The Seaside Garden History


Until mid 19th century the area of the present Seaside Garden (seaside park) was a bare field outside the town fortress. A few trees could be seen here and there. Vineyards and a slaughterhouse formed the predominant view of one part of the field and in another part, below the present day Pantheon, there was the French cemetery where in 1854 the bodies of cholera-stricken French soldiers were buried. A few metres away the old public cemetery could be found and the garbage of the town were thrown everywhere alongside the beach. 

The prototype of a public park first appeared in the spring of 1862. With the support of the Turkish mayor Halil effendi and the Turkish town-major Said pasha, Hafiz Eyub - chairman of the local trade council, ordered that 10 decares of the land should be surrounded with hedge and made into a municipal garden. Vegetables were grown there at first and later on 4 more decares with planted cherry-trees were added to it. Gradually, other fruit-trees were also planted, together with lime- and chestnut-trees. 


The bridge between the two parts of the garden, 1905 In 1881, after the liberation, the mayor of Varna Mihail Koloni brought up the question about a modern public park. His offer was first laughed at by the local municipal councilors but a certain fund for the project was anyway granted. Soon the park enlarged to 26 decares, 130 trees were planted, paths were cleared and ''towards nightfall alleys thronged by a long train of gentlemen and dressed up ladies''.

Antonin Novak The Seaside Garden will always be associated with the name of the Czech Antonin Novak - a park designer specialized in the Vienna castles of Schoenburn and Belvedere. The 35 years old Novak was invited to Varna and he was assigned the post of a park director. Shortly the slaughterhouse and the garbage heaps were moved away, the beach was cleared and various kinds of trees were planted. Soon the Seaside Garden became known as the most beautiful park on the Balkan Peninsula. Little by little the territory of the park enlarged and in 1905 it reached to 90 decares. In 1912-1913 a couple of fountain-springs were built in the first part of the park and it was partially electrified. In some 10 years Varna was already established as a resort centre and the rest of the park was also electrified.
 

The entrance of the Seaside garden, 1922

In 1907 a National Revival Committee was established and its idea was to dedicate an alley in the second part of the park to the Bulgarian Revival Movement. Its task was to erect 22 monuments in the Seaside Garden: 20 in honour of outstanding activists in the liberation movement, 1 in honour of Science or Enlightenment and 1 - of Liberty. The project started in 1911 with the monument of the famous poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev, followed a year later by that of another famous revolutionary Vassil Levski. This activity was interrupted by the beginning of the war and in 1920, to commemorate his anniversary and although he was still alive, a monument to the great Bulgarian author Ivan Vazov was erected. A few other statues were built in the course of the following couple of years and after a long break the tradition was renewed again in 1973. All the monuments were made by Varna sculptors. 

The Pantheon, 1960s In 1932 the municipality began discussing plans to enlarge the park to the south. In 1950s the park reached its present borders to the swimming pool. In 1960s flower- beds covered 20 decares of the park and a rock garden and a lake were formed between the two parts of the park. After the visit of world's first cosmonaut Yuriy Gagarin a Cosmonaut Alley appeared nearby the Pantheon.

The Pantheon of anti-fascist activists built in 1961 was until recently a must-visit for all graduating students and newly married couples. The Bulgarian Revival Committee had initially chosen that place for the Monument of Liberty, which was actually never built. There were a number of other statues among which the monument commemorating the cholera-stricken French soldiers in the years of Crimean War, which was also situated close to the Pantheon but later on it was moved away. A monument of Lenin was placed at the park entrance facing the University of Economics and in the period of 1949-1956, when the town was named Stalin, a statue of Joseph Stalin was located at the park's main entrance.

 

The statue of J Stalin

The aquarium The Seaside Garden was not only a nature reserve, but also a recreational place for the citizens. The first cafeteria was placed on piles and covered with straw, a fountain spring was also built. In 1906 the foundations of one of the city's most famous sights were laid. The building of the Aquarium (Marine Biological Station) finished in 1911 but it was adapted for the needs of the Naval Engineering School and later on - of the Fishery School. It was not until 17 September 1932 that the Aquarium was open for visitors. A Black Sea relief was modeled in front of it. Close by the first Open Theatre was built in 1920 and between 1926 and 1939 it hosted the Varna Musical Celebrations, forerunner of the present Varna Summer Festival. The nowadays-existing Open Theatre was built in 1960-1961.

The entrance of the Seaside garden, 1940s The decision to declare Varna as a resort centre had a beneficial influence on its development. Wooden stands appeared in the Sea Park where music was played on holidays, children's area with swings was formed, and tennis court was allotted to the Varna tennis club. The opening of the new sea baths brought about improvements in the beach zone.

The park was often used for social activities. Entrance was paid, lottery was run and raised funds were distributed for charity purposes - helping war invalids, widows and orphans, school mess-rooms. Two open restaurants - "Grozd" and Zlatna Kotva - were located beside the park entrance. In 1939 the town's major architect George Popov designed the main entrance-colonnade the way it has been preserved to nowadays.


The sundial at the entrance of the park The Seaside Garden continued flourishing in the years following the war. In mid 1950s children's area with swings and lake was formed and in the second part of the park an open reading-room appeared. 8 new fountain-springs were placed all over the park; the area near the rock garden was turned into a lake. A Navy Museum opened its doors and a year later, on 21 November 1957, Drazki ship-museum appeared. In 1961 the park had still another gaining - a Zoo with its first inhabitant Maxim, a bear received as a present from the seamen of G. Dimitrov ship. A few metres away a Museum of Natural Sciences found its place and later on, in 1968, an Astronomical Observatory replaced the old open theatre. The Park entrance was decorated with an elegant sundial featuring a swan just about before his flying off.


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