Visit the Tree of Hippocrates, where many people believe western medicine was born. Legend has it that this is where the ancient Greek physician and Kos native Hippocrates taught his pupils.
Hippocrates is known as the Father of Medicine. He believed that disease was caused by natural processes not the intervention of the gods, which was the prevailing wisdom of ancient Greece. Hippocrates advised diagnosis by looking at symptoms. Such were his contributions to the field that to this day newly qualified physicians swear the Hippocratic Oath.
You won’t be able to go right up to the tree because it is surrounded by protective railings, but sit on the roadside under the shade of its long branches. The Tree of Hippocrates is a plane tree and is believed to be about 500 years old. Therefore it is not the actual tree under which Hippocrates taught his students. However, it is believed to be a descendent of the original and in modern times cuttings from it have been sent as gifts to medical institutions all over the world.
Look at the ornamental feature next to the tree. This is a water fountain covered in Arabic engravings, which was built by Turkish Governor Gazi Hasan in the mid-18th century. Help yourself to a refreshing sip of water.
If you visit during summer, join residents and other tourists in a tradition that involves the tree. In September each year, local women construct two wreaths from its leaves. One is made from old leaves and is taken into the sea, while the other is fashioned from new leaves and left on the shore. This symbolises the start of the new year and it must stay in one piece while 40 waves wash over it. Then it is brought back to the tree.
The Tree of Hippocrates sits in the town centre on the Square of the Platane. It is in front of the Castle of the Knights and is easily accessible from anywhere in Kos.