07 October 2008


If you are a Turk, the Greek Palia-Patras, Old Patras (not to be confused with New Patras near Thermopylae) sounds like Bali-Batra, which means Honey-Patras. And this is a true and rightful name because, as Evliya Celebi writes, there is no equal on earth or in all the inhabited quarters of the seven climatic zones to the great cypress tree of Patras, created by God:

This is a mighty tree, a cypress a green as emerald, which is under the special care of that ever-watchful Gardener, the Supreme Creator and Artificer, the Glorious Lord. In all the embellished heavens under the ninth sphere there is no sight like it. It is not tall and straight like other cypresses, but forks out in four trunks, from which spring three hundred and sixty branches reaching to the sky.

As these push out to right and left, forty or fifty picket-lines of horses might be tied in the shade, and forty or fifty thousand sheep might be shaded there. Around each upper trunk, a full fifty or sixty horses could stand, while lower down I and seven young slaves hardly managed to encircle the great main trunk with our arms outstretched. We also unwound a turban from a man's head and the full turban cloth just encircled this tall cypress tree.

In conclusion, at the top of this wondrous cypress threre is an old cavity where honey-bees have made a nest, and produce so much honey that the owner of this tree gets a hundred kilos of honey from it every year, which he sends round as presents to the great men in every province.

God knows, on the face of the earth there has never been a sweeter, purer and more aromatic honey created by the Maker of All Things.

From Evliya's Travels in the Morea © Pierre A. MacKay.

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