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Mitato is a small curved stone building mainly found in the mountainous regions of Crete and especially Psiloritis Mountain. In Byzantine times, mitato was the name for the obligation of citizens to host travelers and government officials. Nowadays, this small building covers the needs of livestock farmers in mountainous areas, far from their villages, for protection from weather conditions, rest and overnight accommodation. Also, in mitatos, shepherds milk their goats and sheep and make cheese.

The interior of the mitato consists of the fireplace- cheese-making area, the aniforas, the circular hole in the center of the dome of the mitato for the exit of the smoke and the thiridas, like deposit boxes, small stone cupboards on the walls for storing food. In the outside area of the mitato there is a dining area (a wide stone serves as a table and stones are placed for chairs). Around the mitato, there is the paddock, where the herds gather, and the tyrokeli, a place for placing the cheese and maturing it.

The construction of the mitato only from stones, without any other binding material, suited the harsh mountain slopes of Crete with the difficult weather conditions. The manufacturers met their needs with raw materials offered by nature itself without altering the environment. The absence of mud does not prevent the mitatos from standing firm for generations. The oldest mitato has been standing on the Nida Plateau since 1841.

  The inner perimeter of the mitato is 3.5 to 5.5 meters and the outer from 4.5 to 6.5 meters. Its height does not exceed the 3.5 meters. The mitato is built with stones, grey-green limestone slates, which at the base are larger and as the construction rises the stones become thinner so that the center of gravity shifts near the base. The plates tilt to the outside to repel rainwater. The door, the only opening of the mitato, is in a southern position, never facing north to protect against the north winds.

The shepherds seem tο enjoy the use of the mitato, they stay together as a group, sleep and warm themselves. All together they make cheese, extract their raki and shear the sheep. On the feast of the saint of the shepherds, Saint Mamas, they host their friends and relatives. They set up the dining rooms and serve wine, grilled meat, the traditional meze of the mountain, fried meat and pilaf, the rice that has been boiled in broth.

(More articles about Crete on www.gomega.gr)