Handmade Miracle―Botanical Park of Crete

One of the seven world wonders is the Gardens of Semiramis, admired by Herodotus and known only from descriptions, and legends. Now we can safely say that they exist: you can really enjoy this fairy tale in the magical garden of the Botanical Park of Crete!

It spreads over an area of about 49,5 acres on the gentle slope of the mountain and at its foot. There are thousands of trees of more than 150 species from different climatic zones of our planet, various types of flowers and shrubs, herbs and medicinal plants. Together with you, the local inhabitants are freely wandering through the shady alleys of the garden: ducks, geese, peacocks. They are not at all frightened and very friendly. You will see also fluttering butterflies, singing birds: you completely immerse yourself in nature, become part of it dissolving in it.

An idea to ​​create a park came to Petros Marinakis after a big fire destroyed in 2003 many fruit trees belonging to his family. Petros knew additionally that many tourists (and their children) who come to Crete often have no idea what the olive tree looks like or how grow oranges, medlar and carob. Together with his brothers, he decided to create a place where a person can get acquainted with nature closer, plunge into the atmosphere of fragrance, flowering and beauty for at least a couple of hours, and, of course, can find out how fruit trees and other plants look, learn to recognize medicinal or aromatic herbs, not only local, but also those that grow in other parts of our planet.

The territory chosen for the park is well protected by mountains from the winds from all sides, thanks to which plants from all over the world get accustomed to it, although each is in its own climatic zone. The tropics are located at the very bottom, at the foot of the mountain: thanks to a lake and the streams, the necessary humidity is naturally created here, and the temperature does not fall below +17 degrees. The zone above already corresponds to the subtropics, where most of the Mediterranean countries are located, including Crete, and the highest zone corresponds to the subalpine mountain belt.

A walk in the garden starts from the top of the mountain. Serpentine terraces, on which alleys of strange plants and trees are located, descend down to different climatic zones, until finally you find yourself at a beautiful lake―the habitat of local birds, as well as the resting place of the “flying” guests. Surrounded by peacocks, walking around here and there, swimming ducks and flowering tropical trees and flowers, you begin to feel yourself in some magical country, where you and nature are one; and man doesn’t destroy it, but coexists in harmony.

In a separate area, you can watch the games of adults and young mountain goats of a unique breed―the kri-kri. They are endemics, that is, they live only on Crete, and it is not easy to see them in the wild. Nearby are always sad donkeys: in the recent past they were pets and workforces in any rural family of Crete.

For a walk in the garden, you can choose a short route or a long one: the latter promises more beauty and meetings, so we recommend a long walk. Moreover, throughout the entire route there are many secluded, shady corners for recreation with tables and benches decorated with antique sculptures. The only thing you need to take care of is comfortable shoes. Families with small children should use baby slings. They won’t be able to walk around the park with a pram: there are mountain streams along the route, and quite steep descents and ascents.

All exhibits – trees, bushes, flowers and herbs – have signs with names and descriptions in Greek and English. In addition, there are occasionally large posters with photos and interesting information about the local flora and fauna. Billboards quoting sentences of ancient Greek sages on nature and its connection with man also attract your attention.

At the end you will came to the entrance to the park where is the restaurant proposing highest service. Everything cooked in it is grown on the territory of the park, without the use of any chemicals, and its prices are lower than the ones in ordinary taverns. The local harmony is not disturbed even when serving dishes: they are completed author’s compositions, decorated with flowers, colorful sauces and patterns of them. All recipes are traditional for Crete’s cuisine, while the condition of seasonality is strictly observed: they offer guests (and use in the kitchen) only those fruits and vegetables that ripen here at the moment. The kitchen does not buy greenhouse or imported vegetables or fruits, and if you have here an avocado, it is from the tropical garden, your peach is from the subtropical zone, and strawberries or mulberries are grown and harvested from the upper, subalpine level.

The easiest way to get to the Botanical Park is by car.

How to get there: from the national road, take the exit for Omalos, follow the signs for the Botanical Park, GPS coordinates: 35.25.06 N, 23.56,22E, drive about 12,5 miles.

If you use public transport: a bus departs at 9.30 am daily from the central bus station of Chania and goes to the Botanical Park; it goes back from the Botanical Park at 14:30.

Olga Morozova.