This text is part of the article “And the Living is A-Z”, published in Greece-Is Athens, Summer 2018 Edition. By Paulina Björk Kapsalis, Maria Coveou, Nena Dimitriou, Alex King, Maria Korachai, Pagona Lipsati & Alexandra Tzavella.
You’re only steps away from the busy sidewalks, yet the temperature is noticeably lower. You can still hear the traffic, but as you look around, the world is green, lush, and bursting with life. No, you haven’t fallen down a magical rabbit-hole or been whisked away by a board game; this is neither Wonderland nor Jumanji.
This is our own welcome dose of nature in the city, the 15.8-hectare National Garden, once the Royal Garden, commissioned by Queen Amalia in 1838. It’s said that she was the one who ordered the planting of the now 25m-tall Washingtonia palm trees that grace the Garden’s entrance on Vasilissis Amalias Avenue. As for the park’s other plants, many of those were gifts given to the royal Greek family from around the world, which explains the presence of so many non-native species here.
Permanent residents include turtles, peacocks, and tawny owls. Open from dawn till dusk, the National Garden is a favorite spot for joggers, families with children who come to use the pleasant playground, and, indeed, anyone looking for some shade and serenity. If it looks a little unkempt these days, don’t worry – the Municipality of Athens has signed an agreement with the Bavarian State Government for assistance in restoring the garden to its former glory.