Athens is a highly urbanized city and this aspect is clear to the eyes of any visitor or traveller; it just takes a visit to the centre of Athens to see it and realize it. Urbanization went on throughout the entire 20th Century, when most of the typical low Athenian houses were torn down to make space for the type of constructions we see today downtown, creating this constant and distinguishing view of buildings on buildings and balconies on balconies. This structure makes it hard for somebody who is in town, but doesn’t stay close enough to the Acropolis hill, to enjoy a walk around some greenery or rest under some tree shadows. There are parks, many of them, but they are often hard to spot. Skouze Hill park and Ippie Kolonos park are two of these in the Kolonos neighborhood, close to the centre and ideal to have a break from the loudest areas.
From metro station Attiki, Skouze park is less than ten minutes on foot (just follow Evalkidou street). The park sits on top of a low hill, it is small and well kept, and it is enriched by Saint Emilianos church which almost looks hidden among the plants and trees of the park. Because of the urbanization process I was mentioning before it is, unfortunately, impossible to enjoy the view of the Parthenon. The area and the hill are named after the Skouze family; not an uncommon habit in Athens. Another low and central hill, Strefi Hill, was named after a prominent and powerful family.
The other park worth the visit is Ippie Kolonos. This one is much larger than Skouze Hill, and has a richer history as well as more stories about it. During ancient times, Kolonos was what we would describe today as an exclusive neighborhood; the Athenian aristocracy could enjoy a quiet riverside area, as their children could go to the nearby Academy of Plato to get ready to become valuable men. Kolonos is also believed to be the birthplace of Sophocles, and on the hill rest the mythological figures of Oedipus and Theseus. And, on the top of it was believed to be the entrance to Hades, the afterlife.
Worthy of notice are the two monuments at the summit dedicated to two philhellenic (“friends of Greek people”) archaeologists from the 1800s: Charles Miller and Charles Leormann. Miller’s memorial was built in 1840 and was one of the first public sculptures in modern Athens, while the monument for Leormann was revealed by Mayor G. Schoufo in 1860. However, because the hill was not yet so dense in vegetation, it was used by many as a target for shooting. This had the effect of irreparably destroying the monument, so the Municipality was forced to place a new copy in 1936.
Skouze Hill and Ippie Kolonos parks might not make your typical list of places to go in Athens, but are ideal to take a break from the heavy sightseeing this city asks to its visitors, while also have a look to a less tourisitc area as Kolonos.
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