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Uman. A city on the Umanka River in Cherkassy region. It was first mentioned in historical documents in 1616, when it was under Polish rule. In 1648 it was liberated from the Poles by Ivan Hanzha, a colonel of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and became the administrative center of regiment. After being returned to Poland in 1667, the town was abandoned by many residents, who moved to Left- Bank Ukraine. Under the ownership of the Pototski family of Polish magnates (1726?1832) the town grew in economic and cultural importance. After the partition of Poland in 1793, Uman was annexed by Russia. The main architectural monuments are the catacombs of the old fortress, the city hall (1780?2), a Roman Catholic Church in the classical style (1826), and 19th-century trading stalls. Uman is famous by the dendrological park "Sofiyivka" (Sofievka). It’s the most romantic place in Ukraine.

The idea to build a park belonged to Count Stanislav Pototski, one of the richest magnates; fell in love with a beautiful Greek girl, Sofia. The world had not seen such a beauty. Count decided to recreate a corner of Hellas and to present it to his beloved wife, so that it would remind her of the mountains and woods, clear brooks and transparent lakes of her native land. Pototski commissioned Ludwig Metzel, formed Polish military engineer to create a park. One has to process profound knowledge of an engineer, refined taste, great fantasy and skill to draw in his imagination and later to realize such fairy tale of woods and picturesque glades, ponds and fountains, terraces and alleys, grottos and pergolas.

The Sofiyivka (Sofievka) cost Count Pototski 2,000,250 rubles in silver. Visitors to the park were impressed with chaotic heaps of rocks over the Kamyanka; with the so-called Leucadian rock - a terrace from which a beautiful vista of the Sofiyivka opens; with the romantic Island of Anti-Circe, the Diana-Grotto, the Snake Fountain, the pensive calm of the Elysian Fields, the Tantal Grotto with a boulder handing threateningly over it, and with many other man-made wonders.

The Main Alley lined with chestnuts and a linden runs into the distance, the alley leading to a fairy-tale world. Autumn has gilded crowns of old trees, yellowed leaves fall almost noiselessly as though sighing and rustle mysteriously under your feet. Maybe this rustle makes the beginning of one of the legends?.. The Alley brings us to the Lower Pond. We admire the slender outlines of the Flora Pavilion, and then hurry to the Snake Fountain - you could look at it for hours. It seems that its iridescent splashes reflect the entire park.

Several steps upward and you are in front of another wondrous creation of human hands, the Island of Anti-Circe, called now the Island of Love, on the Upper Pond. The island built in the pond and covered with boulders look romantic though it arouses different emotions than the Thetis Grotto. By the way, even the contemporaries of the Sofiyivka inauguration noted that all the park's attractions were based on contrast, on swift changes of impression. The so-called Rose Pavilion dominates the Island of Anti-Circe. It was built by I.Makutin later, in the 1850s. White stuccowork, which adorns it, harmonizes delicately with the rose coloring of this light structure. What have this island seen for 200 years of its existence? Let's leave our fantasies for one of the numerous legends about the park.... The Valley of Giants is impressive with its chaotic conglomeration of granite boulders. It looks as though giants themselves really did build it, playfully scattering rocks and leaving some of them in such precarious positions that a gentle breeze would be enough to blow and start the boulders rolling again. A special place in the Sofiyvka (Sofievka) belongs to the Styx River and Dead Lake. Our boat, departing from the Dead Lake, quietly floats into an underground river. There are not so many rivers like that in this country. This one, a man-made canal going through the stone thickness, is unusual/ Even its name tunes a man to philosophic meditations and reminds of the transience of life…

The underground Styx runs for 224 meters. Unlike the other, natural rivers in karst layers where pleasure trips are held, there is no artificial illumination there. Scanty dim sunlight forces its way through a few apertures in the granite ceiling. How mysterious the banks of this river look; it's even hard to imagine that human hands laid them out. Strolling through the park, now here, now there, amidst the thickets of bushes and trees, at the entrance to a grotto or on the bank of the pond, we unexpectedly come across white-marble statues of ancient gods and heroes or real historical personages. They blend with the surroundings so harmoniously that it seems that Venus, Apollo, Mercury, Euripides, all of them are alive, and all are inhabitants of this fairytale park.


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