The Vjosa / Aoos River is the source of inspiration for the Vjosa / Aoos Ecomuseum, located in Greece and Albania. The River is sourced from the Northern Pindos mountains in Greece. The river runs through Greece and Albania and eventually ends into the Adriatic Sea. The river has been integral in shaping the lives of the populations around its basin for centuries. The river forms a transboundary area and that is where the ecomuseum situates itself.
The Vjosa / Aoos Ecomuseum was created during a two-year span from March 2012 through February of 2014. It was funded by EU and National Funds within the IPA Cross-border Programme called “Greece-Albania, 2007-2013.” Four organization collaborated in its creation: the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (Med-INA), Pindos Perivallontiki, the Institute of Nature Conservation in Albania (INCA) and the Forest Directorate in Perme. Upon completion, the ecomuseum was passed into the managing hands of the Vjosa / Aoos Ecomuseum Network. This network is a transboundary network of stakeholders that includes local community representatives and other organizations. It is a non-restrictive network and is open to new members.
Visitors of the ecomuseum follow thematic routes. There are four total, two in Greece and two in Albania. The two in Greece are titled Water and culture, and Movement and routes. The two in Albania are titled Fruits of nature, and Earth and Water.
The Greece routes
The Water and culture route explores the relationship between man and river and is divided into three sections. The first leads visitors to flour-mills, water-saws, and washing pools. The second section covers the intangible water culture. Metaphysical elements, folklore, and traditions gave explanation and meaning to the unpredictability and danger of the natural environment. Two dragon lakes and a fairy fountain are passed during this section. The third section focuses on a particular goat-antelope animal, the Chamois of Pindos, a threatened species native to the high mountains of Greece.
The Movement and routes route explore the elaborate system of transportation routes that have developed over centuries. The network is highly efficient and organized. The transport network is explored through three sections. The first follows the route of the builders and artists. The second follows the shepherds’ routes. The last section follows both old and new routes that show how travelers bypass the obstacles of the natural landscape.
The Albania routes
The Fruits of nature route has three sections. First is ‘the gifts of the forest,’ where the fauna and flora are explored. Second is ‘Nature as a source of inspiration,’ which reveals how arts and local culture reflect the natural environment. Locals have a deep respect for nature and have many legends and myths of the area. The longstanding traditions of wood processing and masonry are further links between the people and nature. ‘Music’ is the third section and it focuses on Përmet folk music. This genre of folk music has its roots in the Byzantine era.
The Earth and Water route is divided into three sections. The first, ‘thriving land,’ follows the lands of the area focusing on crop cultivation, livestock breeding, and other agricultural productions. Section two, ‘hot springs,’ takes visitors to the Baths of Bënja nestled in a landscape marked with caves, canyons, and woods. The third section, ‘water utilization,’ provides a picture of the modern infrastructure of irrigation networks and drainage channels. There are 11 reservoirs and 9 pumping stations.
These thematic routes are based on a structured narrative around a particular theme. They allow the visitor to wander freely discovering the cultural and environmental identity of the river basin area.