The tangled tale of how an estate grew and grew

The most interesting aspect of this case is not the sale of the 62.08 hectares but the previous history of the land, one which is common to many mountainsides in Attica and in other sought-after areas that have been divided up into building plots and then built on. In 1831, a Greek called Lukas Pyrrou bought three adjacent estates from different Turkish owners. The estates – Ano Trachones, Pournari and Kato Trachones – were in the Athens district at a place called Kara. Comprising 80-100 hectares of arable and grazing land, with the sea to the west and Hymettus to the east, the estates had farmhouses, a church, a tower, gardens, fruit trees, threshing floors, beehives and wells. By 1868, the estates were in the hands of a widow, A. Louriotou, who sold them to T. Komninos. When he died in 1884, the widow bought back part of the property. Over the next 10 years, the property was divided up among various heirs, but in 1894 a man came onto the scene who was to take matter in a different direction: Constantinos Karapanos, a deputy since 1890 and later a minister, who took over the three estates in two stages, in 1894 and 1899. At that time, land was measured in zevgaria or «yokes,» one of which was equivalent to the area a person could till with a plough. Although the property titles indicate that the overall area did not exceed 10 zevgaria, the equivalent of 100 hectares, from the outset references to certain spots made it obvious that the intention was to blur the boundaries and make them easy to move. For instance: «…and from there the border goes along the stream… and then it goes downhill… and then it turns uphill… and then it goes on for half an hour… to the top of the mountain… and from there it starts going along the ridge where the water flows down toward Trachones… and from there it goes around the mountain and downhill till it reaches the turn of the road.» These boundaries, which had never been mentioned in any of the previous contracts, were demarcated by what were purported to be the written statements of some villagers. Another significant piece of evidence is that in the contracts for the sale to Karapanos (1894 and 1899), Hymettus was no longer referred to as the eastern boundary of the estates. The eastern boundary, which reached the foothills of Hymettus, had been moved to the peak. Moreover, for the first time it was mentioned that the Ano and Kato Trachones estates contained forests, which supposedly had been entered in the forestry register of the Attica Forestry Service in April 1893. In 1915, the estates came into the possession of Pyrros Karapanos, the son of Constantinos. That contract was the first not to mention that the properties had an overall area of about 100 hectares. In 1919, Pyrros Karapanos submitted an application for a permit to make the land into building plots and sell it. The application was accompanied by a sketch of the property, which by then had an area of 3,000 hectares (of which 300 were stated to be fields and the rest forest). The Agriculture Ministry refused to give him the permit, and so the following year, 1920, he sold half the property indivisibly and in equal shares to K. Vaos, a doctor, I. Zeppos, a lawyer, D. Zamanos, a rentier and deputy, and N. Giarmeinitis, a private employee. They were members of Athenian society, who may have had their own ways of bringing pressure to bear. According to the contract, the estate then came to 3,600 hectares. In the years that followed, most of the estate was subdivided and sold off to cooperatives and private owners, or was donated (to the Red Cross, for example, by the widow of Karapanos, as the couple had been childless). What is now Glyfada is thought to have come from the Karapanos estate. Vaos, the father of Kyriazopoulou-Vaou, did not sell his share, which he bequeathed to his daughters. Kyriazopoulou-Vaou inherited half his share (225 hectares). In any case, the land had been encroached upon. Ano and Kato Trachones and Pournari have no connection with Glyfada; on the contrary, they comprise all of Ano Kalamaki and a large part of the municipalities of Argyroupolis and Hellenikon, which were not forest. Within the boundaries of what is now Glyfada, which was a forest, there was no place named Trachones. As mentioned above, the areas sold were far larger than the original 100 hectares, and a closer check may show that they exceeded 3,600 hectares. The area of Glyfada that comes within the city plan alone covers 1,200 hectares. To put it another way, the 100 hectares sold by the Turks did not include forests, the ownership of which would have required titles, which did not exist in this case. After the foundation of the Greek State, forest could only be characterized as private if it had been privately owned prior to the struggle for independence. So, there is no doubt that the supposedly private Karapanos forest belongs to the Greek State, which fully retains all its rights. This is the conclusion drawn both by Sakellakos (who believes notaries public and registry officers should refrain from drawing up contracts that transfer rights over areas outside the city plan to the areas in question) and the mixed advisory council. The following is from a unanimous decision of the council taken on December 11, 2000, at a meeting attended by the members of the Review Council of Forest Ownership led by Supreme Court Vice President Constantinos Lyberopoulos and members of the Advisory Council for Public Estates and Exchangeable Property led by appeals court judge I. Antoniou. «The State fully retains its rights, not only over the areas that have been encroached upon and those sold as building plots, but also those which have not yet been sold and appear to be owned by the current heirs and special successors of Pyrros Karapanos.» Sakellakos reminded the competent authorities that they «had a duty to take care of the property of the State in the aforementioned areas and the protection of the forest wealth and the environment in them, taking all the necessary measures (fencing, posting guards, putting up signs, etc.) to effect this protection.»