My village, Skordalou, lies at a distance of 20 km away from the city of Hania at the feet of the White Mountains. It is one of the greenest villages in Crete with the oldest olive orchards in Crete and in Europe and the main income of its people comes from olive oil (tsounati variety).
I remember the summers in my village when I was a young boy; many children would come here from Athens and other parts of Greece for holidays with their families.
It would strike me that they knew nothing about plants, not even olive or orange trees, to say nothing of the loquat or the carob tree for example. But then again, growing up in a large city or in a place with different plants does not leave room for much.
By the end of October 2004, a sudden hot wind storm from Africa caused an electricity pole wire to break. This started a wild fire, which very quickly spread around so much that no one could control it. Twenty-four hours later, the whole region around the village had burnt almost to the ground.
The damage was unprecedented: sixty thousand olive trees over 400 hundred years old had been burnt. My village had been ruined both financially and ecologically.
My family had many orange and olive trees in an area with a surface of about 150-200 square kilometres, which was also ruined.
After this destruction, I thought that all that burnt land could become a botanical park for trekking, education and recreation. My three brothers all agreed to this idea.