With his many talents, George Dimitropoulos is undoubtedly the “life of the party” and one of MedINA’s oldest collaborators. Having supported many projects, today he is part of the Fundraising and Communications team. He remembers cherished moments from the past and takes us to a journey back in time in his own unique way!
“Twenty years of MedINA… in other words, time flies when you have good company! To be honest, I haven’t seen the whole 20 years, but this year I’m getting MedINA-15. I’m still in my teens then!
I met MedINA in early 2009, through Thymio Papayannis and then colleague Aphrodite Sorotou, the soul of the organisation for years. The two of them were striving to get the European Landscape Convention ratified in Greece, which the country had been a signatory to since 2000 but still hadn’t ratified by law (well, we’re not exactly falling from the clouds with this). They had managed to get a project called “In Search of the Greek Landscape”, MedINA’s second MAVA-funded project, and were trying to mobilise people from the academic, research and political world of the country. And where did I, a small planner, fit in? Well, the landscape, as we all know, relates to spatial planning, elementary my dear Watson!
To cut a long story short, after a national conference at the Agricultural University of Athens, a change of government, and a lot of lobbying at all levels, the first goal was achieved, with the ratification of the Convention in early 2010. Immediately we set sail for the implementation of the Convention in Greece, through another MAVA project, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environment. What followed was another fantastic conference, this time international, in Nafplion in May 2010, together with Angeliki, Irini and Stefanos, the creation of landscape study specifications for the Regional Spatial Plans in 2011, a smaller international conference in Athens at the end of 2011, the publication of the book “Reclaiming the Greek Landscape” in 2012, wow! The landscape continued to haunt me for another two years, through the EU-funded Medscapes project in 2014-2015, which allowed me to get out of the office for a while and take the mountains for fieldwork together with Aphrodite and fellow planner, Thymios Dimopoulos. Coincidentally, 2023 found me working on the landscape again (alas!), this time through the LPPT project, which came to pick up the thread from where we had left off as an organisation in 2016.
In the meantime, I did my “service” in Lemnos, through the international agri-environmental Terra Lemnia project, between 2017-2022. A huge learning experience, both on a personal level (I even got married on the island to give you a clue) and for the organisation. I won’t lie to you, it was tough, but the end result lived up to the expectations, I believe, achieving significant accomplishments and laying the foundations for the future, through the Terra Graeca programme as we speak.
So many things to reminisce these years… The endless kilometres in Lemnos, seeking to unveil the well-hidden secrets of the mandra system? The experiences with the farmers… At the back of the farmer’s bike, trying to explain to him that “we are implementing a project…”? Having a “snack” in the mandra, with a slaughtered lamb dripping blood half a metre away? Or the unforgettable experience of herding the sheep uphill on a motorbike? Outside of the mandra, how can I forget the countless appearances on the local radio, where every time I was asked “what are you doing in Terra Lemnia?” and “is MedINA a project?”, or the tavernas of Lemnos, where we had become regulars (always out of season) with Stefanos, Nicos, Stefan, and the rest of the gang? Back in Pindos, I’ll never forget the fieldwork, meticulously trying to identify the landform of the area with Thymios (is that uplands or a plateau?) before a lousy spike (remembered in history as a wild bear) blew our tire somewhere in Tzoumerka – just as I won’t forget the awesome participatory workshop in Konitsa in 2015, where the weather and bad timing left a meagre less-than-ten of us, trying to spread out to make us look numerous in the photos… Another fantastic memory is all those trips where I had the pleasure of meeting great people from all over the Mediterranean. Last but not least, the impromptu parties in the office, set up at unsuspected times by Vasso. All these memories have been engraved in my mind and I feel very lucky for experiencing them through this job!
But the best of all is not the moments –those are great for the stories–, it’s the overall picture. The pleasure of working every day with wonderful people, in a nice environment, knowing that you are doing something, even a little bit, useful for people and the environment. Inspiration, laughter, and high spirits is what connects this thread of the last 15 years for me. Let’s keep on rocking!”.