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To the right of the pedestal with the vase there is an area of the park with chaotically scattered stones of different size. The stones are covered with moss; lone trees and bushes are grown among them; paths wind without any direction among them. This wild area is attractive because of its peculiar and incomparable beauty; at the beginning of the creation of the park it was called Crete labyrinth. T.Themery was the first to mention about it.

The plot of this picture was also taken from Greek mythology; it reminds us of the legends about Daedalus, Minos, Pasyphai, Minotaur, Tesseus and other heroes.

A wise tsar Minos (the son of Zeus and Europe) ruled the Crete Island. He increased his wealth without invasion, mainly due to commerce. However, there was no happiness in his house. Pasyphai, his wife, gave a birth to a child, who was half-man and half-bull. He was named Minotaur. He lived in the underground labyrinth, built by Daedalus; every year or once in several years seven boys and girls were sacrificed to him: they were sent from Athens as a tax for Minos for his son being killed in Attica. Athenian tsarevich Tesseus left for Crete together with boys and girls, sent as sacrifices to Minotaur. Tsar Minos' daughter Ariadna, having seen Tesseus, fell in love with him and gave him a sharp sward and a ball of threads (she did secretly from her father). Tesseus and the people who came with him entered the labyrinth; he tied the end of the thread near the entrance and went deeper into it along tangled and endless passages of the labyrinth (it was considered to be impossible to come out of the labyrinth). When Tesseus found Minotaur, they had a severe fighting and Tesseus came victorious; the ball of threads helped him save young people and came out of the labyrinth.

Next, he had to run away from the anger of Minos. So, Athenians cut the bottoms of all the Crete's ships, so that they could not catch up with them, and they went home to Athens by their own ship. Ariadna joined them secretly from her father. On the way back they stopped on the Naxos Island, and there Dionis who was in love with Ariadna kidnapped her (according to another version Tesseus left the girl there). Tesseus, being very much sad, continued his trip and forgot to change black sails for the white ones. This caused the death of old tsar Agues: having seen black sails, which meant his son's death, he plunged into the sea in despair. Since that time the sea has been called the Aegean Sea.

Passing by the Crete labyrinth, you may admire a young magnolia-tree, and on the left - a tulip tree. You approach the bank of the Styx River; and on the opposite bank near the foot of the steep slope giant grass is grown, it is called cow parsnip. The grass is about 3 meters high and its huge umbrella-like inflorescences bear about 200 seeds. We would advise not to touch the plant as it can hurt you. Another giant grass called butterbur also grows here. We can see a silver poplar tree. It is called a "family tree" and has four trunks, three of them being grafted artificially. Such trees used to be planted in the park to show the skills of a gardener.

Right behind the poplar-trees one can see the object named the Athenian school by S.Trembecki in his poem. This is another composition of granite slabs. You will see that large stones are arranged in lines and resemble the tables and benches for pupils. According to T.Themery there was the rotunda (a round building crowned with a dome). At that time the bust of S.Trembecki was installed there.

Walking along the alley near the bank of the Kamianka River, where granite slabs of the Athenian school make a sharp contrast to bright greenery of various plants grown on both banks of the river, you approach a new and even more fascinating landscape. Right in front of you, there are two waterfalls: one is near your feet, and the other, which is even more impressive, is a bit farther. In this place a tour guide will tell you about the composition Devil's bridge, built during the first period of the park's foundation in honor of a legendary march of A.V.Suvorov across the Alps. The composition Devil's bridge was destroyed during the flood of 1980 and restored in 1995. A.V.Suvorov lived in the village near Tulchyn, attended the receptions at Potocki's, had a very good attitude to Potocki's marriage with Sofia, and supported it. We think that, this symbolic bridge was built to honor the friendship.

Having passed a narrow part of the alley, you will find yourselves in the ground, in the middle of which there is a stone resembling a turtle very much. T.Themery wrote that it was at this place that Sofia treated tsar Aleksandr I with tea.

On the right side you can see the largest grotto, carved in a natural cliff. Its name is Lion or Thunder Grotto; T.Themery was the first to mention the name (1846). The grotto seems to be made by nature. The entrance is divided into two parts with a granite and rough prop, which supports it and adds a natural look to it. The grotto was built very skillfully, and only when you come inside and see some places, you realize that it was done with human hands. The grotto is rather wide, and you can walk around a granite and polished table without any problem. Very close to the entrance there are two lines written in Polish: "Leave here the memory of failures and be blessed with happiness, and if you are happy, then be happier." According to A.Mitskevych, S.S.Potocki wrote these words.

A small waterfall is constructed in the right-hand corner of the grotto; probably the sounds of the falling water could explain the name of the grotto, namely, Lion or Thunder Grotto. The water used to be delivered to the grotto along the pipe (tile), around which there were three empty pipes of the same diameter. In this way a specific acoustics strengthened the noise of the water. In post-war period the tiles were changed for asbestos-cement pipes of a bigger diameter; it reduced the sound effect of the grotto. S.Groza (1843), describing "Sofiyivka", named it Calypso Grotto. It could be that he used V.Allan's picture of 1815, where this object was called Calypso Grotto. In our opinion, this name corresponds to the architect's plan the most; it is also proved with the myth about nymph Calypso and Odysseus' wanderings.

After long wanderings and adventures the waves threw out half-dead Odysseus' body to a sandy coast of the Ogigia Island. Nymph Calypso, who lived in a nice grotto, found him; cypresses, poplar-trees, aspen-trees, cedars and plane trees grew everywhere. The whole grotto was covered with vine-branches and ripe grape clusters were hanging down from the walls. Silver streams flowed from four sources and evergreen meadows smelled violets. Calypso fed Odysseus with nectar and ambrosia. He recovered very fast and his divine savior promised him immortality, eternal youth and asked him to become her husband. All days long he sat on the coast and looked toward his native Ithaca.

The amorous captivity lasted for eight years, then the god's envoy, Mercury, appeared. He entered the cave. A gummy cedar-tree was on fire. Calypso worked near the looms and sang. When she saw the envoy from Olympus, she got silent. Calypso listened to Zeus' order obediently, and she went slowly to the sea to look for Odysseus. Calypso conveyed Zeus' wish to Odysseus: to get prepared for the return. She was just an insignificant nymph and could not resist Zeus' will, but she begged Odysseus to stay with her. Odysseus' desire was so big to come back to his native land, that he started building a raft right away. Few days later, Calypso gave Odysseus some food and said good-bye to him; he pushed off the coast with the oar and tender waves and winds carried him forward.

According to T.Themery, a statue of incomparable goddess of love Venus was installed on a granite pedestal in the grotto. But in 1936, it was broken as well as other statues. After the restoration the statue of Venus was installed in the grotto; with its classical architectural forms it resembles the entrance to the antique temple.

At first the grotto was named the Grotto of Thetis, later the statue of Venus was fixed, and the grotto got the same name. S.Trembecki paid a lot of attention to this building in his poem. Referring to the explanation of L.Metzel why the grotto was devoted to Thetis, the poet narrates the myth about Thetis and Peleus. Peleus trapped a sea nymph Thetis and after a long fighting (when she turned into a snake, a lion, fire, water) he seized her. Erinia put a golden apple with the words "for the most beautiful" at their wedding party; it caused the events, which led to Trojan War. As the result of their marriage Achilles was born.

Thetis wanted to make her son immortal and bathed him in the Styx River; she held her son by the heel and this turned to be the only place, which did not touch the magic water. During Trojan War an arrow struck him in the heel and he died.

You have noticed that sculptures in the park changed their places not once in the past. Because of it we can think that the first 50 years initial value of many park compositions, marble statues, trees, alleys, ponds, fountains and even flowers was lost. D.S.Likhachov (1982) wrote that from the middle of XIX century, the gardens were considered to be architectural buildings, which aroused mainly architectural impressions. Therefore, landscape gardening art, confined with the age of trees and bushes, gradually loses its relations with aesthetic formations of the past in hands of restorers and practical gardener-experts. They did not always try to "read" gardens as iconological works, and they restored them as formal collections of various elements of "green architecture".

"The loss of ability, - writes D.S.Lykhachov, - "to read" gardens as iconological systems and to perceive them in the light of "aesthetic climate" of the epoch of their creation, is connected with the decline (during the last 100 years) in the ability of iconological perceptions and rudiments of knowledge of traditional symbols and emblems in general. Let us not talk about why it has happened, but one reason is easy to be mentioned: decrease of classical and theological education. The perception of iconological system in gardens is especially complicated because in gardens more often than in other arts secret symbolism and iconological systems are hidden. Let us take such example. Radial arrangements of alleys, a famous three-rayed composition of Versailles Gardens, are well known everywhere. But not all the visitors know that it is not simply an architectural method, which opens inside landscapes of the garden and views on the palace, but a certain iconological scheme connected with the fact that the Versailles Park had to glorify the "king-sun" - Ludovik XIV. The alleys symbolized the sunrays, which dispersed from the center of the palace, or to be more exact - from the bedroom of the king, from his bed, or from the square with the statue of Apollo, so-called hypostasis of not only the sun, but the "king-sun" himself.

D.S.Lykhachov states "flowers do not cause any feelings, except for visual and smelling or fragrant ones. We do not recall its symbolism very often, mostly incidentally. Statues in the park for us are just silent and nice decorations, which do not tell us anything. Seeing the statue of Voltaire in the garden, we would not pay any attention to the fact that it is in the garden and necessarily in the grotto. When we see the statue of Flora we realize that it is associated with the garden and its vegetation, but we are not able to value the significance of park sculptures. Very seldom visitors of Petergof would pay much attention to the largest and the most powerful fountain Samson, who tears the lion's mouth, neither would they be interested in the relations of other cascade sculptures to Samson Fountain. Our artistic thinking cannot understand and is not interested in symbolic and allegoric meaning of flowers, trees, statues, fountains, the sense of alleys, paths, "green rooms", allegoric meaning of the ponds, their forms and location.

Due to this fact, during a simplified reconstruction of Old Garden in the 1960-70ties in the town of Pushkino, a Three-lunar pond was taken away with ease; the Upper bath was released from trees, which surrounded it closely; statues were installed at random, without any grounds and not taking into consideration what they were supposed to express. We quoted D.S.Lykhachov to emphasize that "Sofiyivka" underwent numerous changes concerning not only its appearance, but also the names of certain objects and compositions during the last 200 years. At present we are trying to renew the names of grottos, rivers, some parts of the park, which, as we believe, correspond to the architect's plans. First of all, we would like the objects to express wandering of Odysseus; if we start telling about semantics of all the plants, which is an inseparable dominant and decoration of these objects, we will have to write another book to reveal the inner world of Homer's heroes.

Let us come back to the Grotto of Thetis, as we will name it further. S.Groza gives its detailed description. He writes: "Above the cascade of water there is a gallery with a nice iron fence, four sea monsters and two sphinxes stand on each side - the heirs of Thetis" (in the mythology of ancient Greece Sphinx is a winged monster with a head of a woman and a body of a lion). Describing the grotto, S.Groza says that it resembles a rotunda, painted in a blue color, with a hall, which consists of four columns. They support a granite block and a half-round window. The author mentions the dimensions of columns and a granite block, and then he writes that the middle of the grotto is decorated with the bust of old Peleus. There are benches where you can have a rest and admire the water, which shines in the sunrays. And there is a foggy green meadow, various trees and bushes around us. The entrance to the grotto is shut with an iron gate. If to compare a modern sight of the grotto, we can see the same granite pylons, a decorative arch and a cascade of granite steps; the stream flows along them the same as it did two hundred years ago. Instead of monsters we see four granite vases, the statue of Venus of Medici, restored in 1952, is in the grotto (it replaced the bust if Peleus).

In Roman mythology Venus is the goddess of gardens, that is why, her name was used as a synonym of fruits. As the stories about Aeneas became popular, Venus was more often identified with his mother Aphrodite, and she was considered to be the goddess of love and beauty and a foremother of Aeneas' heirs, a patron of Romans.

We do not have any information about sea monsters, which decorated the Grotto of Thetis in old days. We may assume that they were destroyed with the stream of water during the spring flood of 1870 (L.O.Kazarinov wrote about it). The same happened to marble vases, which were broken in 1980; later they were restored and made in Kyiv experimental-production workshops. Despite all the changes, the grotto is considered to be one of the most beautiful architectural buildings in the park (it had the same fame in old days).

Walking to the Grotto of Thetis, we cross the stream of the Kamianka River (Styx) across a small bridge made of granite monolith. There is a small source near its foot. It was named the Iron Spring, as its water is very rich in iron and flows outside along a wooden channel, to which it is supplied to the foot of the slope, which on the right is adjacent to the dam of the Upper Pond, along the underground stony narrow channel.

In a small green meadow on the right side of the Grotto of Thetis, there is a statue of Apollo of Florence. It neatly stands out on the background of a hazelnut tree on the slope of a dam; it decorates a picturesque landscape of the Elysian Fields. The statue was made of Plexiglas based on a marble model, which became absolutely unfit with time. Its first copy was installed there in 1958, but in 1980 the flood destroyed it, and in 1990 the second copy was made.

The foundation of the dam was rebuilt after the flood, then it was strengthened with large granite stones and a necessary layer was made with the land brought to this place. An openwork iron fence and granite vases were destroyed and later they were restored in 1980. Presently this picturesque corner attracts a lot of tourists, as it used to do in the past; it is hard to imagine that relatively not long ago it was damaged.

The park, as a scientific institution of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine, is engaged in researches of connatural and cultural flora of austral Forest-steppe of Ukraine, introduction and acclimatation of plants in the region.

The article of the director of the famous park I. Kosenko summarizes this work:

50 years anniversary of the Sofiyivka park as a scientific institute of the Ukraine's NAS

In the final article of I. Kosenko the review of the park's whole history from the moment of the foundation till todays is made:
205 years since the foundation of Sofiyivka

The team of scientists of the park issued the catalogue of plants with the total amount 1994 taxons, in which 25 taxons of hazels, 24 beeches, 41 fir-trees, 44 junipers, 100 lianas, 320 roses, 57 rhododendrons and 98 flower plants - totally 1220 trees and bushes and 774 herbaceous plants.
Catalogue (zip 380 КB)

The hothouse of the park is the unique center of cultivation of conifers and deciduous trees, bushes, roses seedlings - total more than 200 items.
Open|Download (22 КB)

The beauty of the park was sung by a lot of poets, but the poem of the Polish poet S. Trembecki occupies an especial place. Written in 1811, it is the park guide book in verses.
"Sofiowka" and comments of Adam Mickiewicz (polish)

Park as the tourist center offers the visitors a complex of services - excursion support in six languages, hotel, restaurant, conference hall etc.
List of services