared one of the European Union's model villages, Arhanes sits in the island's interior, about 18 kilometers outside the capital, Heraklion. Protected by archaeological laws that restrict development, the town has recently focused on preserving and restoring its treasure of Neo-classical architecture. While the town does not attract the high volume of tourists that most of the coastal towns do, it's becoming a "day trip" destination because of its natural beauty, archaeological sites, spectacular vineyards and grapes, and its "old world" charm.

"The people of Arhanes are worried that rampant tourism could catch up to them," Romanos said. A major component of the UC work will be coming up with economic sustainability plans that will allow the town to preserve its historical heritage and architecture, its culture and the environment. "This is one of the prime agricultural areas of the island, famous for its grapes and wine." Arhanes also boasts three major archaeological sites. One is Youktas, a sacred mountain that resembles the profile of an old man and was believed by the ancients to be the gravesite of Zeus. The second has been found at the foot of the mountain where a huge Minoan palace has been discovered. Archaeologists also have uncovered a Minoan villa at the Vathipetro site, with the oldest known wine production vat in the Mediterranean, dating back 4,500 years.

"It is assumed that the entire town is built on top of a major Minoan town," Romanos said. "The archaeological laws protect the entire region so no new building can proceed unless the Greek Archaeological Service gives a permit. Because of that protection, the old character of Arhanes has been preserved."

The town also enjoys a wealth of water, which is increasingly scarce in other areas of the island. "We need to examine efficient uses of this water and whether it should be sold to outside regions," Romanos said.

The town already has a tradition of working with academics, partnering with faculty and students from the national Technical University of Athens at the beginning of the 1990s. It is also home to many academics from the University of Crete.

UC's previous work in Crete has been supported by the City of Hersonissos, UC's Institute for Global Studies and Affairs, UC's Faculty Development Council, the School of Planning, and the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. This summer's project has support from the City of Arhanes.

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