The National Garden, pride and joy of Queen Amalia, is the preeminent green space in downtown Athens. It was designed as the palace garden and developed over a period of many decades on empty and windswept fields on the outskirts of the city. Amalia dedicated time and a significant part of her personal finances to transform an arid landscape into a botanical paradise, full of plants from all over the world, which soon became a favorite destination for the people of Athens (who did not hesitate to raid it in order to improve their own gardens).
The tour lasts approximately an hour and a half to reveal fascinating and largely unknown details about the Garden’s history. There are living fossils from China and huge water reservoirs that allow trees to survive in harsh and parched conditions. Ponds supplied with water from clay pipes first laid by Athenian workers at the time of the tyrant Peisistratus, more than 2500 years ago. An inscription commemorating the Roman emperor who visited bathhouses and rewarded destitute soldiers with slaves. A labyrinth that no longer exists. The extended family of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A huge freezer for royal ice cubes. The first greenhouse in Greece, a definite improvement over the carts used by Romans to grow cucumbers.
The National Garden is much more than a verdant oasis in the midst of an urban cement jungle. It is an integral part of the history of Greece, the product of an ambitious queen whose greatest desire was to improve the lives of her subjects. Despite the vicissitudes of time and the devastating results of storms, frosts and war, the National Garden remains a point of reference and a living testament to the evolution of Athens from a small and obscure Ottoman town to the capital of a modern state.