Opposite the fountain in the main square and overlooking the coffee drinkers at their table is an imposing traditional Greek house with mullioned doors, high shuttered windows and red tiles. The upper story has wrought iron balconies. It is empty, boarded up and neglected. A banner poster advertising an art exhibition hangs from one of the rusting balconies and recycling bins occupy the pavement outside.
Further along the main street above the mulberry trees and the roof tops is a towering brick-built round chimney, sixty foot high and topped with an overhanging lip. It too is unused and abandoned.
The owner of an up market tourist boutique solved both of these mysteries for us.
The owner of the large house had died and left it to the church and community to be an old people’s home. This created two problems she said. Old people in the village stay in their homes, cared for by their families. In this respect there is no real need. The second problem was that no money was available to effect the necessary works, so the house remains closed up. It's used only as a chair store with one room available for meetings and coffee.
As to the chimney, it was part of a plant processing olives for olive oil and soap. It had a generating plant and this made Kardamili the first village in this part of the Mani to have electricity. This was in the 1930’s. Two larger, more modern factories were set up in Kalamata an hour's drive away and the Kardamili plant went out of business. Like the family house in the square, it was bequeathed to the community. There have been plans to convert it into a museum or gallery or artist’s studios, but in these parlous economic times caused by corporate greed and government deregulation, no funds are available. It stands empty. “We try to collect money for these projects” the shop owner said and shrugged her shoulders.
Bear with me, one more thing. Last night Janet and I, along with two hundred other people, were eating and drinking in a tree shaded restaurant garden. The crowd were there as part of the Kardamili Norwegian Jazz Festival which was in its third year. The Sandra Point Traditional Jazz Band played rousing covers of King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and George Lewis numbers. At the break the leader gave a little speech, that the musicians, all who had come from southern Norway, were unpaid and as admission was free he would be bringing round the hat. The band played happily on into the darkening night. We put our euros into the hat. “Every little helps “ he said. Here endeth the second lesson.
Am I merely stating the obvious when I say that these three issues; objectives, or shall I call it “the wish list”, funding and the willingness of local people to put their hands in their pockets are all germane to the maintenance of our local project, our Green.
Kardamili Main Square
19th May 2016