site.btaBorisova Gradina: A Green Mark on the Shoulder of the Capital

Borisova Gradina: A Green Mark on the Shoulder of the Capital
Borisova Gradina: A Green Mark on the Shoulder of the Capital
Bird's eye view of Borisova Gradina (BTA Photo)

On March 22, 1882, an unanimously adopted decision of the Sofia city council provided for the construction of a city garden. The best-known park in Sofia, now known as Knyaz-Borisova Gradina, or simply Borisova Gradina, is one of the landmarks of the Bulgarian capital. In the era of megapolises, a 3.2 sq km park is a rare asset indeed.

Due to the expansion of the capital, the park, which at the beginning was located at the outskirts, turned out to be in the centre of Sofia.

Almost every Sofianite has some personal memory related to the park: love stories and kisses; walking the alleys with kids or friends; jogging; strolling under the trees in search of mental peace or inspiration.

Creating a garden for the Bulgarian capital was probably an idea of Ivan Hadzhienov (1843-1923), a businessman of controversial fame and mayor of Sofia in 1881-1883. He lived long years abroad, mostly in Romania and France, and his initiatives were marked with ambition and knowledge of foreign financial practices and management. Hadzienov raised the local taxes and extended the water supply network - under constant accusations of making money from public procurement.

It was Hadzhienov that brought Swiss gardener Daniel Neff from Bucharest with the intention to create a garden for the capital of Bulgaria. The initial plans included establishing a large nursery where trees, saplings, and flowers for the future garden would grow, also providing material for the already existing gardens and for the city streets. It proved to be a very good start – including economic viability. Saplings and flowers produced by the nursery were also sold to the citizen; for long years the words Pipinierata and Razsadnika (both of them meaning nursery) were associated by Sofianites with this place and then with the park itself.

Daniel Neff, who used to be a gardener of the Romanian royal court, started with planting the first 10,000 saplings and forming the two small lakes within the park. He started planting acacia trees – probably due to the well-known rapid growth of this species. Several years later under the recommendation of the then ruling Knyaz [Prince] Ferdinand (King Boris III's father), the acacia were substituted with oak, maple, birch, and ash trees, coming from the nearby Lozenets forest.

The practice of adding new species to the local flora continued in the next decades, contributing to the park's contemporary vision. Pine trees from Rila mountain were added, but also sequoia, cedar, and gingko. In 1940, a Japanese Corner was created with plants representing the national flora of Japan: a gift from the Japanese minister plenipotentiary.

Before obtaining its fame among Sofianites - as a destination for walking and meeting friends - the park was met with a certain resistance from the part of the peasants living in the nearby villages. They objected the transformation of grazing land into a park: in a gunfight in 1903 between the Shopi peasants and the police two men died, and tens of people were injured.

Today, Borisova Gradina is a landmark of the Bulgarian park industry. Part of the project's success is probably due to the evolution of the project: renowned gardeners that succeeded Daniel Neff in the next decades (like Joseph Frei and Georgi Duhtev) all followed the initial scheme, developing it further and perfecting it instead of making radical changes to the original design. Around 1942, Borisova Gradina embraced an area of around 90,500 m2.

There are many other features distinguishing the park, including the sculptures placed along the alleys (a tradition dating back to 1920), the Sofia University Observatory (built in 1882-1894), the Summer Swimming Bath (built in 1937-1939), two stadiums (the Vasil Levski National Stadium and the Bulgarian Army Stadium), a tennis club. The artificial lake of Ariyana draws visitors with its water attractions during the summer and brings together ice skating lovers during the winter.

Although Knyaz Boris became King in 1918, there is no evidence of the park's name ever having officially changed to reflect this fact. The word “Knyaz” was gradually dropped to become simply Boris’s Garden. After the communist regime took power in 1944, the park was renamed Park na Svobodata [Freedom Park], and in 1992, its original name was restored. 

Borisova Gradina was last reconstructed in 1986. It was proclaimed a monument of Bulgarian park and garden art the same year.





By 11:56 on 28.05.2023 Today`s news

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