Photo taken on Jan. 29, 2021 shows an olive tree, which is 400-500 years old, at a park in Petroupoli, a western suburb of Athens, Greece. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- A venerable four centuries-old olive tree in the outskirts of the city port of Patras in western Greece, was facing the axe because it was on the path of a major railway construction project led by ERGOSE S.A., a subsidiary of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE).
Problem is, uprooting an olive tree, which for Greeks has been a symbol of peace, hope, victory and abundance since antiquity -- and especially for such a reason -- would not go down well with the locals. ERGOSE S.A., in cooperation with municipal authorities, universities and other public institutions has found a solution: it gave a new life to the old codger.
Since 2014, the company has been transferring olive trees from areas expropriated for railway projects to other sites, sometimes hundreds of kilometers away.
So far, it has saved more than 500 olive trees.
A year ago, 60 olive trees were transplanted in the municipalities of Marathon and Rafina in eastern Attica, along the Marathon race route, to restore the landscape after the devastating fire of the summer of 2018, which killed more than 100 people and caused an environmental catastrophe.
Despite the restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company continues to salvage trees. On Jan. 16, the olive tree from Patras was moved to a new location, along with four other younger trees a few days later.
Stefanos Gabriel Vlachos, mayor of Petroupoli, a western suburb of Athens, considers the rescue operation, in particular in such difficult times, a great gift for the city's residents.
"We are proud that this olive tree, which is 400-500 years old, is now on our soil in Petroupoli. The locals have welcomed with enthusiasm our initiative, because there is no person in Greece whose life is not linked to the olive tree and its fruits," he told Xinhua on Friday.
"For us, the olive is a sacred tree. It is an ancient symbol of culture and fertility. It was the symbol of Goddess Athena (of wisdom in ancient Greek mythology) .... It is the symbol of our country," he said.
"In (ancient Greek poet) Homer's work, the olive was the wood with which Odysseus blinded Polyphemus (the one-eyed giant son of Poseidon and Thoosa in Greek mythology). Hercules' bat was also made of olive wood. The olive tree is inextricably linked with Greece's culture," he said.
For centuries, the image of an olive tree branch has symbolized the values of Greek civilization, he explained, opening bridges of communication and cooperation as far away as China.
As Greece and China celebrate in 2021 the Year of Culture and Tourism, the mayor has sent a message of friendship to the Chinese people, stressing the strength of cooperation in particular between two ancient civilizations.
"The cultures of the two peoples -- Greek and Chinese -- are related, because we represent ancient civilizations. The roots of all other cultures derive from these two civilizations," he said. Enditem