Thursday, April 19, 2007

The National Gardens in Athens, Greece

Wisteria in bloom

Welcoming Palms

It remains in my memory like no other park I have known. It is the quintessence of a park, the thing one feels sometimes in looking at a canvas or dreaming of a place one would like to be in and never finds. Henry Miller, 1939

A jewel in the heart of Athens, the National Gardens provides a well needed rest from the hustle and bustle of Greek city life. The Gardens are located just behind the tomb of the unknown soldier on Amalias Street, and stretch for 15.5 hectacres from the Parliament Building to the Panathenaiko, the site of the 1896 Olympic Games. Formerly known as the Royal Garden, it was commissioned by Queen Amalia in 1838 and completed by 1840. This oasis was designed by the German gardener Schmidt, who imported over 500 species of plants and a variety of animals including peacocks, ducks, and turtles. Unfortunately for many of the plants, the dry Mediterranean climate proved too harsh and they did not survive, but still today, the animals continue to thrive. Located within the garden are numerous ponds stocked with ducks and turtles, and there is even a small "zoo" in the center that houses peacocks, donkeys, chickens, rabbits, and other tropical birds. Visitors can spend hours walking along the shaded paths, resting on the many benches, or even playing in the childrens park. There is also a botanical museum, a small cafe, and a children's library.

Today the National Garden is open to the public from sunrise to sunset with the main entrance on Leoforos Amalias. You can also enter the garden from one of three other gates: the central one, on Vasilissis Sophias Avenue, another on Herodou Atticou Street and the third gate connects the National Garden with the Zappeion park area.

Sara Anrrich

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