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       the routes of the olive tree
  the mediterranean of the olive tree  
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On the 4th of March 2005, in Strasbourg, the relevant committee of the Council of Europe awarded the title of “Major Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” to The Routes of the Olive Tree, organised by the homonymous Cultural Foundation and by the Chamber of Commerce in Messenia (Greece). This honorary distinction was awarded following the proposition by the Direction of International Relations and Organisations of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture.

This award constitutes a further step in the international recognition of the route, which was elected the “2nd World Cultural Itinerary” by UNESCO in 2003.

Olive Tree Civilisation

an itinerary of culture and sustainable development, of dialogue and peace

The Routes of the Olive Tree are itineraries of sustainable development and intercultural dialogue, realized around a common theme. They consist in the rediscovery and recognition of this diverse natural heritage, linked to the technical, economic, social and cultural development of the civilisations inhabiting the Mediterranean basin since ancient times up until today. The initiative rests on the importance of the presence of the Olive Tree in the Mediterranean as an element, which unifies the people who live in its environment.

These itineraries work towards a common valorising of the history of this tree, for the benefit of oil-producing regions, and towards expanding the universal symbol of prosperity, spirituality, and peace that it represents.

aims and objectives

These itineraries wish to create “interactive synergies” between conservation, tourism and development by:
· favouring dialogue between the regions concerned, between developed areas and those in difficulty, between urban and rural spaces
· encouraging thematic tourism and sustainable development through setting up exemplary initiatives in oil-producing regions
· carrying out an inventory of the material and immaterial heritage of the olive tree, and increasing its value
· contributing to public awareness and educating young people
· leading specialised, multidisciplinary research on the widened theme of the olive tree.



The Routes of the Olive Tree are part of a common initiative by the Cultural Foundation The Routes of the Olive Tree and the Chamber of Commerce in Messenia, with the cooperation of an important network of international organisations: Greek and Mediterranean Chambers of Industry and Commerce, European universities and research centres, Olive Tree Museums and Non-Governmental Organisations from olive-growing countries. It has been placed under the aegis of the International Oil-producing Council, of Hellenic Ministries of Culture, Development, Tourism and Foreign Affairs, of the Peloponnesian Region, of the Athens Town Council, of the International Federation of Motorcycling, etc.

The 1st cultural itinerary of The Routes of the Olive Tree was inaugurated in 1999 in the ancient town of Pylos, where tablets of linear B writing were discovered with the ideogram of the Olive tree (which became the logo of the Foundation): 16 000 kilometres and 40 days of motorbike circuits, realized from Greece to France, passing through Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and Italy. These routes, which take place once a year, are made up of a course of relays across all of the olive-growing Mediterranean countries with the participation of “Friends of the Olive Tree” and the motorcycle clubs of the IFM. The journey is divided into several stages and continues towards several destinations, from a predetermined town to another town of arrival, where all the participants meet. The meeting of the “Olive Tree Messengers” is celebrated through several events, organised in cooperation with local organisations.

Beyond the Mediterranean countries, The Routes of the Olive Tree have, since 2004, participated in the promotion of the olive tree in non-olive-growing countries, such as Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland etc. These particular routes are called Eleodromia.

Full map of the itineraries 1999-2004

Photograph and painting exhibitions, commercial and cultural meetings, olive oil competitions, information days etc. have been achieved in Greece and various countries, as well as the publication of editions about the history and the importance of the Olive tree and the nutritional value of its products, and the publication of calendars.

For example, from 2001 to 2003, a series of cultural and commercial meetings and exhibitions, entitled “Life Cycles under the Light of the Olive Tree” were organised in Marseille, Bal Amand, Topruk, Montreal, Paris, Constantine, Damask, Moura, Brussels et Izmir, in the framework of the “European heritage Days”. The first “Festival of the Routes of the Olive Tree” took place from the 14th to 19th December 2004 in the Exhibition Hall of the “Syntagma” metro in Athens, with 5 days of exhibitions, educational workshops, round tables, musical animations and culinary tasting sessions dedicated to the history and the civilisation of the Olive Tree.

the euro-mediterranean importance of the theme

Through its geographic and historic extent, the olive tree has not only marked the landscape, but also the daily life of Mediterranean civilisations; it is associated with their rites and religious traditions, and it has influenced their habits and techniques.
A mythical and sacred tree for the three monotheist religions, a material and spiritual reference for the whole of the Mediterranean, a universal symbol of peace and reconciliation, the Olive tree represents a wide variety of living natural and cultural landscapes. Together with wine and wheat, the Olive Tree has enabled communities in the Mediterranean, thanks to maritime or terrestrial trade routes, to contribute to the formation of harbour towns such as Marseilles, Genoa, Barcelona, Piraeus. The ports and towns of the Mediterranean, both East and West, North and South, the bazaars and markets, the olive groves and the both ancient and modern oil factories, all constitute an exceptional common heritage, important witnesses to the history and development of technology, soap-production factories etc.

Today, it is in the Mediterranean that 98% of the world production of olive oil takes place. The techniques and traditions continue to cross over around the culture of the Olive Tree. Globally, the production of olive oil plays a deciding role for economies and employment, as well as for the biodiversity of Mediterranean regions. The areas with olive tree plantations cover almost 4.5 million hectares, whilst the sector includes 2,240,000 producers.

orientation and perspectives

In the years to come, the Foundation wishes to pursue and develop its issues and activities along the maritime routes of the Mediterranean and beyond the Euro-Mediterranean olive-growing region. In 2006, it will inaugurate the first Maritime Route of the Olive Tree, towards Mediterranean ports by following the traces of the distribution of the olive tree and of merchant vessels. Another significant event is forecast for the 2008 Olympic Games, in Peking. On this occasion, the Routes of the Olive Tree and Eleodromia will depart from the Ancient town of Pylos and Ancient Olympia in the direction of Asia, where they will meet the Silk Routes to transfer the Olympic Flame.

The actions envisaged aim to reinforce intercultural dialogue, as well as to engage or develop international cooperation.

Other initiatives promoting the civilisation of the olive tree are also being developed:
· Equipping a vehicle into a mobile activity centre, The Oleobus-museum, composed of museum spaces, a library and facilities for tasting olive-based products
· The creation of an electronic resource centre: Euro-Mediterranean corpus that regroups the research and work carried out on the theme of the olive tree.

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 more infos ...
 other web sites
  The website of the Foundation
 The Routes of the olive tree in Luxembou
 media library
 Ode to the olive tree
 Le guide des routes de l'olivier


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