CULTURE

A world of fairy tales in the heart of the city

Can you imagine a fairy-tale space for children, somewhere they can play, read and listen to music at their leisure? In the heart of a garden, among trees and flowers, in a house like the one in which Hansel and Gretel lived. Can you believe that I have found such a place? It was a beautiful sunny day, just before the cold snap; a weekday in the National Garden. There were just a few people around; it was quiet and you could hear birds singing. I had clear directions on how to find the Children’s Library, which I discovered has been in operation since 1984. Go into the garden from the Amalias Avenue entrance, go straight ahead to an open space and turn right at the second pathway. Partly because I was absorbed in childhood memories, partly because I felt sad about the ponds that always need cleaning (the little pond with the ducks is no longer there),I managed to lose my way. But with the help of two genial gardeners, I found the library. It is a little house that was built in 1840 as a hunting lodge and retreat for King Otto. Librarian Stella Greka has been the heart and soul of the library for 25 years. «On the first Saturday of the month, we have the ‘Paramythosentouko’ (Chest of Fairy Tales), at 11.30 a.m. and 12.30 p.m., and we see the new month in with stories,» Greka explained. In the foyer two children are sitting and drawing at a low table. Further on are two small rooms full of books, a table with jigsaws and chess, colored cushions are scattered around the floor, and a CD playing «The Nutcracker Suite.» There are teddy bears, rabbits and Foundoti, a smart fox, is on the top shelf, ready to answer any question, unless of course she wants to sleep. Sunshine streams in through the window. I wonder why I didn’t know about this place before. It’s open every day except Sunday, Monday and public holidays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Children’s Library in the National Garden was founded in March 1984 by the Agriculture Ministry, part of a project to create a network of children’s libraries in rural areas across Greece. It started out with 1,500 books, a librarian and a social worker. Since 2004, the National Garden and the library with it have belonged to the City of Athens, Every day there are educational programs for children. In addition to the Fairy-Tale Chest, the library also organizes environmental research, briefings, explorations and activities to promote appreciation of books, art and nature.