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National Gardens (Ethnikos Kipos)

National Gardens (Ethnikos Kipos) (40)

Just a few metres from the mad bustle of Syntagma Square, a pleasant space of almost sixteen hectares will whisk you away from the hectic pace of the capital to an area of peace and tranquillity, in which the only movement is the ducks fluttering in the ponds in search of minnows. 

You can enter the garden, located behind the building of the Vouli or Parliament, from Amalias Street, crossing through the gates in the fence surrounding the park. Although it does not have the splendour of yesteryear, the National Garden retains the prestige it acquired when it was created by order of kings Otto and Amalia , between 1838 and 1860. At that time, this area was the garden of the Royal Palace, and was therefore known as the Royal Garden. In 1923 a decree changed the name to the present one: the National Gardens. 

Queen Amalia made every effort to create a garden to her taste and to this end, it is not deprived by any means. The Greek Navy was employed to bring in up to fifteen thousand seeds from around the world. 

Prussian horticulturist Friedrich Schmidt was in charge of designing the plantations of the nearly five hundred plant species that inhabit this area: from specimens from the local area to the most exotic, brought in from all over the world. Unfortunately, the rigorous care he lavished on this green area has been lost, and today the lush vegetation has a wild look in some corners of the park. 

Still, you should not deprive yourself of a visit, because the paths that cross the squares, around small ponds, or around fragments of ancient Roman mosaics, have little surprises at every turn. 

In addition to the tranquillity of the gardens, here you can see the remains of a small Roman aqueduct and a somewhat dilapidated zoo, where animals from roosters to deer inhabit various cages. Although surprisingly there are more fauna here than just the animals in the zoo. If you look closely, you will see a number of small turtles hiding in the vegetation along the trails. Above all, however, it is amazing how many stray cats live here. Above the banks, crossing paths, watching the ducks from the edge of the ponds, or trying to climb a tree chasing a sparrow, cats appear in every corner of the park, making it seem like a witches garden. 

Fountains, chairs with filigree in the cafes, playgrounds, statues of Greek modern writers, and a small botanical museum are other attractions here. 

In many cases, it is difficult to find a haven of peace in the middle of cities, so take advantage and get lost on the paths of the National Gardens, breathe in the scent of many species, give the cats cross your path a name or sit down to eat a little picnic on a bench next to the mosaics.

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