Students in Crete Map Out New Future for Endangered Island

We University of Cincinnati students working in Crete have broken up into teams, and one team, led by Carla Chifos, assistant professor of planning, is looking at village life, specifically the locales of Avdou and Gonies. 

The first step in our efforts was to acquire any available maps of the area and verify their accuracy.  With satellite images and old army maps, we set out to draw new ones with as much detail as possible, including such things as significant trees, use of plant life for shade (what we call green infrastructure), public-private gardens, and both pedestrian and automotive circulation patterns.  Other areas that are being studied are water management:  How water was moved, collected and used in the past versus how it is managed today. Also, we’re studying how garbage collection and management occurs in these places.

With a base at the Avdou home of Professor Chifos and her husband,  project leader Michael Romanos, professor of planning, we students stayed in the interior for days at a time, so we can focus on the problems of the local population in contrast to the team of students working along the coast to mitigate the effects of tourism on development. 

Our biggest problem in these interior villages is the language barrier.  Within the villages, few residents speak English.  So, we’re often limited to friendly gestures, smiles and our elementary Greek.  Nevertheless, we’re not discouraged because the villagers have been so friendly, especially as they come to understand our role here.  They were especially interested in the satellite photographs we had of their villages.

Almost daily, someone insists that we sit for a drink and something to eat.  Coming from the American cultural perspective to always stay focused on the task at hand, this provides an opportunity for many of us to experience the Greek custom of slowing down the pace and simply enjoying a moment with a new friend. 

Eventually, we finish our task while also taking in an enriching experience of local hospitality.

To help us in our work, Professor Romanos gave a couple of walking lectures in both villages as to the nature of why they were laid out as they were.  From a modern perspective, it’s difficult to understand why it might have been built as it was.  But, it’s easier to understand when viewed from a historical perspective.  The villages grew slowly and organically based on mule and foot paths and nearby water sources while modern development is based on the automobile. 

View  background on students' summer research in Crete and earlier letters home.

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