Northern scenic villageheaves a sigh of relief

Life is returning to a lovely little village on the outskirts of Kastoria in northern Greece. Just last August, Polykerasos, a settlement that until recently had a mere 17 permanent residents (it had over 600 before 1949), has been listed as a historical site by the Ministry of Culture – «for its architectural, folkloric and overall historical significance.» This initiative puts Polykerasos back on the map, and with great expectations as well, as it lies just 3 kilometers from the Vitsio ski resort and 13 kilometers from the traditional settlement of Nymphaio. It was the Municipality of Vitsio (to which Polykerasos belongs) that applied to the ministry for the village to be granted listed status as a way of protecting its beautiful assets in light of the widespread construction taking place in the entire region. The municipality’s application received the support of the development company of Kastoria SA, which recognized the village’s scope for development, as well as from the Ephorate of Modern Monuments of Central Macedonia, which conducted a scientific study in support of the application. The study that was handed in to the Ministry of Culture was drawn up by architect Roxani Trypsiani. Polykerasos and its 50 residences finds itself at a turning point today, as there is renewed desire for its resettlement, reconstruction and development. New buildings are being added to the old stone, two-story homes without balconies and with tiled roofs, most of which were built in the early 20th century, more or less around the central Church of Aghios Nikolas (built in 1844). Like many Western Macedonia villages, Polykerasos used to be a lively community which played a central role in the area up until the civil war. The village was destroyed once in 1904 during the Macedonian struggle and again in 1946. Only the second time was different because a majority of residents left – many becoming immigrants – leaving few behind to rebuild the community. The village got its name from its lush greenery – Polykerasos means «with many cherries.» Vast cherry, among other, orchards, sloping valleys and rivers give the village an almost alpine feel. Located at an altitude of 1,360 meters, it enjoys a crisp, clean climate that makes it ideal for development in tourism, agriculture, architecture, winter sports and other pursuits. However, one issue that remains open and concerns numerous villages like Polykerasos, is that of construction. The Ephorate of Modern Monuments has for years been pushing for a presidential decree on the rules and terms of construction in such historical areas so that the ephorate does not have to operate as a town-planning commission. Under the current legislation, all applications for the reconstruction of old residences are handed over to the local ephorate. The ephorates, which control huge areas, claim that this role of town planner takes too much time away from their usual duties and this, in turn, leads to delays in the processing of applications. In Northern Greece, only the village of Varosi has so far come under a special law – and the results have been very promising indeed. Nevertheless, Polykerasos is turning over a new leaf, reflecting the power that small villages can have in claiming a more promising future.