If Poros is renowned all over Greece, it owes its claim to fame to its Lemon Forest. Not only because of the wonderful poem by the same name by Kosmas Politis, who described so well the beauty and atmosphere of the 1930s when a tour of the Lemon Forest took place on donkey back but also for its major economic importance as a citrus-producing area.
As mentioned in written sources from the 18th century, Poros used to export lemons to Constantinople, Smyrna, Thessaloniki and other far-off lands. Today the Lemon Forest continues to perfume the spring breezes but of its 25,000 trees, half of them have been abandoned, left to wither and not replanted. Most of their owners neglect them since harvesting the fruit is no longer worth the trouble.
We visited the Lemon Forest with Tassos Goumas as our guide, a man who has invested in its revival. We took about an hour’s walk on paths definitely in need of proper signage. The forest does not consist of one united grove as you might suppose, instead it comprises 600 properties averaging about 4,000 square metres each. Most of them have been fenced, some possess buildings ranging from a farmer’s shack to a family home.
Often among the lemon trees can be spied olive, pomegranate, medlar, cypress and other trees, which create beautiful compositions of shapes and colours.
As for the plots, some are models of care and love, others are completely overgrown with trees drowning in weeds, having been neglected for years. Along all of the groves, one notices an abandoned network of cement conduits which in the old days was used to irrigate the trees. I would have liked very much to return to that era to hear the gurgling waters flow through them to water the young trees. Today water is so precious and irrigation takes place with a system of hoses and is rationed more efficiently if less picturesquely, as our guide who is also an agronomist-engineer told us.
In the midst of our cyclical route we arrived at the place where there used to be waterfalls and watermills, but today they are silenced and dry. Next to them there is a ruined taverna painted a beautiful traditional hyacinth blue, which if it is ever opened again – as seems likely – will add another incentive to this walk. Its strategic position and the unbroken view to the Saronic Gulf guarantee its success.
I take great consolation in the fact that there is a group of volunteers who are initiating actions to reawake with various initiatives the locals’ interest in reviving the Lemon Forest. Its history and today’s crisis demand it since it can become again a landmark of great interest as well as a hub of life.
- AddressGalatas, Troizina