"My foundations in the mountains... and on them memory burns...

Memory of my people they call you Pindus and call you Athos. ..."

Odysseus Elytis, The Axion Esti


Why a laboratory for mountains?

Greece is a place covered by mountains, end to end. Mountains where wars still echo, smooth terrain mountains and wild ones, mountains that emerge from the sea... this is Greece. A mountainous country that, until recently, its history was written among difficult and inaccessible mountain-slopes.

In a country whose land is almost 70% mountainous, there wasn't until recently, any organization or higher educational institute for the study of mountainous nature and societies. At the same time, less mountainous countries in Europe and word-widely, had research centers and specific legislation for their mountainous areas [1]. This important gap was bridged by the foundation of the M.I.R.C. from the National Technical University of Athens, in 1993 and, later, the operation of the MSc "Environment and Development of Mountainous Regions".

A team of NTUA Professors saw the gap and envisioned a university laboratory for the mountainous Greece. A laboratory dedicated to the research and the study of all the manifold issues regarding the natural and the manmade environment of the mountainous areas. Dimitris Rokos was the leader of this initiative and the first chair of M.I.R.C. Scientific Committee. The operation of the MSc “Environment and Development of Mountainous Areas” was an important upgrade for M.I.R.C., in the field of its educational activities. Professor Dimitris Kaliampakos is the Coordinator of the MSc programme and Director of M.I.R.C., which is now an inter-departmental laboratory of the NTUA.   

Why in Metsovo?

M.I.R.C. was built in Metsovo, where its headquarters are located. In a modern building, of special standards, at a plot of land that was donated to the N.T.U.A. by the Municipality of Metsovo for this purpose. A research center for mountainous Greece couldn't be anywhere else, but in a mountainous place. In a place where studying about mountains becomes an experimental activity. In the heart of mountainous Greece, in a place that counts seven centuries of continuous presence and is still vivid, in spite of the depopulation that characterizes the vast majority of the rest mountain regions in the country. The building facilities of M.I.R.C. also shelter the MSc "Environment and Development of Mountainous Areas". Hence, researchers, students, professors, collaborators and invited speakers don't study about mountains hidden in some office or university auditorium, in Athens. They live in the mountains and learn about them, in them. Buildings, course-rooms, yards and the surrounding mountains, all become one unit. The very low temperatures during winter, the difficulties in transportation or even the isolation because of snowfall, the counting of goods that need to last along with the counting of the hours that sometimes don't pass, the very few and introvert people at the small coffee-shops, the almost mute everyday life when the local festivals have been quieted down... and, on the other hand, the magical freedom, the mixture of colors on the trees, the satisfaction deriving from the hard effort, the unlimited variety of sounds, of smells and pictures that changes with the light and the seasons... all these together is a field of research and everyday living.

Metsovo was chosen for another reason, as well. The National Technical University of Athens wouldn't exist today without the benefactors from Metsovo. N. Stournaris, El. Tositsa, M. Tositsas, D. Thomaidis, G. Averof donated an important amount of their fortune in order for the "School for craftsmen" to be built, 180 years ago. In their honor and in honor of their home-land (Metsovo), the National Technical University of Athens was named Metsovion [2].

180 years later, the National Technical University of Athens, returns in its birthplace and on its honor it returns a part of its dept, with a School for mountains, the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Center.

The research objective and the aim of M.I.R.C.

The objective of the research activity of M.I.R.C. is the mountainous environment and the local cultures. More specifically, the characteristics of the natural environment are studied - forests, water, ecosystems, resources, energy, etc., as well as the elements of the communities and the local cultures that have been developing in mountains - social structures, institutions and functions, traditional cultures, built environment, etc. In addition, the current development of mountainous areas and the forefront, crucial issues between the environment (natural and manmade) and the development of mountainous areas. Geographically, the research objective focuses on Greece, mainly, but also on Europe and other countries of the world. The support of the educational activities of the MSc programme is one of the main priorities of M.I.R.C. In addition, it is aiming at the collaboration with several research centers and organizations of the country and from abroad. Also, at the implementation of research programmes and the collaboration with public and private organizations for the provision of support to the mountainous regions of the country. An important part of M.I.R.C.'s activities is the organization of conferences, meetings, seminars, lectures and a variety of other relative scientific activities. Since 1995 (until 2017) M.I.R.C. has organized eight (8) conferences regarding issues of environment and development of mountainous and remote areas.

The aim of M.I.R.C., in collaboration with the MSc Programme, is to bridge the gap regarding the lack of research and education for mountains at national level, to build, substantiate and armor the knowledge on mountainous Greece, to function as the central pole of concentration and diffusion of this knowledge to the net of mountainous Municipalities of the country and to become the official institute for an integrated policy and planning for the mountains in Greece. Although the main research objective of M.I.R.C. is the mountainous space, it also focuses on a further investigation of issues regarding isolated areas, in general, with an emphasis on small islands.


[1] France, Italy and Switserland have already established mountain policy, since 1970. Bulgaria and Romania are already on the procedure of establishing mountain policy.

[2] The Greek name of the NTUA is National Metsovion Technical University