Cultural Landscape Day in Lesvos, Greece



Lesvos is the third largest Greek island, located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. The island has a rich and dynamic history and was, among others, part of Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. During the 20th century, rural exodus brought significant reduction of land use diversity: Forests increased in the mountains, as mountainous and/or less productive fields were abandoned. In the plains, agriculture was intensified by pumping and watering arable animal feeding stuff or greenhouses. In addition, in coastal areas housing and tourist uses compete with agriculture for land. Across the island the number of farms has recently declined, but in spite of this agriculture is still quite important in terms of the jobs and incomes it provides. The most important agricultural landscapes consist of olive plantations in the Eastern part of the island and grazing lands (for sheep) in the West.


Date: 28 September 2016

The Cultural Landscape Days event in Lesvos took place in the Department of Geography on University Hill and hosted students and teachers from the Elementary school of the village of Vareia. The event started with an introductory presentation of the HERCULES programme and its objectives by Thanasis Kizos to both students and their teachers and other participants, followed by a discussion on the role of olive plantations as part of residents of Lesvos’s cultural identity. After that, a short documentary regarding the characteristic landscapes of North Aegean islands was aired. The exhibition of children’s drawings titled “My favorite landscape” was the main topic, with students presenting their drawings and discussing why they have chosen to draw a particular landscape, answering questions from other students.


The main results were the 40 children’s drawings. In addition to their exhibition, they are published in a booklet that was given to students and teachers, in which, along with the drawings, the answers of the children to questions about different aspects of the landscape (“What do you hear/smell/touch/taste in your favorite landscape?”) were also presented. The questions intended to reveal which landscapes did the students paint, why did they choose particularly these among others and which senses – besides vision – participate while experiencing their favorite landscape. The objective was not to merely record them, but to help the students realize that their senses participate every time they experience a landscape. Responses on “Which is your favorite landscape?” varied significantly. Some of these landscapes are “real” in the sense that they do really exist and are located somewhere in the island (or elsewhere), while some landscapes are mostly “symbolic” in the sense that they represent symbolic features and images that mean something for the students and in turn can correspond in more than one “real” places, in other words they symbolize e.g. all the “seas” or “forests”. Another remarkable finding is that most students choose landscapes that are manmade – cultural characteristics dominate or they are an integral part of the landscape identity. Questioning “Why is this landscape your favorite” yielded 34 different responses showing the great variety of reasons reported by the students. These reasons mostly concerned activities that they use, or used, to do in the area, nature features that they are attracted to, nice view and in general aesthetically pleasant areas but also potential intimacy for a particular landscape or wider area. An English translation of the booklet is attached as Annex II.

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