The Old Forest / Part II

Slow Truck
On our way home one day, we get stuck behind a very slow truck.
Ranti Sign
We are going so slowly that we notice a sign on the side of the road that we’ve never seen before.

It’s another entrance into the Old Forest, or “Ranti Forest!”

Agios Dmitrios
The trailhead starts across the road from the sign for the small church “Agios Dmitrios” at the highest point on the road between Evdilos and the south part of the island.
The first red arrow
This is the first red arrow leading up a rocky slope. Agios Dmitrios is visible in the background across the road on the left.

The first part of the trail follows the plateau along the top of the Atheras ridge.


Ridge top view

Dung Beetle
Dung beetles scamper around on the plateau.

Decaying olive pits look almost exactly like goat dung. Apparently these beetles are sometimes duped too, because we noticed one rolling an olive pit up a slope for a few seconds before realizing its mistake.

Stunted Sage
All leaves, plants, and trees at the top of the Atheras ridge have a stunted appearance, including this wild sage, which is only a few inches tall with tiny curled leaves.

Trees on the Ridge


Cracks in Rocks

Top of Ridge

Many of the trail markers consist of stacked rocks.

Rock Stack

Sharp Marker
Some of the trail markers look dangerous.

Ridge Markers

Ridgetop Trail

Hollow Log


View of Hill near Petropouli
From afar, looking north, we can see the hill that we reached when we hiked into the Old Forest several weeks ago. Today we are starting from the south – the opposite side of the forest. Most of the oldest trees lie in the valley below us.

Old Forest Border

Old Forest Fork
The trail forks, and we take the path to the right, which will descend into the forest and eventually lead up to Petropouli on the other side.

Old Forest Path

Matthew in the Old Forest

Holly Oak LeavesHolm Oak is also known as ‘Holly Oak’ (Holm is an ancient word for ‘holly’). Indeed, younger leaves or leaves on younger oak trees have holly-like leaves, with spines around the edge.

If you look closely, you can see the whitish down that coats the surfaces of the young leaves. As the leaves age, they will acquire a glossier texture, visible below.

Holly Oak leavesOlder leaves or leaves on an older tree are smoother without toothed edges.

In ancient Greece, acorns were a fertility symbol, and the acorn motif was popular on jewelry and other adornments.

Acorns from Holm Oak are sweeter than the acorns from most other species, and, once leached of their tannins, can be toasted or used as flour. In fact, many older generations of Ikarians remember their parents making acorn flour during the scarce times after the war.

Still alive
This tree, connected to the earth by just a wisp of trunk, is still very much alive.

This old oak, seemingly uprooted, also refuses to quit.

Old Tree

Old Forest

Holm Oaks, native to the Mediterranean,  are one of the most popular trees chosen for the cultivation of truffle orchards, due to the fact that their roots develop a symbiotic relationship with the fungus, attracting them to the bases of trees.

Old FOrest

Old Forest

Old Forest

Old Tree

The oldest Holm Oaks in Europe are between 500 and 1000 years old.

Old Forest

Hannah in Tree

Holm Oaks are slow growers, but can eventually reach an average height of 82 feet, with a spread of 68 feet.

Old Forest


Old Forest

Old Tree

Oaks were held in high regard in ancient Greece. It is believed that the Holm Oak was the oak species that was used early on in the oracle at Dodona, where Zeus foretold the future by speaking through the rustling leaves.

The shrine at Dodona is the oldest Greek oracle, dating back to the second millenium B.C.

After Dodona stopped functioning as a pagan site, the sacred oak at Dodona was eventually cut down. Following the invasion by the Slavs in the 6th century, the site was completely abandoned, and later replaced by the famous oracle at Delphi.

Old Forest

Shelf Fungus

Old Tree

Old Forest

Old Forest

Old Forest Trees

Old Forest

Matthew on the trail

Old Trees

Old Tree

Tree Silhouette

Lone Tree

– In honor of old trees everywhere –

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