Alexandria Arboretum in Bila Tserkva

The Bila Tserkva. Part 2: Alexandria.

Here I will tell you about the biggest park in Ukraine with the banal name of Alexandria, and about some details of the city of Bila Tserkva, that didn’t fit into the previous part.

There, in the previous part I told the story of Bila Tserkva – contrary to its patriarchal name, today it is a huge multistory city, although I was mistaken in calling it “the largest in the regions of the former Soviet Union” – Moscow region Balashikha (which, in fact, has long grown to Moscow) has grown to almost half a million people, and Baku has 350 thousand industrial satellite town Sumgait (although the Baku region in the narrow sense is still not). And yet there is nothing larger than Bila Tserkva in the far suburbs, nor in the Leningrad, Minsk, or Tashkent regions.

Alexandria closes Bila Tserkva from the east, and the view at the nameless square in front of the park entrance is almost resort-like; behind those trees it’s easy to imagine the sea. Initially, Alexandria wasn’t in my plans – I knew it was the main attraction in White Church, but I’m not a fan of estates in principle, and there was critically little time in town. After reaching the Branicki warehouses at the end of the last part, I realized that I had another hour and a half, and with the help of the woman from whom I asked for directions, I decided to go to the park and take a run in it in the “photo biathlon” mode. But the photos don’t show the speed of my movements, and an incomplete story is still better than none at all.

Kolyevschina, for the suppression of which the Branicki received Bila Tserkva starostvo in 1774, was an anti-polish and pro-Russian rebellion, and even used a forged letter of Catherine II on the beginning of the hybrid war. In this case, Polish and Catholic Xavier Branicki himself went as his home to St. Petersburg rather than Warsaw, lived there for months and finally in 1781 married Gregory Potemkin’s niece (and according to rumors and former mistress) Saneczka Engelhardt. The Branickisches started to settle down in Bila Tserkva after it and the whole of the Right-bank Ukraine became a part of Russia. The estate consisted of two residences – the winter Bila Tserkva, which belonged to the husband, and the summer Alexandria, which belonged to the wife and was named after her, a few kilometers from each other. The arrangement of the park, first of all using the money from Potemkin’s inheritance, Alexandra Branicka started in 1793.

I do not know exactly what time the propiles of the main entrance gate, but the busts on them – Shevchenko and Pushkin, clearly placed after the war. I do not remember whether the entrance is free, but if you have a ticket, it is not expensive. Outside the gates are two moderately sensible diagrams of the architectural and natural park beauties:

The present Alexandria (and not at all Mezhigorie!) is the largest park in Ukraine, it has 297 hectares (which is three times more than Kiev-Pechersk Lavra or the Moscow Kremlin, but three times less than the Resort Park in Kislovodsk) and 2500 plant species, including the cleanest oak forest in the country at 46 hectares. If you compare Alexandria with its main “competitor” Sofiyivka in neighboring Uman, the latter is smaller and more beautiful, and more interesting to look at, while Alexandria is larger and cozier, and it is more pleasant to just walk aimlessly.

And looking at my photos, I can’t believe that I walked under the shade of those huge trees at a brisk pace. Maybe the gray weather played a role, but Alexandria reminded me of the melancholic-poetic spirit of the old park, cozy, mysterious, and secluded.

Cesky Peterburg, description and photos

My mistake was that from the gate I walked along the main avenue, although it would have been more logical to go parallel to it along the smaller avenues – in that section I would have seen the Rotunda and the Horse Tomb. Instead, I walked along the main avenue for about 600 meters, and then turned left, where I saw the Column of Sorrow, or simply “Pelican. It’s a rather mysterious construction, traditionally symbolizing a father’s love – somewhere it’s written that the Branickis put it in place where their son had fallen from his horse, but I could find no confirmation. More often – that it was put in honor of either Alexander I (and then they see Masonic symbols in it) or even Alexander II (but I do not believe in it – the largest landlords of Kiev certainly had nothing to thank him for).

Further along the main avenue is the modest “Varna” (1828), erected in honor of the capture of the Bulgarian city by the Russian army under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, and does not seem to symbolize anything related to it. It was restored after the war, and at the same time I saw photos with a golden sculpture of a maiden on the stones – I don’t know where it went:

Strange, but not the only hole in the park in the ground, probably the remains of a long-dried fountain:

Here before the war stood the Austeria, or Didinets, Alexandria’s main palace from the 1790s, as modest as the Winter Palace of White Church. It was burned during the Civil War – one of the best wine collections in the empire was kept in the basement, and when the Bolsheviks came from the surrounding villages all the freed rubes flocked, and a great drinking spree with looting ended in a fire.

Farther away, in that direction, is the Walled Garden, a corner of a French park, enclosed by a high wall, which used to play the role of harems in Asian palaces. It was the place, closed to servants and strangers, where the masters could find freedom from the question, “What will Princess Marya Alexeyevna say? There are other walls in the park – the mysterious Zmiev shaft, which predates the Kievan Rus and was built to protect the park from the Pechenezh and Polovtsian incursions, passes straight through Alexandria. It went approximately here, between the ruins of the guest house in the foreground and the dance pavilion nearby, but of course on the paths and clearings ramparts are torn, and here I could not see them (although a couple of years earlier I saw a much better preserved section in Vasylkiv).

A dance pavilion is an obvious replica: what was not burnt down by marauders in the civil war was ruined by the Great Patriotic War, and if most of the sculptures and compositions were restored in the 1950s, the buildings were taken care of only in recent years, and with a pity only this pavilion was rebuilt:

The other side of the pavilion looks onto the Small meadow, and from that side the sculptures of Apollo and Diana, which previously stood on one of the ponds, were moved to it:

At the other end of the Little Glade, gradually tapering between trees, is a monument to Alexandra Branicka (2014), quite possibly the last monument erected in Ukraine to a native of Russia:

This composition is sometimes called “Napoleon”, but officially it is the Decembrists’ Bench, and was apparently put during the restoration of the park in the 1950s, which added new forms to it. The Decembrists of the Southern Society did indeed come to the receptions of the Branickisks more than once, and according to the legend they even planned an attempt on the tsar’s life in this park.

The Butchart Gardens in Canada, photo and description

The bench is at the entrance to the Big Meadow, which is really Big, and that makes it look like a meadow in the middle of a wild forest. One cannot walk on this motley grass – Big Meadow is almost the leader in Ukraine by biodiversity, its 10 hectares are inhabited by up to 170 plant species:

In some places you can see the city from the paths that surround it:

The main attraction of the glade are trees of completely foreign species, such as the American Weymouth Pine (under the sign on the left) and the Mediterranean Black Pine (in the foreground).

At the edge of the clearing is the Echo Colonnade (Luna in Ukrainian), one of the original buildings of the park, restored after the war. It has impressive acoustics, but its main property is that a word said in a whisper at one end of the colonnade is clearly audible at the other – I never got to check it out, because I was alone. The sculpture in front of the colonnade is Mercury:

It’s a stone’s throw from here to the Chinese Bridge:

And the sly “Chinese Sage,” who is commonly grabbed by the beard:

The local “Chineseness” (this is, by the way, the official name of this style, only in French – chinoiserie) seemed to me the most successful in the parks of the former Russian Empire, it certainly has a lot more taste than in the garish Chinese Village of Tsarskoye Selo.

The bridge is really more of a dam on the brook. Above is Swan Lake (swans attached) and Golden Fish Pond with an observation deck at the end. From there is not far to the Sadovnichy House (the last surviving building of the park, built in the Polish style, nowadays it has remained behind the palace and is occupied by the directorate of the park) and several gardens – Lilac, Pink, Coniferous:

Below three steps Popovich’s pond (not Alyosha Popovich by any chance?), Mirror Serpentine and Ros in a natural channel:

Mirror Serpentine overhangs the river, separated from it only by a path. Legend has it that the banks were planted with poisonous plants when peasants used to come up here to fish from across the river. Nowadays on the other bank of the park sanatorium “Dubrava” – Bila Tserkva is also a bit of a resort:

Turtle Spring on the shore of the pond. There is also Leo near Bolshaya Polyana:

From here up the Rosa will be the farthest and deafest part of the park with several beaches by the river and Palievaya Mountain, a settlement from pre-Russian times, where, according to legend, in 1702-04 was the headquarters of the rebel hetman Semyon Paliy. Now there is quite an effective monument, but I had not the slightest chance to get there in time. To go there only by the house of Gardener – the passage along the river is blocked by an abandoned pumping station of the 1920s in the Ukrainian Art Nouveau style, built of bricks from the ruined palace and pavilions:

No, the park is not a sightseeing object, and however pleasant it is to walk about it (especially leisurely), it is so boring to tell about it, and to read probably. Further away from Rosy the column of August Entz, erected in memory of the keeper of park, the German gardener who has got here in 15 years and has given to park of 54 years. Even farther is the Island of Dreams with a distinctly new sculpture of Our Lady:

Bird Park "Sparrows" in the Kaluga region

And hardly the park’s most famous composition, Ruins, is one case where anyone responsible for the state of the park can honestly say it was!

Above the Ruins are the Bathing and Cold Bathing Ponds:

Yes Mirror Pond, connected to Banniye via a waterfall:

From here I headed for the exit. Ribbons and notes with names on many of the trees were white – some sort of student or school tradition for graduation, it seems. I never saw some of the landmark buildings in the park – the already mentioned Gardener’s House, or the big white Rotunda, or the circular Altanka Colonnade from the 1950s – all 3 photos from the Ukrainian wikipedia, as well as many photos of Alexandria are here:

And all in all, I’m sorry it turned out to be a run instead of a walk. The same article on the link beautifully compares Sofiyivka and Alexandria with movies – Uman park as an oscar masterpiece, which you admire without falling in love, and Bila Tserkva park as a movie not very famous, but very own, which you watch for long evenings with a cup of tea. Sofiyivka is like a patent beauty and a socialite, and Alexandria is like a modest and charming faithful friend. And these parallels even have their reasons: Sofiyivka was made by the husband for the wife, and Alexandria was made by the wife for the husband.

And outside is a big noisy city. One of the “chips” of Bila Tserkva are the characteristic long stops with intricately shaped boarded roofs. This one, for example, is just on the square near the park:

On Alexandria Boulevard:

On Yaroslav the Wise Street – this is where my walk began in last week’s installment:

The courtyards of Bila Tserkva, from the courtyards of Kiev, differing much less than the courtyards of Lyubertsy from the courtyards of Moscow:

What surprises me more than the lack of conformity with the image of the name of Bila Tserkva is the fact that it has never been changed during the Soviet Union – it is as if on the map of modern Ukraine has existed since the 1930s, for example, Krasnostalinsk, which by some miracle was not renamed either under Khrushchov or during Perestroika, or after the Second Maidan.

Through the stops and yards I got to the train station – it is basically visible from Alexandria Boulevard, halfway from the center to the park, closing the long straight street:

The current station is a postwar Stalinist building, and the old one was destroyed by the war. The station has been in operation since 1876:

By the tracks is the simplest chapel I’ve ever seen, it seems:

An electric train leaves for Kiev. Somewhere in that direction, after a couple of kilometers, the railroad also crosses Yaroslav the Wise Street:

At the train station, I barely had time to buy myself a chocolate bar and a Coke. Descending from the viaduct, I could already see the head of a suitable train – to Bila Tserkva you definitely need more time, ideally a full day, and out of my 3-4 hours I had survived everything to the minute. The train went from Kovel to Novoalekseevka, that is, in fact, took passengers to the Crimean border station. I really wanted to ask about something to the people traveling on it, but instead I just fell asleep. I told you about Zaporozhye and Dnepropetrovsk in previous articles.

And since when are these posters with clearly outdated equipment, clothing and climate, and how many changes of government they have gone through? But I don’t rule out the possibility that they’ll outvictimize all of us here.

In Right-bank Ukraine (from Vinnitsa and Zhitomir to Sumy and Poltava) I have been much less than in Left-bank Ukraine, but the reason is simple – it is much poorer in sights, without the abundance of Ukrainian Baroque, large monasteries, old stone houses, wooden chapels. Here was not formed national architecture, the old wooden churches burned in the Cossack uprisings, the development itself is noticeable only since the 19th century. Left bank Little Russia is not at all colonial, it looks such an original reflection of Central Russia across the border. Right-bank Malorossia is unconditional Western provinces, a rather sad land of lush pansy estates, red-brick sugar refineries, and Jewish localities and Hasidic nests. It was not always like that, and the prototype of the same Ukrainian Baroque was St. Nicholas Cathedral in Zhytomyr Olevsk, and the first academy was opened in Ostrog, but that cultural flowering of the 17-18 centuries, from Pereiaslavskaya Rada to the defeat of the Zaporizhian Sich had not really penetrated west of the Dnieper.

Central Park in New York, USA

So the following posts about Ukraine will, with few exceptions, be devoted to the Left Bank. In the next two parts we will go to Priluki.

UKRAINE and DONBASS-2016 Torn Map. Overview and table of contents. Two sides of the same war – see table of contents. DNR and LNR – see table of contents. Vinnitsa, Zaporozhye, Dnepr – see table of contents. Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky Kievan Rus. Ancient Rus in the Museum and the City. Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky. City. Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky. Skansen. Bila Tserkva. City. Bila Tserkva. Alexandria Park. Priluki. Gustynsky monastery. Priluki. City. Nizhyn. Miscellaneous. Nizhyn. Old town. Chernigov. Detinets. Chernigov. Center. Chernigov. Boldin Hills. Chernigov. Miscellaneous. Kiev before and after Maidan – the posts will be. Little Russian ring – the posts will be.

Alexandria Arboretum in Bila Tserkva


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How to get to the arboretum “Olexandria”?

From Kyiv: By car on the Kyiv-Odesa highway, to the fork to Bila Tserkva (after the checkpoint: to Bila Tserkva – the road to the right, to Odesa – to the left), drive through the city (without turning) – to the 1st circle, at the circle – to the right along the main road according to the signs to Vinnytsia or Skvyra, after about 1 km on the left is the park “Alexandria” and the pedestrian entrance to it opposite the monument “Tank”, after another 1 km the entrance to the park by car. Shuttle buses to Bila Tserkva depart from the railway station (metro station “Vokzalna”), Lybidska (metro station Lybidska) and the Palace of Culture Ukraine – the fare is 60 UAH. By train to Myronivka (passes through Bila Tserkva) from the railway station (according to the schedule) get off at the station in Bila Tserkva. From the railway station of Bila Tserkva: to the park “Alexandria” there is a shuttle bus number 13 (to the stop “Pioneer”).If you arrived by shuttle bus to the Square of Freedom: to the park “Alexandria” there is a trolleybus number 1, and number 4 and bus number 22 (to the stop “Clinic” or “Pioneer”)

Botanical Garden in Paris

Hotel “Clark” O. Honchara str. 1/42, tel. (0456) 38-33-28, e-mail:

Sanatorium “Dibrova” Lisova str. 2 B tel. (04563) 6-15-24, (096) 390-63-39, (099) 752-31-50, (063) 781-93-50 e-mail:

Dear guests!

We invite you to visit the pearl of Bila Tserkva – the arboretum “Alexandria”. The Dendrological Park “Alexandria” of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine is located on the outskirts of the ancient city of Bila Tserkva, next to the charming river Ros. It is one of the largest parks in Ukraine and has an area of 400 hectares. The park was created more than 200 years ago by the family of a great landowner, Count Francis Xavier Branicki, as a subject of family pride and magnate greatness. Despite the difficult historical upheavals, the park has preserved the main landscape compositions and today is a unique monument of landscape art of the late XVIII – early XIX centuries. The compositional basis of the park is a natural forest-steppe landscape formed by oak forest in combination with lawns, meadows and water bodies. Natural landscapes are organically combined with architectural structures – pavilions, gazebos, colonnades and bridges made in romantic style. The collection of the park includes about 2500 species, varieties and forms of plants. “Alexandria” is an example of a landscape park with elements of romanticism and sentimentalism. Tourists who visit the park for the first time are amazed by the mighty trees that create magnificent landscape compositions, an artistic combination of open and closed spaces and distant perspectives. Located on the left bank of the Ros River, the park seems to grow out of the water, reflecting on the surface of the ponds, admiring the play of light and shadow. Architectural monuments: The main entrance to the park, built in the classical style; pavilion – Rotunda; “Ruins”; Colonnade “Luna”; Chinese bridge; sculptures of Mercury, Diana, Apollo; spring “Lion”; Palieva Mountain – a memorial to Semen Paliy, and many others. There are 11 ponds on the territory of the park. The history of the park is closely connected with the history of Bila Tserkva. “Alexandria” in different years was visited by G.R. Derzhavin, A.S. Pushkin, T.G. Shevchenko, Adam Mickiewicz and hundreds of other prominent people of the past centuries. Visiting the collection area “Moore Garden” of the arboretum “Alexandria” you will get acquainted with the history of fruit growing in Ukraine in the XIX-XX centuries and the arboretum “Alexandria”. You will be presented with modern and historical varieties of fruit and berry crops. On the site “Moore Garden” there is a shaped garden, which includes various artificial forms of fruit trees. At the final stage of the tour, visitors will have the opportunity to taste fruit and berry crops. You can order a tour of the garden in the museum of the park (tour desk). A museum was founded on the territory of the dendrological park “Alexandria” in 1962, which exhibits 15 sculptures of white marble, works of famous Italian masters. Walking through the park will give you incomparable pleasure, unity with nature, its beauty and power. There are catering facilities on the territory of the park. “Alexandria” of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine 09113, Kyiv region, Bila Tserkva -13, tel. Museum (excursion office) (0456) 34-05-51. reception tel./fax (0456) 34-05-47, accounting – (0456) 34-05-46. The park is open for visitors from April 15 to September 15 from 8.00 to 21.00, and from September 15 to April 15 from 8.00 to 19.00. Attention! Excursions in the arboretum “Alexandria” are conducted only by park guides.

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