Exarcheia (or Exarchia) is one of the most colorful and popular districts in Athens. Why, you ask? Well, this anarchist playground is home to the National Archaeological museum, the biggest in the country, and the Kapodistrian University of Athens, which means it hosts a high concentration of students and free thinkers, and is a breeding ground for activists. One of the best symbol’s of Exarcheia is probably Navarinou park, a former parking lot that locals turned into a green oasis in a sea of concrete.
In the heart of Exarcheia, tucked between four streets, Harilaou Trikoupi, Navarinou, Zoodochou Pigis and Didotou, the self-managed Navarinou park, also known as Zoodochou Pigis park or simply the park, lies. This little piece of greenery in Exarcheia may not mean much to visitors, but to locals, it bears a strong importance.
In 1907, a clinic was built on the specific lot of land where the park is now located. It closed down in 1972 and the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) purchased the building a few years later. Demolished in the 1980s for the construction of the central offices of the TEE, the land stayed derelict as the plan never came through. In 1990, the TEE was acquired by the Athens municipal council to turn it into a square but several changes in urban development laws made this project impossible. Since then, the piece of land was leased as an open-air parking lot.
When the parking lot lease expired in 2008, the idea of re-developing the land resurfaced, which caught the attention of the Exarcheia Residents’ Initiative, which had been working on the matter for a year and a half already. The initiative informed the neighborhood and requested that the lot be turned into a green space to connect residents and the local community. And thus, on the March 7, 2009, alongside the collective ‘Us, Here and Now and for All of Us’, the initiative organized an event where residents and supporters were invited to squat on the space to get their request met. Breaking the asphalt with drills and cutters, they brought soil and planted flowers and trees before ending the day with a small celebration. And this is how the park was born.
Today, the Navarinou Park is a green oasis in the heart of the neighborhood. The park includes an urban garden, where residents grow food (make sure to come by on a Sunday where you can see locals garden together) and children, youngsters and seniors can sit and enjoy the space. Depending on the needs, the locals meet and decide on what needs to be done in the park, for example, cleaning and watering plants is based on a weekly rotation. For anyone who wants to hang out, the rules are simple: “Be respectful and clean”.
To stay in touch with the initiative and the many activities, make sure to visit the park’s blog. Navarinou Park is a beautiful concept, with a rich history, where you will surely enjoy a time of quietness and relaxation in the center of the city.