After we finished our work at the US Embassy, we took the subway over to the National Gardens in the center of the city. The kids enjoyed the subway.
Here we are the Parliament Building and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is ceremoniously guarded by three traditionally clad guards. They stand motionless and stone-faced, changing places only on the half-hour. People can pose next to them, but only with serious poses. Just before we reached the guards (you can see them in the background), we fed seeds to the birds, who actually came and stood on our arms to eat them out of our hands.
Paul was the only one brave enough to try it.
We then headed into the National Gardens, which were built in 1840 as the King's gardens, directly behind his palace (which is, today, the Parliament building). I told the kids the story of how the course of history was changed in these gardens in 1920, when King Alexander, who was out for a stroll, was bitten by a pet monkey and died three weeks later. His death brought the return of his father, King Constantine, whose pro-German sympathies changed the delicate European alliances and led, possibly, to the Greeks' loss of Constantinople and western Asia Minor.
I assured them, however, that there were no monkeys in the Gardens today. Instead, there were lots and lots of turtles, which Damiani loves.
Here is a great mass of turtles. The Gardens also have a large playground area for the kids, where, of course, we spent some time. In all, it's really a very nice respite in the middle of bustling Athens.