September saw the inauguration of the renovated traditional watermill at Agios Germanos in the Prespa National Park, Greece, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and part of the Transboundary Prespa Park, founded in 2000. The renovation brought this exceptional piece of local pre-industrial cultural heritage back to life.
The Agios Germanos River flows down from Mount Varnous, passes through the villages of Agios Germanos and Laimos and empties into Great Prespa Lake. It is invaluable for local livelihoods and wildlife, providing water for agriculture, priority habitats, and rare plant and fauna species. The river is home to the endemic Prespa trout and used by large carnivores, such as bears and wolves, as well as rare raptors.
Watermills were once an integral part of everyday life; along the Agios Germanos River alone there were once about 20 mills. The renovated building is one of the few surviving mills in the area and was originally constructed in 1930. It features three pieces of working machinery - a flour mill, fulling tub and fulling mill. From the beginning the aim was to restore the mill to an operational condition, so that people could come to grind grain and wash rugs and carpets. This approach was intended to foster a deeper appreciation of the links between nature and culture, and is a vivid example of how traditional water management practices can be revived to the benefit of local economies. The services of the mill are readily available to the local community, which has warmly welcomed the restoration, and there is also an interpretive exhibition about the mill for visitors.
Restoration efforts first began in 1997, undertaken by the Society for the Protection of Prespa with the help of local residents and volunteers from WWF Greece, and the support of the MAVA Foundation. In 2014 the restoration was completed with grants from the A. G. Leventis Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
By Marianna Vlassi, Communications Officer, Society for the Protection of Prespa
© Images courtesy of E.Papadopoulou