One of the best perks of having visitors is that we get to experience new adventures with friends. In April, Laura and Linda from Colorado were the first of our visitors in 2011. We headed out on a misty Spring day to find the acclaimed, “World’s Oldest Olive Tree” in the nearby village of Ano Vouves, approximately 45 minutes drive west. On the way, we drove through the dramatic Koutsamatados Gorge. Blanketed in low clouds and fresh green vegetation, the landscape was a beautiful example of the wild mountainous areas of Crete. At one point, the road narrowed into a one lane tunnel (built by the Germans during the invasion of Crete – 1945, and visible in the upper right corner of the photo). The tunnel is flanked by a traffic signals at both ends that apparently only the tourists obey.
A roadside stop included a rewarding climb up to one of the biggest caves on Crete – Ayia Sofia, where remains found here date back to Neolithic times. As with most significant caves on the island, it was the site of ancient religious rituals and shrines and today houses a small chapel and nativity scene where many devoted Greeks still come to worship on specific religious dates. Along with enormous stalactites and stalagmites there is a colony of bats in the cavernous depths.
We finally reached our destination of Ano Vouves and the ancient olive tree. Reportedly, the oldest olive tree in the world, it is IMPRESSIVE. Still strong and bearing fruit, the over 4000 year old tree looks to be at least that old. Incredibly contorted and beautifully gnarled, it stands as a living piece of history.
Its fame spread through the modern world during the 2004 Olympic Games, when a reconstructed Minoan boat carried a gnarly branch from the tree from which two victory wreaths were fashioned for the first and last winners of events in the games in Athens.
This giant tree has a hollowed-out hole in its 9 foot diameter trunk.
The village of Ano Vouves was a quiet, sleepy little place but it’s small museum was open and surprisingly well designed and tended.
We enjoyed strolling around before heading back to Hania where the girls took in the sights and sounds of the port city.