THE LAVENDER FIELDS OF PROVENCE
EVERY SUMMER, PROVENCE ON THE CÔTE D’AZUR TRANSFORMS INTO THE SITE OF A BREATHTAKING NATURAL SPECTACLE. AS SOON AS THE TEMPERATURES GRADUALLY RISE AND THE BEES AND BUTTERFLIES ARRIVE, THE FLOWERING PERIOD BEGINS!
From June to August, the lavender transforms the country into a purple dream. Long streaks of purple blossom endlessly to the horizon, enveloping the villages and hills in their intoxicating fragrance. During this time, the region changes to a unique fairytale landscape that attracts a great number of tourists every year. Provence is neither a defined French region nor a department, it is quite simply a landscape in south-east France, that stretches along the Mediterranean coast from the Camargue to the Italian border.
Lavender fields shape this landscape from the Hautes-Alpes to the Baronnies, from the Vercors to the Lubéron and from the Drôme to the Verdon. Specially for this, different routes, the so-called Routes de la Lavande have been established to visit and explore the unique lavender culture in Provence. The routes, ranging between 70 and 200 kilometers, lead through dreamy small villages and pass fragrant lavender fields, distilleries, museums, parks and many lovingly furnished shops where you can buy everything associated with lavender.
Lavender belongs to the genus of the mint family Lamiaceae, and is native to countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East. It grows on extremely barren, often stony ground, both on the plains and at heights of up to 2,000 meters. The flowering period extends from mid-June to mid-August and is dependent on the type of lavender, climate, altitude and latitude. The local weather also plays an important role in harvesting.
Lavender was probably first brought to Provence by the Romans and spread over the entire Mediterranean region. Stories and myths entwine around the strongly scented plant which probably has its origin in Persia, today’s Iran, with others claiming that it was India. Today, however, It grows in almost all climates around the world, but only grows wild around the Mediterranean. Finally, in the Middle Ages, wandering Benedictine monks brought lavender from Italy over the Alps and the fragrant plant quickly conquered and invaded both monasteries and cottage gardens in Europe.
Irrespective of its origin, it was documented for the first time more than 2,500 years ago. In Ancient Egypt it was used as a perfume and for religious ceremonies, as well as an ingredient in mummification. The Romans and Greeks used lavender not only for cooking and cleaning clothes, but also as an extremely popular bathing ingredient in public spas. Hence, the name is probably derived from the Latin verb lavare – which means “to wash”. Greek naturalists also did not miss the wide range of possible uses, and praised lavender for its medicinal properties as a disinfectant and antiseptic. Over the centuries, lavender even gained a reputation for repelling the plague.
Read the full article in Issue 25