TRADITIONAL MOUNTAIN VILLAGES IN THE PREFECTURE OF XANTHI
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The traditional villages of mountain Xanthi are located in a region of rare natural beauty and with a particular historical and folklore diversity. Hidden within ravines or pinned onto tall slopes, they have withstood decline, carrying within them their inhabitants? struggle for life.
There is little cultivable land here. Steep and inaccessible precipices jump out amongst the mountain slopes. The climate is continental with rain and snow, and for this reason the entrances to houses face south whilst their north side has few and small openings.
Access to the mountain villages is difficult. Although many forest roads have been built recently, there are still many villages that can only be reached on foot. Their inhabitants remain isolated, without any contact with the large towns for several days a year. For those cases where there is still no electricity or telephone, we can talk in terms of primitive living conditions, which on their own are enough to explain the abandonment of these areas for the urban centres.
Flora and Fauna
Mountain Xanthi has much biodiversity. Here we encounter maple, holly, oak, chestnut, silver birch, beech, pine and fir trees. The wild fauna of Xanthi Prefecture is particularly rich. Many rare bird species (such as grouse and ring-necked pheasant) reproduce in the local forests, as do large mammals, such as the wild boar, deer and brown bear. In the mountain region of Haintou and Koula there are rare birds and endemic plant species. Bears use this area to build nests and reproduce. In the River Nestos there live ruddy shelducks (Tadorna ferruginea) and otters (Lutra lutra). The River Kompsatos is particularly interesting, a refuge for many birds of prey. This wetland can be considered a unified ecological entity along with Vistonida, and is protected internationally by the Ramsar Convention.
THE ABANDONMENT OF THE MOUNTAIN VILLAGES OF XANTHI PREFECTURE
When walking amongst the dilapidated houses, one feels that these places are haunted. You can hear the voices of the people who once lived here and were forced to leave in search of a better fate. The flaws in national land use development policy, unemployment, internal and foreign immigration, and the change in the way of life are the main causes for the desolation of the mountain villages. The roads were late in being built, or have not even yet been built. Thus, many inhabitants left for abroad (mainly Germany), others gathered in Xanthi or the nearby large villages, and others sought work in the large towns.
The architecture of the mountain villages of Xanthi has overcome the difficulties and limitations of this inaccessible space, creating a form that responds to the professional needs of the inhabitants (animal husbandry, tobacco growing). Many of the villages have grown linearly along the bed of a stream, whilst here and there are some satellite clusters of houses adapted to the terrain and the specific needs of each family. The main features of most villages are the simplicity of construction, small size, multiple functionality and ability to extend. The building materials used in the houses are taken from the local surroundings. For the roofs they used either schist, tiles or even wattle and straw. The frame, the floors and the roofs are made from wood. The openings in the frames were filled with tsatma (schist, broken tiles and straw which were then coated with limestone plaster). The dividing walls were made with badgati (gypsum lath). The ground floor was usually used as a stable, and an internal stairway led to the first floor. The semi-open area on the south side of the house (hayiati) was used as a vestibule for airing the house and for drying tobacco and other agricultural tasks. The sachnisi (enclosed wooden balcony with numerous windows) extended and squared off the area, ensuring more sun, air and view.