The natural environment

The natural environment of Mount Athos is the subject of the first out of the Exhibit's four units and is presented in a photography exhibit that incudes the following themes: 1) the vegetation of Mount Athos, 2) the four seasons, 3) specific scenery, 4) human activity and natural environment. The exhibit is accompanied by a videotape and special publications that concern the fauna, flora and vegetation of the Holy Mountain.

The cultural heritage of Mount Athos is not limited to the exquisite craft works and one-of-a-kind relics of the holy monasteries, the sketes and the cells, but is also displayed through the mountain's virginal and beauteous natural environment, an inseparable element of the calmness and tranquillity that is necessitated by the monastic lifestyle. The most basic characteristic is the naturality of the ecosystem in regards to its quality structure, with a large variety of plants -a mosaic of vegetation with semi-desert, Euro-Mediterranean, subcontinent, continent, mid-European, sub alpine and alpine types- and animals in an environment of primitive, luxuriant vegetation, absent of man's intervention.

"This is due to the relative geographical isolation of the Athos peninsula, the variety in the rock formations, the multifarious clusters, plains and hillocks and the degree of altitude, especially of Athos which sharply rises in a pyramidal shape at over 2000 meters above the sea, but also to the variety in climates which are the result of the above-mentioned factors and which are evident through its mosaic-like vegetation. A mosaic that includes plant-life from the semi-desert region of the rocky sea shores with the lush tree-life, the Euro-Mediterranean types of vegetation of strawberry trees, sage leafed olive trees, mastic trees, beam trees, the sub-continent types of oak trees, chestnut trees and conifer trees, to the mid-European beech trees and maple trees up to the sub-alpine and alpine types," explains the curator of the Exhibit's "Nature and Natural Environment" section, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki professor Spyros Dafis.

Beyond the variety of types and forms of vegetation existing on Mount Athos, the area also features a significant number of indigenous types while, according to Mr. Dafis, the most basic characteristic is the naturality of the ecosystems, at least in regards to the quality of their composition.

© 1997 Macedonian Press Agency