Nature And Architecture: The Parks And Gardens Of The Capital

Cismigiu gardens, Icoanei park, Kiseleff park (see also The green within in Gallery).
Many of Bucharest’s gardens and parks, which no longer exist because of extensive urban reorganising, were shaped as the aristocracy tastefully redesigned the open space around their residences. Some of them were small town estates; others were transformed by enterprising owners into summer gardens and restaurants, where upper-class members got together (such as the famous Oteteleşanu Café on Victoriei Road). In some other cases, private estate gardens became public parks over time. Those who have survived are the work of enthusiast landscape architects who followed the requirements of their time and of town authorities. One of the largest gardens belonged to the scholar aristocrat Dinicu Golescu (1777-1830) and covered the Grant district, between Mircea Vulcănescu Street and Dinicu Golescu Boulevard and Giuleşti. In 1814, Dinicu Golescu built the Belvedere Palace on his estate, which he then bequeathed to his daughter, Ana Racoviţă (1803-1878). Currently situated at 64 Tibleş Street, the edifice was restored in 1998 and it now houses Kindergarten no. 8. Ana Racoviţă’s daughter, Zoe (1827-1892), inherited the Palace and eventually married the secretary of the British Council, Effingham Grant (1820-1892). He was the one who divided the vast garden of the Golescus into lots and sold it and that is why the new district thus created bore his name.The same happened to the estate of the Filipescu family, which stretched from Dorobanţi Square to the Aviatorilor Boulevard. All that remains of it today is the vast park of the Filipescu-Brâncoveanu villa (2 Modrogan Lane, the current headquarters of the Democratic Party). The rest was divided into lots on which hundreds of villas were built in the interwar period. The renowned garden of Baron Bellu (situated in Şerban Vodă Road) was purchased by the Municipality in 1864 and it became the vast Bellu Cemetery, which is indeed more of an open-air museum due to its works of funerary art. The estate of ruler Grigore Ghica (1822-1828), located on the Colentina Lake, where Ghica also erected the palace and church that still stand today, became the famous Linden Garden. As it gradually became a main attraction for the townsfolk, a seafood restaurant was open there as well.The Raşca Garden, situated behind the building of Bucharest University, was also notorious for a long time. Ulysse de Marsillac reminisced, ”The cuisine is palatable and the prices average. One plays pool, drinks a lot of beer and listens to music; the clients that come in the wintertime are all German. A considerable change takes place however in the summer. The garden is brightly lit every night and on holidays, the lighting is dazzling. (…) Two orchestras play in two different corners of the garden. One is the Army Brass Band, the other the Orchestra of the Opera”. The garden bore the name of its Polish owner, Hrtschka (Hirtscha), impossible to pronounce for Romanians, who changed it to Raşca. The famous garden and restaurant visited so frequently by the local elite were replaced by the building of the Foreign Language Department of the Bucharest University, erected between 1914 and 1923.Even more renowned was the Garden Café Oteteleşanu, situated on Victoriei Road, where now lies the Telephone Palace. Lord Ioan Oteteleşanu (1795-1876) and his wife Elena Filipescu were the ones who set up the garden and café that were to be remembered as the place to rendezvous for all Romanian aristocrats.Another two nearby gardens are the Ioanid Park (stretching between the Polonă and Aurel Vlaicu Streets and Dacia Boulevard) and the Icoanei Garden (enclosed by the A. D. Xenopol, Artur Verona and I. L. Caragiale Streets). The park used to belong to the bookseller Gheorghe Ioanid (1818-1906), who had planted 26 different species of fruit trees and grew vegetables there. “This was a peripheral garden, wrote Constantin Bacalbaşa, where parties were thrown, people drank, lovers dated and musicians played among the bushes”. It was eventually divided into lots and many villas were built on it. A smaller piece was bought by the Municipality in 1920 and was transformed into the present-day Ioanid Park. Much larger than the aforementioned park is the Icoanei Garden, created in 1872 through the draining of a lake. In 1904, the bust of engineer Gheorghe C. Cantacuzino, sculpted by Ernest Dubois, was also placed there.Bucharest used to have countless gardens and parks, but it was mostly the large public ones designed by the Municipality that have survived and still enchant the walkers. Among them are the Cişmigiu Garden, the Botanical Garden, the Herăstrău Park, the Carol Park, the Cotroceni Palace Park and the Kiseleff Park.Cişmigiu Garden is the most beautiful of all the city gardens and the oldest one. Stretching between Regina Elisabeta Boulevard, Schitu Măgureanu Boulevard, Ştirbey Vodă Street, Valter Mărăcineanu Square, Ion Brezoianu Lane and the Dr. Marcovici and Ion Zalomit Streets, the Cişmigiu Garden covers 14 ha. Its name comes from that of the “grand cişmigiu”, which was the Turkish word for the official responsible with the city’s water pumps. This public figure became notable when two water pumps were built in 1779 in Bucharest, on the orders of ruler Alexandru Ipsilanti, one of which was located in the Cişmigiu Garden. A residence for the “grand cişmigiu”, Dumitru Suiulgi-başa, who supervised the works and the functioning of the water pump, was also erected in the garden, which was now simply named ‘Cişmigiu’. The only other local attraction was the “Lake of Dura the Merchant”, mentioned in documents dating from the time of ruler Matei Basarab.It was a wild place, as writer Nicolae Filimon recalls, “Before 1843, there was a vast pond where the Cişmigiu Garden now stands. Its water ceaselessly warmed by the sun decayed from lack of drainage and renewing and had as sole purpose the proliferation of a huge quantity of water plants, among which lived and thrived millions of frogs and venomous reptiles. Their breath mixed with the pestilential vapours of the pond, only to infect the air and spread dangerous epidemics among the inhabitants of Bucharest”. Moreover, the place also held quite a bad reputation, as Filimon recounts. “At the heart of the pond, on an island surrounded on all sides by reed and weeping willows, there was a coffeehouse where almost all vices that degrade the human being could be encountered, which truly put to shame the thieves’ tavern from The Mysteries of Paris. Here gathered all the suburbanites, pickpockets, card players and highwaymen who robbed the townsfolk in the daytime at all sorts of fortune games and at nighttime by breaking into their houses. They feared the law not in the least, for every time the police attempted to capture them, they took refuge in the thick reeds that filled the pond and mocked its efforts”.In order to sanitize this perilous area, General Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff asked engineer Rudolf Arthur Borroczyn in 1830 to drain the pond and open a public garden where townsfolk could finally walk without concern. The project continued during the reign of Gheorghe Bibescu (1842-1848), who requested the Municipality in 1845 to acquire the land, in order to facilitate the works. As Borroczyn could not complete the task, Gheorghe Bibescu hired a young Viennese landscape architect, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Meyer (born on July 3, 1817 in Ostorf, the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin – dead of typhoid fever on August 3/15, 1852 at Turnu Roşu). Recommended to the Romanian ruler by Baron Hegal, the supervisor of the Royal Viennese gardens, Meyer arrived in Bucharest in 1843, accompanied by his assistant Franz Harer. He began the works at the Kiseleff Park, which was created to honour the Russian general who had played such a crucial role in Romania.The draining of the Cişmigiu pond and the designing of the garden started as early as 1844, when Prince Gheorghe Bibescu had created a committee that had “the judicious role of sanitizing the Cişmigiu pond”. On July 16, 1845, the ruler decreed through the Department of Internal Affairs that the City Council was to “immediately take hold of the entire lot according to the plan delimitations and to keep the public informed of any trespassing or violation by the neighbouring owners”. Another decree of the Prince from 1847 announced that “any person proven guilty of the slightest infringement or damage will be held accountable and will receive due punishment”. When Gheorghe Bibescu was forced to abdicate during the 1848 Revolution, it was his brother Barbu Ştirbey (1849-1853, 1854-1856) who was quite concerned with the evolution and completion of the Cişmigiu Garden works. The period between 1850 and 1852 was quite important, since a new lake was created under Meyer’s directions, which was connected through a canal with the Dâmboviţa River. The alleys were then drawn and 30,000 trees and shrubs were planted (200 chestnut trees from the Gorj District and 150 walnut trees from Dâmboviţa were initially brought over), as well as ornamental plants (ordered in Braşov and Vienna). Finally, 100 benches were made and the park was inaugurated in 1854, two years after the death of his architect.The results of Meyer’s efforts and talent were extremely appreciated by everybody in Bucharest. Ion Ghica wrote, “The notorious gardener Meyer summoned all his art and knowledge in order to transform a swamp into a lovely garden. He collected the water into a delightful pond, elevated the banks of the lake and consolidated them. He also planted fresh vegetation everywhere and took advantage of every tower and belfry, so that the looker-on would have a pleasant view from any point or crossroad in the garden. There are groups of trees, green lawns, terraces strewn with harmonious bunches of the largest and most delicate flowers; everywhere you turn, you can see landscapes that could have been painted by Claude Lorrain or Poussin. There is no better designed garden”.The Cişmigiu Garden was admired by all townsfolk who spent their spare moments walking on its alleys or watching the shows given there. As the Austrian officer W. Derblich noticed, it had become “the gay meeting point of all walkers and life lovers of all origin and the only spot where you could forget that you were in Walachia, and believe you were in some fancy amusement park in a civilised state”. On the same admiring tone, Derblich continued, “The rules of beautiful horticulture were ingeniously applied here and all kinds of artistic beauty is present here. Lawns and flowerbeds, hills and plains, lakes and islands, grottoes, bushes and alleys produce graceful variation. In the wintertime, young people come here to learn how to skate on the lake. In spring, summer or autumn, the garden is filled from dawn till late at night with people walking and listening to the brass bands or fiddlers, or even to lovely mermaid songs”.In order to further embellish the garden at the beginning of the 20th century, the Municipality employed the German landscape architect Fr. Rebhun, who had also designed the Cotroceni Palace Park. In the Cişmigiu Garden, he brought together some elements of the French style (the parade alley, the flower lawn) and some of landscape architecture (Romantic settings, with ruins, artificial boulders, bridges, lakes, an island, a cave etc.). Architect Ştefan Baloşin built a restaurant in the Romanian style on an artificial island on the lakeside, named Monte Carlo. It burnt down in the interwar period and was later on replaced by the current restaurant.In the 1930s, the surface of the Cişmigiu Garden grew by 15,000 sq. m, when the Municipality reassigned land from the park of the Elena Kretzulescu Palace, which had been sold to the state. New works of landscape art were now introduced in the garden, such as Eminescu’s spring, pools with swans and pelicans, bridges, grottoes etc.There are also several interesting monuments and busts in the Cişmigiu Garden. One is the Writers’ Rotunda, built in 1943 (surrounded by the busts of the writers Eminescu, Creangă, Caragiale, Coşbuc, Alecsandri, Şt. O. Iosif, Vlahuţă, Odobescu, Hasdeu, Bălcescu or Duiliu Zamfirescu between thuja trees). Other highlights include the busts of Traian Demetrescu, Gheorghe Panu and Elena Pherekyde, or the monument of the French Heroes. (See the chapter Public Monuments: Statues and Busts)In addition to Cişmigiu Garden, another favourite walking place of the inhabitants of Bucharest in the second half of the 19th century was the Kiseleff Road and the park around it. The park had been designed by the same landscape architect Meyer and was his first commission in the Romanian capital. The road that links Victoria Square with the Triumphal Arch was initially drawn in 1832 on the orders of Count General Pavel Dimitrievici Kiseleff (1788-1872), governor of Moldavia and Walachia and president of the High Council (1828-1834). Constantin Argetoianu reminisced, “the road to Ploieşti, which crossed in a straight line the gardens of the Mavrogheni Estate, was paved and trees were planted on either side on the orders of General Kiseleff, as far as the crossroad at Mogoşoaia and Băneasa, by the Racetrack. Two roundabouts and two small gardens were placed to the left and right-hand sides of the road in order to interrupt the monotony of the straight line, thus completing the Russian dictator’s project for the next decades”. For his sound actions and reforms, Pavel Kiseleff was granted the Romanian citizenship in 1841 and the street he had drawn was given his name. Moreover, the National Assembly wished to raise him a statue, but the General, who lived in Petersburg at that time, wrote a letter to Prince Gheorghe Bibescu on June 7, 1843 and asked him to use the funds for “a fountain, a bridge, a road or other such useful works”, which he felt would have been “a monument I would gracefully accept”. Part of the funds granted by the National Assembly were used for making a garden around the Kiseleff Road, for which the ruler engaged the services of Meyer and of his assistant Franz Harer, who had arrived in Bucharest in December 1843. The Municipality signed a contract with Meyer on December 22, 1843 and the architect handed in a general plan and a detailed explanation. Two thousand linden trees were planted and a tender for the construction of a small restaurant was held in 1846. The new park stretched between Kiseleff Road and Aviatorilor Boulevard, Victoria Square and Architect Ion Mincu Street. It was inaugurated on September 23, 1847 with great celebrations, to which more than 70,000 people participated, as the newspapers of the time slightly exaggerated in reporting. Everybody admired the alleys, the flowerbeds, the summerhouses, the lake with artificial rocks and the water fountain, which broke down only a few days later. The decorations became more extensive over time and Kiseleff Road became the favourite walking place of the local elite. Argetoianu wrote, “As the linden trees and the shadow they were throwing grew, as Bucharest “society” got more and more accustomed to the Western ways, Kiseleff Road became full of well-dressed walkers. It also became known only as ‘The Road’, since the Russian General and his epoch were long forgotten”.Ulysse de Marsillac, a French writer who had settled in Bucharest, made the same description. “The members of high-society had rendezvous on the Road. Any self-respecting citizen had to come here at least once a day, from two until four in the afternoon in the wintertime and from seven until ten in the evening in the summertime. The Romanian ladies wore the most lavish dresses during these walks and rode in the most exquisite carriages. The foreign visitor is surprised to see a garden turned into a ballroom and is dazzled by the abundance of jewellery and expensive lace and materials. On Sundays and holidays, it was not only aristocrats who came for a walk here, but also the townsfolk. Thousands of carriages produced something near to a traffic jam, in spite of all the efforts made by the mounted traffic agents to restore order. A military brass band played from a nearby summer house, a few persons strolled down the alleys to get some refreshments, but most people stayed in their carriages, pleased to see and be seen”.The walkers could have a meal at the Restaurant by the Road (located in the second roundabout, at the intersection with Ion Mincu Street). It was built between 1891 and 1892 and had been designed by the architect Ion Mincu in 1889 as Romania’s entry in the International Paris Exhibition. Still a restaurant today, the edifice displays some Romanian style architectural elements that were typical of aristocrat houses (such the first floor belvedere).Another famous Bucharest park covering 36 ha on the Filaret Hill was named after the first King of Romania, Carol I. The Filaret Hill earned its name from the Metropolitan Bishop Filaret II, who built there in 1792 a summerhouse and a well-known water pump that resembled a one-story house. A contemporary, Dimitrie Papazoglu, described it thus, “On the first level there was a large parlour filled with sofas covered with red pillows with white cotton tassels and in the middle of the room stood a large oak table surrounded by chairs. The parlour was supported by twelve stone pillars with capitals and sculpted flowers. The roof was covered with tiles. One could climb to the parlour by means of a wide exterior staircase, which was roofed as well. On the ground floor, beneath the parlour was the water pump, with twelve copper pipes through which the water heavily flowed from the side of the Filaret [Hill] through marble drains, and above each of these pipes was a marble bas-relief of a zodiac sign”. Filaret’s successor, the Metropolitan Bishop Dosithei Filitti (1793-1810) restored the summerhouse and decorated it with stone columns and paintings. The first floor was torn down in 1863 and seven years later, the water pump was destroyed as well.Townsfolk used to come on the Filaret Hill on holidays. A French traveller, F. Récordon, described the view in 1821 “A large crowd comes on holidays to enjoy the show given by the mounted Albanian mercenaries (the personal guard of Greek and Walachian rulers), who would throw spears at each other and chase each other. (…) This game was usually held in the valley at the foot of the Metropolitan Church Hill, a splendid spot especially in the autumn, when the grapes were ripe and the locals strolled on the surrounding hills. On this narrow valley which belongs to the Bishopric (its name comes from the Metropolitan Bishop Filaret), there is a summer house with a beautiful pond surrounded by many willows, which cast their shadow upon a superb Turkish fountain”.On the Filaret Plain, situated at the foot of the Filaret Hill, two notorious national assemblies were held on June 11, 1848 (which caused Gheorghe Bibescu to abdicate) and on June 15 (when the provisional government was sworn in office). After these major events, the place was renamed Liberty Field. Half a century later, in 1894, the Municipality supported a project meant to turn the swampy area into a public park. However, it was not before 1905, under Mayor Mihail G. Cantacuzino (1904-1907) and during the rule of his father, George Grigore Cantacuzino (December 22, 1904–March 12, 1907), that the project finally started. G. G. Cantacuzino, nicknamed Croesus due to his considerable wealth, had demolished in 1869-1870, when he was the mayor of Bucharest, the fountain on Filaret Hill and built a new one that bore his name and still exists nowadays in Carol Park. The George Grigore Cantacuzino Fountain was designed and erected in 1870 in the neoclassic style by architect Grigore Cerchez and engineer Gogu Cantacuzino, the latter being also the owner of a cement factory in Brăila. Shaped as a parallelepiped, it is decorated with bas-reliefs and plates of ceramics depicting coats of arms and medieval knights. The origin of the fountain is recorded on its frontispiece: “This fountain was built in eighteen seventy on George Grigorie Cantacuzino’s expense, the mayor of Bucharest. As approved by the City Council of Bucuresci in the session held on August 8, 1869, the monument would bear the name of George Grigorie Cantacuzino Fountain”.In 1906, a great Jubilee Exhibition was organised at George Grigore Cantacuzino’s initiative, to celebrate King Carol I’s 40 years of reign, 25 years since the birth of the Kingdom and 1800 years since Emperor Trajan had occupied Dacia. This was also the best occasion to resume the sanitisation of the Filaret Plain, which was chosen as the location for the Exhibition. Ioan Lahovary, the Minister of Domains, was responsible for organising the event and building the pavilions, while Dr. Constantin Istrati was charged by the government with coordinating and supervising the works. The draining of the swamp and the conversion of the area into a park began in September 1905. The general plan of the exhibition and of the large park (36 ha) belonged to the French landscape architect Ernest Redont, who had designed another well-known park in Romania, the Bibescu-Romanescu Park from Craiova. Tens of thousands of trees were planted here in order to give shape to a beautiful area: 4,206 large trees, 5,983 conifers, 48,215 bushes of different species and 49,200 forest plants, 400 various flowering plants and 97,950 already blossomed plants.Numerous edifices such as pavilions, houses or palaces were built especially for the exhibition. A team of architects and constructors was formed for coordinating the works, led by Ştefan Burcuş and Victor Gh. Ştefănescu, with Ion D. Berindey as the technical inspector. Among the persons involved in the project were several architects, sculptors and engineers, such as Alexandru Zagoritz, Dimitrie Hârjeu, I. D. Traianescu, Grigore Cerchez, Dimitrie Maimarolu, Elie Radu, Dimitrie Paciurea, Carol Storck, F. Schmidts etc. Since the Jubilee Exhibition celebrated King Carol I’s 40 years of reign, it was expected to point out the accomplishments of this period. A royal pavilion in the Neo-Romanian style was built, as well as a Palace of Arts in the same style, erected by engineer Grant, after the designs of Ştefan Burcuş and Victor Ştefănescu. This latter building afterwards accommodated the Military Museum until June 1938, when it burnt down and was eventually demolished after the 1940 earthquake). Other edifices built for the exhibition included Vlad Ţepeş’ Citadel (in fact a water castle erected by the engineers Petculescu and L. Schindl), a Walachian tower (designed by the architects Ştefan Burcuş and Victor Ştefănescu after the Cornoiu Tower, located in Curtişoara, the Gorj District), special pavilions for the Municipality, the Monopoly Office, Agriculture, Industry, Postal Service. Houses from different regions of Romania, a mosque (still standing on Pieptănari Street) and the Roman Arenas (designed by the architect Leonida Negrescu and the engineer Elie Radu to commemorate our ancestors) were built for the same occasion and can still be seen today.Among the elements of landscape architecture meant to improve the park were the statues of titans made by the sculptors Dimitrie Paciurea and Filip Marin, which stand on either side of the main alley. The sculptors Pavelescu Dimo and Oscar Spaethe also created the busts of the two exhibition organisers, Ioan Lahovari and Dr. Constantin Istrati, works that were unfortunately lost. The four busts of George Coşbuc, Alexandru Sahia, Nicolae Bălcescu (by sculptor Constantin Baraschi) and Th. D. Neculuţ (by E. Mereanu) made after 1948 still exist however. A cascade, a grotto, artificial rocks and water ponds were also added to embellish the park. In one of these ponds was placed the statue of a sleeping nymph made by Carol Storck.Thus organised, the exhibition was inaugurated on June 6, 1906 in the presence of the monarchs, the crown princes, diplomats, government members and a large audience and it was closed on November 23. As a gesture of homage, since Romanians also celebrated 1800 years since the Roman conquest, the mayor of Rome, the Count of San Martino, sent a bronze copy of the Capitoline Wolf, today placed in the roundabout in Roman Square.Along with other Bucharest gardens, the beautifully decorated park became a favourite walking place for the nature-loving townsfolk. On the initiative of the head mayor of the capital, Alexandru G. Donescu, a major exhibition dedicated to the city and called “The Bucharest Month” was also held here in 1935. Donescu felt that the “Bucharest Month”, held for six years in a row until 1940, between May 9 and June 9, was “a true blessing for the capital’s commerce and industry”. The Carol Park was redecorated for the 1935 event, inaugurated in the presence of King Carol II and the Zodiac Fountain was placed at the park entrance, in today’s Liberty Square. Erected by the architects August Schmiedigen and Dorin Pavel according to the designs of architect Octav Doicescu and engineer Nicolae Caranfil, the monument earned its name due to the twelve mosaic representations of the zodiac signs, made by sculptor Mac Constantinescu and placed around the marble fountain. The famous Mioriţa Fountain was also designed by Octav Doicescu in 1936 and placed in a small square on the Bucharest-Ploieşti Road, in front of the Nicolae Minovici villa. Its sides were covered with two mosaics made by Miliţa Petraşcu, which depicted the Romanian legend of the Mioriţa. Unfortunately, the mosaics and the two bas-reliefs were stolen and all that remains of the fountain is the pool. Another remarkable monument located in the Carol Park is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, inaugurated on May 17, 1923 in front of the Military Museum (the former Palace of Arts). It was built on the initiative of the Society for the Tombs of Heroes, presided by Queen Mary, and it was designed by the sculptor Emil Willy Becker. The inscription on the headstone, which is accompanied by a cross and an icon lamp placed there in 1927 by the “The Cult for the Motherland Association” reads “Here lies peacefully in the arms of the Lord the unknown soldier, who sacrificed his life for the unity of the Romanian nation. His body rests in the land of the reunited homeland. 1916-1919”. On October 28, 1934, a cross was raised and consecrated by the tomb. During Communism, the whole monument was taken to pieces and moved to the Mărăşeşti Mausoleum on a single winter night (December 22/23, 1958). More than three decades later on October 26, 1991, the Unknown Soldier returned to his original resting place in the Carol Park.Also during Communism on December 30, 1963, a 48 m tall mausoleum designed by the architects Horia Maicu and N. Cucu was erected in the same park. It was dedicated to the Communist leaders buried there, such as Dr. C. I. Parhon, Petru Groza, Gh. Gheorghiu Dej, I. C. Frimu, L. Pătrăşcanu, Leontin Sălăjan, Al. Moghioroş and Grigore Preoteasa.[...]The Herăstrău Park is the largest in Bucharest, stretching on 190 ha between the Kiseleff, Bucharest-Ploieşti and Northern Roads, Aviatorilor Boulevard, Elena Văcărescu Street and the Băneasa Bridge. It was designed in 1936 by the architect Octav Doicescu, for the second edition of the Bucharest Month, together with the exhibition itself. The landscape architect F. Rebhun was responsible with the vegetation. The engineer Nicolae Caranfil consolidated the Herăstrău Lake (which covers 77 ha), around which he organised the park. There are four islands on the lake, the largest of which―the Island of the Roses―is connected to the mainland through bridges. The park is even nowadays a major point of attraction in Bucharest, thanks to its various tree species (poplars, willows, oak, ash or linden trees) and bushes, but also to the alleys, the summerhouses and pavilions, the summer theatre, restaurants and smaller sport areas. Moreover, at the very heart of the park lies the Village Museum.Another attractive spot is the Botanical Garden, situated at 32 Cotroceni Road, near the Cotroceni Palace. Although it is not very large (17 ha), the Botanical Garden remains the only location in Bucharest where nature lovers can admire the most varied and rare plant species in any season. It was General Dr. Carol Davila (1828-1884) who first thought of setting up a botanical garden in Romania’s capital city. His residence lay in a vast park and as his fellow countryman, Ulysse de Marsillac, remembered, “The doctor’s dream was to create here a miniature replica of the Botanical Garden of Paris”. A botany enthusiast, Doctor Carol Davila directly asked the ruler Barbu Ştirbey in 1853 for support to start a botanical garden. He wrote, “In addition to the indubitable end of educating our youth, a medicinal botanical garden would greatly improve the plant supply of the pharmacies in the whole country. (…) A botanical garden is utterly indispensable to the progress of medical science. (…) Besides all these undeniable advantages, the botanical garden will provide the inhabitants of Bucharest with a walking place in which they will progressively get acquainted with the variety and richness of Romanian flora, at the present unknown and strewn throughout the entire country”. It was not until the reign of Cuza that Doctor Davila finally managed to open between 1860 and 1866 the first Botanical Garden, subordinate to the Medicine and Pharmacy College he ran. The plan of the garden was drawn by Ulrich Hoffmann, who would go on to design the park around Cotroceni Monastery in 1874 and who was appointed “manager of the public garden”. In 1874, the Botanical Garden was moved in front of the building of Bucharest University, only to be restored a decade later to its initial location in the Cotroceni Park. It was the botanist Dimitrie Brândză (1846-1895) who organised the Garden, after a project by the Belgian landscape L. Fuchs. Dimitrie Brândză was also the founder of the Botanical Institute, situated in the western part of the Garden and built in 1892 according to the plans of architect Nicolae Gabrielescu (1854-1926). The first greenhouses had already been set up between 1889 and 1891. However, new ones would not be built before 1958-1963 (covering 650 sq. m) and 1973-1976 (on 2,500 sq. m). The year 1978 saw the reorganisation of the rather recent Botanical Museum (inaugurated in 1961 in the Al. Saint Georges house, to the left of the garden entrance) under the guidance of biologist G. A. Nedelcu, who had also supervised the construction of the new greenhouses.The Garden is divided into several sections and there is a 9,000 sq. mlake in its centre. Visitors can admire ornamental plants (more than 600 taxons), rare plants from the Romanian flora (70 taxons), Mediterranean flowers (150 species), 200 species of roses and conifers. To these can be added the Herbarium (with over 300,000 plants), the Dendrarium (1,300 taxons)—all in all more than 10,000 plants, without taking into account the 3,500 plant species from the greenhouses.Across the street from the Botanical Garden lies the Cotroceni Palace, surrounded by the beautiful park created by Queen Mary of Romania. Slightly smaller that the Botanical Garden (covering only 14 ha), the Cotroceni Palace Park took shape in 1852 on the orders of ruler Barbu Ştirbey. The landscape architect Karl Wilhelm Meyer drew the plans of the new garden and the works began in February 1852. By August the same year, the Cotroceni Hill had already been terraced, 690 poplars and acacias had been planted, the ponds had been drained, the alleys drawn and the Cotroceni Road and the fountain at the foot of the Hill had been rebuild. The works were managed by V. Nedelcovici and supervised by architect Alexandru Orăscu. In 1860, the ruler Al. I. Cuza employed the gardener Ulrich Hoffman to set up a botanical garden, which would be turned into a park, upon its relocation near the University. After the Cotroceni Palace was built, Princess Mary wished for a separate park to be created and several tree species (firs, planes, chestnut trees and acacias) and flowers (roses, wisteria) were planted to this end. The landscape architect F. Rebhun designed the park in 1910 and the sculptor Pietro Axerio made two decorative pools in 1915-1916. The queen then decided to place pots on the terraces of the park where she used to have breakfast in the summertime.Several new parks were created under the Communist regime. One of them is the Tineretului Park, covering an area of 200 ha, between the Dimitrie Cantemir Boulevard, Şerban Vodă and Olteniţei Road, whose main attraction is the Children’s Town. Other parks include the Tei Park, set up in 1948 on the southeastern side of the Tei Lake on a surface of 9 ha, and Plumbuita Park (80 ha), created in 1977 around the Plumbuita Monastery. Some beautiful parks around Bucharest are the Brâncoveanu-Bibescu, Mogoşoaia and Ştirbey Palaces in Buftea (30 ha) and the park of the Ghica Palace in Căciulaţi.
from Bucharest. In Search of Little Paris, Tritonic Publishing House, Bucharest, 2003

Translated by Brânduşa Ciugudean

by Narcis Dorin Ion