Oct 01

Sophievka Park

Today we are going to travel to Ukraine, and more precisely to the Uman region, near Kamianka River. Why has this particular location drew my attention? Because it is home to Sophievka Park, a real jewel in terms of gardening design. Just to make you understand just how impressive the landscaping architecture is, it is enough to say that the park attracts half a million visitors on an annual basis.

The park dates from the latter part of the 18th century, when a Polish nobleman by the name of Potocki has taken upon himself the task of rebuilding Uman and embelishing the city with a wonderful addition, a botanical garden of massive proportions.



The first step in putting the project into motion was to import a great variety of rare plants from all over the continent. These were artistically arranged, but the park has become a complete work of art due to the multitude of fountains, ponds, waterfalls and artificial basins which were tastefully prinkled throughout the park. The botanical garden is renowned for its diversity which consists of more than 2.000 forms of plantlife, both local and exotic, but also for the additional decorative objects, such as sculptures, which convey a certain allure to the entire ensemble. If we add the stone garden, the gazebos, artifical cliffs and grottos than we would get a clearer understanding of the reason for which the Sophievka Park is counted as one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine.


The original appearance of the park has been maintained to the present day so that tourists can indulge themselves with a walk in the park and admire exquisite exemples of European landscape garden design from the turn of the 18th century.

The park is divided in several parts, each named in accordance with the type of trees or bushes grown there. For instance, the area named Small Switzerland came into being in the last decade of the 19th century, when pine trees and cypresses were planted there.


While many of the decorations are artificial, as it has been previously mentioned, there are also natural elements in the park, such as the Silver Sources Spring which has been adorned in the antique style.

Another notewarthy aspect about the park is that it presents fragments of Homer’s masterpieces, the Odyssey and the Iliad. So, the conclusion is that if you have the chance to visit the Sophievka Park, you should take it because you will have no regrets. Unique species of plants and trees as well as inimitable landscaping designs await you.

Apr 13

The Castle of Queen Mary – Balchik (Castelul Reginei Maria)

The Castle of Queen Mary, which is located in Bulgaria, in Balchik town, has been constructed back in 1937 by the ruler of Romania, Queen Mary – as it is obvious from the name given to the castle.


The construction actually took 11 years to complete but it has worth the wait as the result is mesmerizing. And this doesn’t refer solely to the caste itself, but to its surroundings as well, which are an intrinsic part of the castle.


According to the historical facts, Queen Mary was taken aback by the breathtaking beauty of this region as it was a natural landscape, untouched by human hands. At that time, the region, which was called the Quadrate, was under Romanian ruling.


Story has it that the queen could no longer bear the unfaithfulness of her husband King Ferdinand of Romania (with whom she married in order to form a political allegiance), so she turned to the bay for refuge. Here she gave order to the architects Amerigo and Augustino, of Italian descend, to construct the castle under discussion. The surroundings were transformed into beautiful gardens by the Swiss florist Jul Joni.


The estate contains, besides the main castle, several villas where the guests of the Queen could rest undisturbed, a botanical garden with waterfalls and streams, Roman baths, and a chapel.


The entrance to this complex is done through a Sentinel Post which in ancient time had a lampion shaped as a candle above its gate in order to light the path for those returning late to the castle. This construction was strategically placed as all the 4 roads were visible from here: the paths leading to the Triumph Vila, to the Divine Garden, to the sea and to the castle.

Upon entering the estate, you are embraced by the luxurious vegetation and a state of peacefulness takes hold of your being. Access to different parts of the domain is done through stairs carved in rock. The place is vast so tourists have to pay attention to the direction they are taking so as not so miss certain interesting objectives. In fact, there are maps placed every now and then which allow tourists to make out their current location and to verify where they have to go next.

What is striking to most visitors is the fact that the estate combines different types of architectural designs but the explanation for this is quite simple: Queen Mary wanted to create here a replica of the Holy Lands. So, different cultural elements are harmoniously combined to create one-of-a-kind edifices.

On a closer analysis, you can observe Oriental, Thracian, Roman or Christian symbols, all coming together as a statement for the equality between people and nations. This is the principle which guided the Queen’s life and the construction represents a way to praise this equality.


In the middle of the garden rests a pond shaped as a crucifix, created after the Byzantine style. This symbol had different connotations in ancient times: it either referred to the Sun God, to the god of rain, or to the 4 elements which were used when the world was created.

One thing that always impresses the visitors is the 9 m long waterfall which makes them stand their ground for a long time, making it impossible to take their eyes away from it. It seems impossible that such lavish vegetation is found so close to the seaside. You can literally turn your head to the other direction and gaze upon the blue water of the Black Sea.

Right above the waterfall, there is a flower garden with diverse blossoms which creates a vibrant and colorful scenery.


The park contains more than 3,000 rare species of plants and flowers. You should know that the botanical garden is unique in all of Europe due to the vast collection of cactus plants it has.

The Castle of Queen Mary can be described as an oasis. It offers a wonderful insight into the architectural designs of different cultures. The gardens offer a state of tranquility through the beautiful imagery it conveys to the visitor.