Today, I will tell you about an unusual royal love story about a woman who fell in love with a place and spent the rest of her life there. The woman was Queen Marie of Romania, and the place is the palace in Balchik, in northern Bulgaria.
In 1921, Queen Marie Alexandra Victoria, the wife of Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, visited Balchik for the first time, as the whole northern part of Bulgaria was then occupied by the Romanian kingdom. Marie was of British and Russian descents. She immediately became fascinated with this picturesque place. Three years after that she came back to stay after her eldest son usurped the throne and removed her from the political scene.
The construction works started in 1924, and the palace was finished by 1927. The additional parts of it, such as the botanical garden and the chapels, were gradually expanded until the complex was completely built in 1936. Sadly, the Queen only lived in it for a short time, as she passed away in 1937, in the Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania. Still, she spent about ten years of her life in this area, so after her death, her heart was temporarily kept in one of the chapels, called "Stella Maris". The complex is therefore seen as a relic in honour of her life. The building was preserved after her death, and is now a cultural site, also known as “The Palace”. The complex, built by Italian architecture geniuses of that time, consists of a palace, chapels, watermills, fountains, wells, and a botanical garden.
The palace itself is located about fifteen meters above the sea level, overlooking the beach. It is just two kilometers away from the suburbs of the town of Balchik. In the palace, or “The Quiet Nest”, as the Queen referred to it, the visitors can experience the atmosphere of that time, almost a century ago. The actual furniture and belongings of the Queen in her living room, bedroom and bathroom are exhibited for tourists and make the journey in time even easier. The Orthodox Christian chapel “The Assumption of Mary” was and is still an important part of the palace, so the original sacred images from the chapel are part of the exhibition, too.
Probably the only thing that is more famous than the palace is the botanical garden, arranged and kept by Swiss masters of the gardening art, hired by the Queen. Due to the characteristics of the terrain, the garden is terraced and divided into smaller ones. The Queen gave each one a different name, such as the “Gethsemane garden”, “God`s garden”, etc. The plant species in the garden-complex count over 2000. The botanical garden is decorated with statues, waterfalls and pieces of art from all over the world. An interesting place to see in the garden is the Nymphaeum, located in the eastern part of the complex, overlooking the sea and beach. The Nymphaeum is also called “The Water Temple” and is an open-air construction with pillars and a pool. According to some sources, the Queen liked to come to this temple on special occasions and contemplate the stars` reflection in the clear water.
If a royalty, used to luxury and wealth, saw the beauty in the simplicity of nature in Balchik and fell in love with this place, then it is definitely worth visiting. Whether experiencing the authentic atmosphere of the Queen`s palace or walking around the perfectly organized alleys and gardens, this is a must-see for everyone!
Cover photo © credits to iStockphoto.com/mbears
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