NEWS

Leaders avoid the issue because of its taboo ties with deposed monarchy

After seeing Tatoi, the visitor returns to Athens, lungs full of oxygen and a mind full of ideas, knowing full well that the trash, ruins, dead plants and collapsing 19th century roofs reflect the real picture. Though the Greek state is responsible for the estate, it is secretive about its intentions for the estate. This is tragic because the public is being deprived of a unique architectural and natural park. A Council of State ruling has discouraged plans for construction on the estate, but that does not rule out unpleasant surprises. There is also the question of aesthetics and its relation to history and nature. Ongoing silence People familiar with Tatoi say the silence of successive governments shows that those responsible do not realize what a treasure the property is and do not want to be the ones to make decisions regarding its future. In 2007, the taboo of the royal past persists in Greece. More than three decades have passed since the referendum on the abolition of the monarchy was passed, but politicians still don’t want to touch the topic. However Tatoi, which is an estate with the seal of the Greek state, must be detached from the psychological complexes that condemn it to ruin. Most Europeans would likely be appalled or genuinely perplexed at how badly the Greek state has managed the Tatoi matter. If the Greek administration had a strategy it could secure ample funds from EU programs for an overall refurbishment involving architects, historians, botanists, agriculture specialists and conservators. Apart from the buildings scattered around the estate, from palaces to a dairy, nature plays a prime role at Tatoi. Plants from Crimea The slopes were densely planted with trees in the last decades of the 19th century, and many bushes and flowers from different parts of the world were cultivated. Queen Olga missed the lavish greenery of Russia so she brought in seeds and trees from the milder climate of the Crimea that could survive in Attica. What was once the huge botanic garden of Tatoi, with its specially designed pathways, clearings and supports, can only be restored if there is a plan. The buildings have not fared much better. Some, like the hotel built on the edge of the slope overlooking the vast plateau, were designed by leading architects. It was built in 1890 by the eminent architect Anastassios Metaxas, who clad the Panathenaic Stadium in marble. The smaller buildings on the estate, which present a central European notion of rural economy (a small army of people worked on the estate) are mostly in ruins. Movable objects have been looted or damaged. The cars and carriages are rotting away. The vehicles alone are enough to stock a small transport museum. Tatoi is a museum in itself. And the Greek state must demonstrate the maturity to protect what, after all, belongs to the Greek public. A trip to Tatoi would be a gift for those stuck in suffocating Athens. If the estate were refurbished and supervised as an independent organization with its own income and specific obligations, Athens would acquire one of the most handsome parks outside a city in Europe. It is right next door to the capital, and the Greek public service must bear the blame for having lacked the daring to manage it.