Queen Marie's GardensBy Adina Dosan (adinamiti)
June 2, 2009
There was a time when kings and queens ruled in Romania, like in fairy tales. They were all foreigners and most of them didn't care much for our country.
Queen Marie of Edinburgh came to Romania when she married King Ferdinand in 1892. She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. She was a good queen and did a lot for our country, which she loved like her own. Under her rule was the most flourishing time for Romania. Thanks to this wonderful queen and to her efforts in diplomacy, our country regained some territories which were taken from us hundreds of years ago.
One of these territories was the Quadrilater, a beautiful southern region along the Black Sea Coast. This is where she found this magnificent palace on the shore, in the small village of Balchik.
She wanted a nice, quiet and simple summer residence. She hired two famous Italian architects to build the palace and a Swiss horticulturist to arrange the gardens. Her palace was built in an Oriental style, with a tower called minaret. A miniature statue representing the Queen was built on the front wall. Soon after Queen Marie's palace and the gardens were built, Balchik became the most-visited resort for European tourists, especially painters, artists, writers and poets of her time.
While we were on vacation in Golden Sands, a nearby resort, we thought we could visit Balchik. We were especially interested in Queen Marie's retreat, a Romanian palace, now managed by the Bulgarians. The town is quiet, with few inhabitants, but with many new villas built on the coast near the sea. The white coast shines like bright silver in the sun which is why it is called the Silver Coast.
The way to Queen Marie's gardens and palace goes down to the shore. They are built on the cliff shore, inside a small gulf on the beach - a very quiet and private place, which gave the palace the name of "The Quiet Nest".
Queen Marie's Gardens are amazing, like a dreamland. The whole place has terraces all over, stairways going up and down, lots of springs, statues, a cascade, even a mill and a few bridges over the waters.
When I first entered the gate, luxuriant vegetation came to my sight from everywhere. There were many huge trees, at least a century old. The Rock Garden was on the right and lots of tulips, pansies and forget-me-nots were on the left terraces. It seemed like I was in paradise!
All the terraces and lanes are made of rock, the same as all the buildings' exterior walls.
There are many statues; some religious, some representing mythological heroes, especially those at the springs.
A river crosses over the garden and goes down into the sea in a 20m waterfall. A beautiful bridge, a replica of the "Bridge of Sighs" in Venice, crosses over the cascade.
My friends were in a hurry and we couldn't go down to see it. The small minaret, Turkish style, makes it look like a castle, but it really is a small villa, a perfect "quiet nest" for Queen Marie's vacations. Not far from the entrance is the Queen's throne and a table where she sat and watched the sea.
The Lane of the Centuries was Queen Marie's favorite place to walk. We visited the gardens in April and the plants were just starting to grow, but I could recognize the wisteria coming up on the trellis, along with the lilies, irises and azaleas.
After visiting the Palace inside, we went back and climbed up to the garden called The Cretan Maze, a copy of the famous Cretan Labyrinth in ancient Greece which is believed to have been round.
All conifers and bushes were trimmed in nice forms, while the wisteria vine had a different form than I've seen before--it was trimmed like a pendulous tree to complement the shape of the conifers and Acacias.
The tunnel of evergreens was fascinating!
Different species of tulips, pansies and buttons were decorating this garden too.
The Garden of Allah with giant cacti has 250 species, some of them 80 years old. Thanks to these, Queen Marie's Gardens are considered to be second in Europe after the Monaco Botanical Gardens. One of the rare species is the Agave tequilana which dies after blooming and from which tequila is made. The most spectacular seemed to me this Agave murpheyi.
The Garden of Gethsemene, with its dwarf trees, gives the place a mystical aura.
Unfortunately, we didn't visit those two gardens, but I hope I can go back there and visit them.
If you'll ever visit Bulgaria, you must go to Balchik and visit Queen Marie's Gardens and the Palace. It's such a beautiful place on the Black Sea Coast!
For more information about Queen Marie and her Gardens , here are a few links and videos. Some are in Romanian, but you can still admire the pictures and enjoy the walk through the videos.
, ,  - http://www.balchik.info/en/botanic/botanic.htm