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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

ANDROS Summer University: My Feedback Report - Θ Ε Ρ Ι Ν Ο Π Α Ν Ε Π Ι Σ Τ Η Μ Ι Ο

Andros Summer University Report

At the peak of the turbulent economic crisis in Greece and within the Eurozone, the Summer University on the beautiful Cycladic island of Andros proved to be an oasis of calm - apart, perhaps, from the continuous strong gusts of the meltemi winds. The Summer University was organised by the University of Ioannina and the Association of European Journalists.

On what other island can one find such a state-of-the-art gallery as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Hora (Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation), as well as a monastery as tastefully and devoutly restored and maintained as that of Moni Panachrantou on Mount Gerakones, dedicated to Saint Panteleimon?

The wealthy ship-owners' neo-classical houses in Hora are as impressive as the striking dry stone walls which run beside the river and the town's baxedes, or the countless stone terraces (aimasies with stemes), which help to retain and conserve the soil high up in the mountains. The ancient tower of Saint Peter is an imposing monument, especially when seen from directly underneath, as are the remains of the Venetian Kato Kastro, and the magnificently restored small monastery of Saint Irini Apoikion, lovingly brought back to its former glory by the retired ship-owner and captain Mr Lefteris Polemis. We were privileged to be given professional and authoritative guided tours by experts and researchers at every location we visited.

I hadn't read Andreas Embirikos with much attention before coming to Andros. He was a talented photographer as well as poet and prose-writer. The opportunity to meet the famous (and friendly) film-director Pantelis Voulgaris was a surprise coup of the organisers. We were given a special screening of Mikra Anglia the night before.

All the lectures, presentations and speakers held considerable interest for me personally, although my Greek was sometimes not quite adequate for some of the quieter speakers (not a problem with the lively and dramatic presentation on Greek Literature and Modernism by one of the "star turns", Professor Georgia Ladogianni); the lectures covered a range of topics, the Greek language, Andriot history, maritime history and architecture, photography and the visual arts, literature (classical and contemporary), the mass media and the ethics of journalism, and the work of foundations such as the Onassis Foundation. The impressive participants (mostly young academics) made lively, self-confident and articulate comments and interventions.

Most of all I appreciated Nikoletta's determination and hard work over 8 months, and her natural - and highly capable - diplomatic skills. She was supported by Emil Theodoropoulos and by her son Antonis, as well as by the Mayor of Andros, Theodosis Sousoudis; by Professor George Kapsalis, the Rector of the University of Ioannina and by a number of generous and hospitable Andriot hosts, writers, publishers and businessmen. On one occasion we were treated (by the family of George Dardanos) to a meal of wild mountain goat, stuffed in the traditional Andriot style, and to a performance of Andriot folk music and dancing, sirtos and ballos, with musicians playing the violin, laouto and gaida (bagpipes).

As the only non Greek foreigner on the programme, I felt especially honoured to be taking part and to be welcomed so warmly. Professor Nikoletta Tsitsanoudis-Mallidis even went to the trouble of projecting - especially for my benefit - an English-language power-point version of her own impressive presentation. This was much appreciated.

All in all, the Summer University on Andros gave me a considerable sense of hope for the future of the country and its courageous, long-suffering people. It seemed to be indicative of a turning-point of great symbolic importance; in just one week it managed to banish most of the worries and anxieties of the recent months and years of bad press and negative media coverage of Greece, and to restore my faith in the country and its great culture. As Professor Yannis Petropoulos pointed out, Greece has enormous resources of "soft power" (Ancient and Modern culture) upon which to draw and capitalise, but which it often fails to mobilise, project or exploit sufficiently.

We enjoyed the food, at restaurants such as I Parea, and at Yialia and Nimporio. The shade of mulberry trees provided a welcome refuge wherever we went. The raki proved to be every bit as good as Epirot tsipouro. The windy beaches and waves were an unusual experience for someone accustomed to the calm Ionian Sea around Corfu, but the general tidiness and lack of rubbish was very impressive; the politeness and cultural interests of the Andriots, and the island's many benefactors, also made a lasting impression. It's an island with a network of well-signed and mapped walking and hiking paths; the islanders' respect for nature and the environment makes me want to return to do some hiking. Mules, horses and donkeys are still in use.

I am most grateful to all the organisers, hosts, participants and speakers for a truly enriching and inspiring programme. I saw and learnt a lot. Most of all, a personal vote of thanks to the amazing and tireless Nikoletta!

Outside the programme, Maria and I were also given a warm welcome by Efi Raptaki, whose beautiful house is situated just above the Museum of Contemporary Art; she kindly invited us to her baxes at the end of the opening walking tour of the "Epi Topou" exhibition of environmental art.

Photographs of some of the Summer University events and of places we visited can be found on my blog,

I shall return to this beautiful and hospitable island, and I look forward to receiving news of further Summer University programmes, wherever they may be held.


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