The «Routes of the Olive Tree» are itineraries of intercultural dialogue framed with cultural events and other activities around the themes of the Olive Tree and the Mediterranean. Acting as a bridge between Greece and the world, they convey the messages of the Olive Tree and pave new ways of communication and cooperation.
These activities are implemented by the Network and the Cultural Foundation “Routes of the Olive Tree”, a non-profit NGO which, since 1998, had been putting forward innovative concepts of civilisation and alternative proposals of sustainable development across the olive growing regions. The participants in the "Routes of the Olive Tree" had traveled so far 160.000 kilometres of intercultural dialogue across more than 25 countries, registering, discovering and valorising the Olive Tree civilisation, a time-old cultural asset and an integral part of the Mediterranean civilisation.
The annual Olive Route program come true by a multi-scientific team in collaboration with network members and collaborators in all Mediterranean countries.
Upon an idea of Giorgos Karampatos, President of the Messinian Chamber, the first travelers, lovers of adventure and motorcycle, set off from ancient Pylos* to meet other homelands of the olive tree and discover the Mediterranean Sea and its people. 16.000 kilometres and 40 days of journey revealed a world even more and familiar and friendly than expected, and a civilisation with dimensions beyond imagination…
* In Ancient Pylos some of the oldest proofs of olive trees exsting in Greece were discovered
A second departure to the Mediterranean countries, with the participation of experts on the olive tree. The participants spread the olive tree civilisation, with the aim to supporting thematic tourism and olive oil products in favour of local economies… this gave way to a dialogue between Organizations, Institutions and local Universities about an inventory of this common cultural heritage of the olive tree.
Inspired by the noble messages of the olive tree, travelers continued their fertile route and sealed everyone’s wish for peaceful coexistence with the symbolic planting of an olive tree… The historical and cultural bonds between Mediterranean people were recognised with « Memoranda of Understanding » signed with institutions and organizations in every country. The way was paved, the intiative was placed under the auspices of international Organisations and a cultural project of several events and activities was planned.
The intercultural dialogue started from the olive tree but brought to surface more possibilities and needs, encouraging cooperations beyond the olive oil production. The Cultural Foundation « The Routes of the Olive Tree » realises activities around this Euromediterranean initiative in order to establish conditions of sustainable development in the olive oil producing regions, through the large network of the olive tree that unites Mediterranean people.
The «Olive Tree Routes» were unanimously recognized by the plenum of the Unesco, after the proposal of the ambassador of Greece Vasilis Vasilikos. This was the official acknowledgement of an idea and a useful initiative that started and expanded thanks to common people.
The contacts created during the first « discovery » itineraries proved the necessity of a «Chart of the olive tree civilization (landscapes, olive groves, olive-oil press units from different ages, customs and traditions, culinary habits, use of olive oil products etc.). The creation of this Chart was assigned to a special scientific committee.
«The Olive Tree Routes» travel around the non-olive oil producing countries of Europe and show to European public the olive tree civilization and the nutritional value of olive oil products. The « Eleodromia » begins an itinerary like a modern relay race with the participation of friends and Motorcycle Clubs. The goal is to familiarize public in non-olive oil producing countries with the olive tree civilization and the Mediterranean gastronomy.
The «Olive Tree Routes», an initiative born and expanded for love to a tree, were embraced by the Council of Europe and one year later they were awarded the title «Major European Cultural Route»
The first researches about an Olive Tree Heritage Chart led to short cultural olive tree routes in a local scale (Meknes region in Morocco, south-west Peloponnese and Middle East – Syria and Lebanon). It was a pilot project for the development of thematic tourism through the olive tree civilization.
New routes, new dreams… The Sea Routes of the Olive Tree were created, from and to the great Mediterranean ports. A circumnavigation on the tracks of the olive tree from east to west and the commercial ships carrying olive products for centuries, assuring the well being of Mediterranean cities-ports.
At the same time, another important activity starts : a multilingual library of the olive tree. A team is responsible for searching and registering the relevant work in every Mediterranean country and translating it into 5 languages : greek, italian, spanish, french and arabic.
In 2008 the «Olive Tree Routes » left the Mediterranean coast and met the Routes of Silk. 50 cyclists set off from Ancient Messini in Greece to Asia, conveying a message of peace on the occasion of the Olympic Games 2008. Thirteen countries were crossed and 17.000 klms were covered during this journey, which was linked more than ever to the olive tree symbolism and intercultural dialogue…
The cultural itinerary "Routes of the Olive Tree" was implemented in northern Greece and 12 other countries, including cultural meetings, creative workshops for children and young people and many other activities.
Were also organized : educational workshops around the theme of the olive tree, its history and civilisation at schools, in the framework of the initiative « Little friends of the Routes of the Olive Tree »; scientific missions and studies on the development of local cultural itineraries; the great cultural itinerary « The Routes of the Olive Tree meet the Routes of the Phoenicians»; a research for the e-Library of the Routes of the Olive Tree; the creation of an online data base with relevant information.
Implementation of the marine itinerary «Elaiodromia», aiming at spreading the olive tree civilisation across Scandinavia and Baltic countries, through Greece, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Austria. During the itinerary two olive tree celebrations were realised place in Stockholm (Sweden) and in Meknès (Morocco).
Its main priorities being cultural and scientific meetings and networking, the Foundation organized exhibitions, competitions, interaction with artists around the Mediterranean for the « Routes of the Olive Tree Gallery», a Euromediterranean collection inspired by the Mediterranean of the olive tree, local itineraries and a feasibility study for the creation of the Mediterranean City of Taste in Kalamata.
The «Routes of the Olive Tree» turned towards the Balkans. In August 2011, a great cultural itinerary was organized in Skopje, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. Focusing on intercultural dialogue and network development, the Foundation organized meetings and happenings and actively participated in two important events: the Guca Trumpet Festival and the Venice Art Biennale. The Foundation also organized photographic and thematic exhibitions such as « Routes of the Olive Tree: an itinerary of intercultural dialogue and international cooperation », inaugurated the «Routes of the Olive Tree Shop» in cooperation with the European Institute of Cultural Routes / Council of Europe and participated in many international forums.
The itinerary «Elaiodromia 2012», scheduled in the framework of the Olympic Games 2012 in London, in order to spread the olive tree civilisation along non-olive producing countries, was cancelled due to political changes in Greece and the economic problems generated.
Despite the difficulties, in 2012 the Foundation realized many other initiatives in Greece: The Routes of the Olive Tree Celebrations included exhibitions, product tasting and guided tours in traditional olive groves and olive oil mills. Priority was given to activities for the Little Friends of the Routes of the Olive Tree through information days entitled «SCHOLATSIO», which aimed at raising awareness among school children on the olive tree and its civilisation, in cooperation with the Network of Environmental Education Centers ELIA.
During this period, a new concept of itinerary was finalized: the local «Routes of the Olive Tree» around the Peloponnese. These short itineraries of 2-5 days duration aimed at the discovery of southern Greek mainland from a different perspective (olive tree monuments, thematic visits and introduction to the traditions linked to olive tree and its history, local cuisine, tastings etc.).
Apart from this, the information days addressed to students of 7-12 years old under the title «SCHOLATSIO», in cooperation with the Environmental Education Centers, were successfully continued, as well as other activities, studies, exhibitions and the research for the e-Library of the Routes of the Olive Tree.
Finally, the Cultural Foundation «Routes of the Olive Tree» was selected by the European Commission as a hosting structure of the local Europe Direct Information Center for the next 5 years. This new activity allowed the consolidation of the Routes of the Olive Tree network both on a local and a European level.
The «Routes of the Olive Tree» continue their journey through time and space. With the support of friends and co-travellers, they implement various activities, among them: Olive Tree Feasts, short itineraries for the discovery of olive growing regions, information days and seminars around the olive tree civilisation and cultural tourism, studies and researches on the Mediterranean products and traditional gastronomy, actions aiming at hosting & integrating refugees from olive tree countries.
3 marking moments
The symbolic planting of an olive tree by the participants of the «Olive Tree Routes 2002» and Iraqi students in the city Ar-Rutbah in Iraq, some days before the war broke out …
The Morocco-Algeria borders, closed since 1994, were opened for the «Olive Tree Routes» participants by order of the king of Morocco and the President of People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria…. The media of both countries called the travelers «peace terrorists»…
Immediately after the attack of Israel on Lebanon and the outbreak of the war, the «Olive Tree Routes» called for international support to Lebanese people and, in cooperation with the Greek Chambers, organized and sent humanitarian aid to the most stricken villages in the south of the country.