The National Garden of Athens: Right in the heart of Athens, between Syntagma Square and the Kallimarmaro (Panathenaic) Stadium, stands the famous National Garden of Athens, a beautiful area to escape the noisy city centre and relax in a lush green environment. It is almost unbelievable that such an amazing garden is situated among the busiest avenues of the city and still it is so well-protected from noise.
The National Garden covers a vast area of about 16 hectares and they have three entrances: from Amalias Avenue, Vassilissis Sofias Avenue and from the Zappeion Megaron. It is situated on the north of Syntagma square, right next to the Greek Parliament.
The National Garden was created between 1838 and 1840 by order of Queen Amalia, the first queen of Greece. The German agronomist Frederick Schmidt was responsible for planting this garden. He imported more than 500 plant species from Greece and around the world, including many tropical plants. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, some of these plants didn't survive the Mediterranean climate, but those who have survived, create a lovely environment to relax.
Initially it was named Royal Garden because they it was fenced and only the royal family had the right to walk there. The people were only allowed to stroll around in Zappeion, another small park next to the Royal Garden. However, after the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1975, the park was named National Garden and it opened to the public. Today, it remains open from sunrise to sunset.
The National Garden distinguish for the narrow labyrinth paths, the wooden benches and the small lakes in between. It hosts a small zoo with wild goats, peacoks, chickens and other animals, a Botanical Museum, a children's library, a playground and an open coffee shop. Particularly popular is also the duck pond, where visitors throw bread and food left overs for the ducks.
Henry Miller wrote for the National Garden of Athens, The colossus of Maroussi, 1939:
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. Seeing lovers sitting there in the dark, drinking water, sitting there in peace and quiet talking in low tones gave me a wonderful feeling about the Greek character.
The dust, the heat, the poverty, the bareness, the contentedness of the people, and the water everywhere in little tumblers standing between the quiet, peaceful couples, gave me a feeling that there was something holy about the place, something nourishing and sustaining. It is lively in the morning, too, as I was to discover. But at night, coming upon it from nowhere, feeling the hard dirt under your feet and hearing a buzz of language which is altogether unfamiliar to you, it is magical.