Green Living in the Rural Area". Statement of participant Joe Bolton, England

My name is Joe, I am a 33 year old electrician from Chester in the UK. I have a keen interest in all things outdoorsy and Green so when I saw the title of this course I was immediately interested and wanted to know more; the fact that it was taking place in a beautiful town in rural Greece was a major bonus! I always try to consider Green issues in my work life and have experience with energy efficiency and renewables. I have also worked quite a bit with youth groups and this is something I would like to do more of in the future, so I hoped the project might give me a few ideas on how to achieve this.
I was looking forward to the hands on, practical nature of the course. I read we would be creating footpaths, renovating old buildings and even constructing a treehouse, which I was particularly excited about! I wanted to experience the heritage of Greece and learn more about its ancient history by visiting museums and special archaeological sites. I was also interested to see how the Greek people were dealing with the economic and environmental uncertainty in Europe at the moment. You hear the news, but it's only by visiting a place that you get a real insight into why things are like they are.
Kryoneri is located about 20 minutes into the hills from Kiato, which is a 90 mintue train journey westwards from Athens. The hostel we stayed in was not a hostel as I imagine them. We had beautiful house near the edge of the village which was surrounded by olive trees and vineyards and had lovely views down the mountain and over the sea to Korinth. It was a very peaceful place, but there was evidently a lot going on behind the scenes.
The project started with lots of ice breakers and general discussion to get to know one another and find out why each person had chosen to come on the course. This was all very informal and enjoyable and it was the perfect opportunity to hear what people expected to get out of their week in Greece. I realised on the first day how like minded we all were, despite being from all corners of Europe, and I was looking forward to sharing ideas and stories with everyone as the week progressed.
The week was a good balance of classroom discussion, manual work, educational visits and downtime. We stayed as a group for all activities and consequently became very close. All meals were together 'family style' and in the evening we could visit the local taverna to socialise and relax. We had participants from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Italy, Spain, Germany, Liechtenstein, Turkey and Greece. We all had different backgrounds and different ages so it was interesting being able to talk to new people and hear their outlook on the issues of the week and life in general.
During the project I learned a huge amount about Greek history and also about how Greece is modernising its rural areas to strengthen the economy. My personal highlights include visiting the national nature reserve in Stymphalia, where we saw wildlife and learned about how farming methods have changed over the last 100 years. I also thoroughly enjoyed helping to construct a treehouse with local tradesmen, but only using scrap timber; the techniques were unlike what I am used to, but very effective. For lunch on our last day we cooked with fire in the outside oven and took all the tables and chairs up to the old stone house to eat in there. The food was delicious and it felt great to dine together in such a rustic, traditional way.
I had never been to Greece before this week, but I will definitely go back, either as a volunteer or a tourist. It is such a rich and varied country with loads to see and so many wonderful communities to visit. I feel compelled to do more projects like this, as I love meeting new people and seeing more of the world. It was extremely rewarding to make improvements to the river footpath and the old stone house and I will keep in touch with the locals to see how they progress over the Summer. What struck me most of all as a British person about to vote in an EU referendum, was the amazing work that Europe and Europeans do. In the UK we never hear about any of the positives and this week in Greece has shown me first-hand what a brilliant organisation the EU can be.
I desperately want to remain part of that.