Tatoi, 26 May

This is a pleasant walk of medium difficulty, inside the Tatoi Royal Estate, on mostly level ground; the demanding uphill parts are few and each lasts up to 15 minutes. Xenophon (6937055502) is leading this walk on Saturday 26 May. We start at 15:00 hours and we will walk even in (the unlikely event of) light rain. This walk will take up about 3 – 3 ½ hours (it is longer than usual). The walk takes us along paths the Athens Strollers have visited before, but also along a forest path which we will be visiting for the very first time; in its final part, we visit the area of the Royal tombs (19th, 20th centuries), and we will stop if there is demand to visit the graves from close up. Much of the walk is in the shade of trees. But do wear a sun tan lotion, a hat and carry with you plenty of water.

How to get to the walk start:

Leave the Athens – Lamia national road at Varibombi bridge and head (west) towards Varibombi. While you are on the bridge crossing the Athens – Lamia national road, you are invited to zero your odometer. You will encounter several consecutive sharp bends for the first 1 ½ km. The last sharp bend is where you used to see the faded sign “Option Press” (in April 2012 there was a sign ‘Ενοικιάζεται’ in its place). From here on, the road straightens out for the next 2 ½ km. Midway this straight road, you go over the rail line. Bus number 503 comes along this route, departing from Zirinio school in Kifissia and terminating in Varibombi. This 2 ½ km long straight road ends at a T junction. At the T junction, turn right. Then turn left at the second turn on the left, marked for ‘Leonidas`, ‘Thea’, ‘Tzoumerka’ tavernas. This turn is 700 meters from the T junction. Set your odometer again to zero here. After 3.8-3.9 km there is a wide parking area on your left, with a parking sign; at this point, the road takes a left turn; on the bend, you can see a dead end road on your right, with a gate (shut) which leads into the Royal Estate. Park your car either in the designated parking area or on the side of the road. We meet at the parking area. The start will be here.

Google Maps: Here is a map for those coming from the south along the Athens-Lamia National Road, that gets you to the Varibombi junction (point B), then to the T-junction (point D) and then to the left turn for the tavernas (point E). https://tinyurl.com/35nsy7r

Here is a map for those coming from the junction between Kifissias avenue and Charilaou Trikoupi street in Nea Erythrea, that gets you to the Varibombi junction (between points C and D), then to the T-junction (point E) and then to the left turn for the tavernas (point F). https://tinyurl.com/2wfgj64

The taverna: After the walk we shall dine at the ‘Lambros’ taverna in the Katsimidi area (further into the forest, from Tatoi). It is situated at the 8.3 km point along the route you have taken to get to the walk start. In other words, the taverna is 8.3 km from the point where you zero’d your odometer, turning left at Varibombi for tavernas ‘Leonidas`, ‘Thea’ etc. At the 8.3 km point, you will see two tavernas on your right hand side, one behind the other, and a road leaving to the right towards “Ippokratios politeia”: Lambros is the one behind. If you prefer, stay close to the walk leader, and ask to drive along in a convoy, from the walk finish. If you are a regular Stroller, you have dined here before.

History of Tatoi: The former Royal Estate at Tatoi consists of 3000 hectares of land and lies 25km North of Athens. The summer palace is found here and many members of the royal family are buried at the top of a nearby hill also within the estate.

The first King of Greece was King Otto from Bavaria (the House of Wittelsbach). His wife was Queen Amalia of Oldenburg. In 1833 the monarchy was forced on the young Greek state by the three Protecting Powers: Britain, France and Russia.

When Greece won independence from the Ottoman Empire, the first capital of Greece was in Nafplion in the North East Peloponnese. However, in the mid 1830s the capital was moved to Athens which at the time was little more than a small village at the foot of the Acropolis.

The Tatoi estate was bought in 1867 by King George I as a place where the Royal family could escape from the formal restrictions of Athens and relax, particularly during the summer months. King George tried to give the estate a Danish atmosphere. The trees, roads, palace and farm buildings are all in the Danish style. The farm even had its own shop which sold olives, wine and other foodstuffs produced on the farm.    

Many trees and other plants on the Tatoi estate were imported from outside Greece and cannot be found growing in any other parts of the country.

In July 1916 a large fire broke out in the estate. King Constantine I and his son Paul just managed to escape in time and were rescued by soldiers before the fire encircled them. However, 16 people were killed and the summer palace was completely destroyed. Later the fire was blamed on “Anglo-French” agents.

In 1920, Prince Alexander was walking within the estate but was bitten by a pet monkey kept in the grounds by one of the staff. He died from the effects of this bite three weeks later.

In 1967 a group of young military officers (The Colonels) mounted a coup and took political control of Greece for a period which lasted until 1974. King Constantine II left Greece in late 1967 and never returned apart from recent short visits. He has lived in London since 1974.

In 1974 a referendum was held on the future of the monarchy. 70% of the votes were in favour of a republic and expelling the royalty, which effectively settled the question.

In 1994 the Greek state seized the Royal Estate and officially took possession in 2002 after a European Court ruling where ex-King Constantine II received a payment for Tatoi. Prior to this the estate at Tatoi was closed to the general public and a small police station on the grounds made sure that no-one could enter. Today the estate is accessible to walkers and is a popular weekend spot for Athenians.

It is not sure what will happen to the estate in the future but plans are being discussed for the creation of a museum, areas for sporting activities and a luxury hotel.