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The President visits the Kaisariani Botanic Garden

A little treasure nestled into a fold of Mount Hymettos, the longest of the mountains surrounding Athens, is the Kaisariani Botanical Garden. A few acres of hillside have been fenced off and some of the thousands of native plants from around Greece have been introduced to give an idea of the floral wealth of the country. In the nursery, which is run on a commercial basis to support the garden, the plant collector can find such rarities as Stachys swainsonii and Teucrium divaricatum from the island of Amorgos and the famous Ebenus cretica, endemic to the gorges of Crete.

When MGS President Jean Vaché attended the regular Administrative Committee Meeting in Athens this June (2011), we took him along the precipitous mountain road to visit the garden and monastery (see below). He couldn’t resist choosing a little ebenus to take back with him to Montpellier.
Fleur Pavlidis.

View across Mount Hymettos.

Light and shade in the mountain garden.

A Dorycnium pentaphyllum subsp herbaceum planted
on the hillside and also for sale in the nursery

A display of Ebenus cretica.

A description of the Kaisariani Monastery by a Turkish traveller, Evliya Çelebi, 1667

"Among the foothills of the mountain is a marvellous and very old monastery, famous in all the lands of the infidel as the Monastery of the Ram’s Head, whose water, weather and general construction are not equalled in the whole of creation. How many hundreds and thousands of wise men in ancient times ordered in their wills that they be buried there! For their bodies are not subject to corruption but lie there in caves like blocks of white ice, and this because the ancients made magic in this place and now there are no snakes or centipedes or scorpions or ants or mosquitoes or flies or other such, and so the bodies are not eaten away but remain embalmed, and they lie there smiling still and gentle. For it was Simon, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, who came and built this revered church.

There are more than three hundred monks and cantors, and they belong to the Patriarchate. Except for Jews, the monks welcome all who come, feeding them and giving them every hospitality. When it rains on the hills around the monastery, the lovely smells arising from the coolness of leaves and plants and trees and the earth’s myriad flowers fill the nostrils; which is why the honey of Hymettos is of such renown. Holy Simon blessed the bees, and they are here to this day, for he himself loved honey and was a keeper of bees.

Such delicious food as is offered to strangers here cannot be found in any other monastery. From all the lands of the Franks and infidel, pilgrims come to worship here."

Information about visiting the Kaisariani Botanic Garden.
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