The Open Air Water-Power Museum in Dimitsana (Peloponnese) is a thematic museum centred on the importance of hydraulic power in traditional societies, which presents the basic pre-industrial techniques using water as their main source of energy to produce various goods.
In an area covering a stremma (1,000m2 or 10,764ft2 – roughly a quarter of an acre), in the midst of luxuriant vegetation and abundant streams, a complex of water-powered installations and machinery has been restored, so as to integrate them into a museum on waterpower. Each of the buildings housing the old traditional workshops has been renovated and now has a permanent exhibition whose thematic content concerns the workshop it is in:
The first building houses a fulling tub and a flourmill. Up to the mid-20th century, a score of (covered or open-air) fulling-tubs functioned in the vicinity of Dimitsana, where woven woollen fabrics were washed (different kinds of blankets, bedcovers and rugs). The art of the fuller (or dristeliari, as he was called locally) resided in his capacity to correctly judge the immersion time of each type of woven textile. Next to it, a flourmill with a horizontal paddle-wheel has been restored. Here the visitor can drop corn kernels into the grain hopper and watch how they are ground by the millstones and via the meal spout fall into the flour bin. The adjoining small room with a fireplace was the miller's house, where his -usually large- family spread out the bedding each night in the loft and slept in rows side by side. Outside the mill, a rough shelter was erected, similar to the one protecting the raki still that was set up after the grape harvest each year to make tsipouro (a kind of schnapps or eau de vie) from the skins of the pressed grapes, and which would function night and day for 3-4 days. Exactly opposite it, there is a two-storey building, with the tanner's house above and the tannery just below it.
The workshop's interior is divided into "zones" corresponding to the different stages of processing animal hides. The first is for the "waters" (the soaking process), the liming and the preparatory stages in general (scudding, deliming, bating). The second contains a series of "limbes" (vats) for the actual tanning, followed by a well-ventilated zone, used for hanging out and drying the tanned hides in the shade. Lastly, a well-lit corner was reserved for the retanning or currying work (which gives the leather the required properties depending on the use it is destined for).
The stone-paved path leads to a flat area, where a natural reservoir has formed, and ends at the gunpowder mill. Dimitsana was one of scores of villages where, from the 16th century onwards, raw potassium nitrate (saltpetre) was collected and handed over to the Ottoman Turks as a tax in kind. During the 1821 Greek War of Independence against Ottoman rule, the inhabitants of Dimitsana played an active part in providing the Greek combatants with the necessary material for ammunition. In his memoirs, Kolokotronis, chief of the irregular troops in the Peloponnese, wrote: "Gunpowder we had, Dimitzana made it".
Gunpowder is a strong element of the region's cultural identity and remains alive in the memory and tales of its inhabitants. It is precisely this historical identity that the Museum brings to the fore by reconstructing the type of powder mill with pestles, which was used in Dimitsana during the 1821 Revolution and up to the early 20th century, simultaneously preserving this particular technology of gunpowder production, which disappeared in the rest of Europe in the 18th century.
After leaving the Museum, visitors can continue their perambulation in the Loussios gorge by following the path that begins at the Museum, descends to the village of Paliochori, continues on to the traditional bridge of Monopori, wends it way first to the monastery of Philosophos and then to the Prodromos monastery, before ending in ancient Gortyna.