The foothills English styled park, hunting palace, Berehvar castle, count’s manor, climate resort and health resort Karpaty, all this is about a charming place in Zakarpattia, which is quite close to the central roads.
The palace with a magnificent park is a manifestation of the Schönborn dynasty’s love for hunting and the Carpathians. Influential European aristocrats of German-Austrian descent were the largest landowners in Zakarpattia.
They received the estates in this region after the defeat of the Anti-Habsburg uprising. Francis II Rákóczi, who owned large territories, lost them and Schönborns got them. This domain included the village of Karpaty. On July 31, 1728, Emperor Charles VI presented it to Archbishop Lothar Franz Schönborn. He entrusted the management of the estate to his heir and cousin Friedrich Karl Schönborn. In 1746, he dies and the estates are inherited by the Viennese branch of the dynasty. Eugene-Erwin Schönborn-Buchheim, who headed the Berezan domain, contributed to the development of the territory, developing agriculture, crafts, and industry. Schönborns reconstruct Mukachevo Castle and establish several manufactories, factories, breweries, wineries, and mills. In the years 1890-1895, Count Erwin Friedrich Carl Schönborn-Buchheim, a representative of the fifth generation of the family, erected an elegant palace on the site of a hunting lodge in the Berehvar tract. Hunting was a noble leisure activity and he was furnishing the estate to welcome aristocratic guests from all over Europe.
According to that’s time fashion, the castle was built in a neo-Romanesque style that combined the features of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and, in fact, can be considered a model of eclecticism that reflects then “palace trends”. It was built on the basis of numerological, or astronomical, principles. Thus, it has 4 towers according to the seasons of a year, 12 entrances are months, they say that the number of rooms and chimneys is 52 according to the number of weeks, and 365 windows represent days of a year, plus one fake window for a leap year.
These parallels differ from one tour guide to another, and tourism experts insist: now a calendar encrypted in architecture is a beautiful legend. Numerological principles were indeed used during the erection of the palace, but further reconstruction levelled them (since 1946 Karpaty resort operates here) – they arranged a new technical entrance, some chimneys were dismantled and new ones were made, during reconstruction of the heating system rooms were divided, as well as the number of windows was reduced.
“The Schönborn palace and park are worthy of your attention even without myths. Yes, after the Soviet reconstruction the numerological concept was lost. However, we advise everyone to count the number of chimneys and windows on their own as some kind of a quest. In fact, the main attraction of this place is its nature. The aristocratic Schönborn-Buchheim family had a taste. For their estate, they chose a marvellous place, a true Carpathian pearl with a unique microclimate and wonderful springs,” tourism expert Fedir Shandor says.
“This is one of a few attempts to bring to Zakarpattia new European trends, the fashion of Europe such as eclecticism in architecture, park art of that time, that very numerology. It actually did not quite succeed, people didn’t understand Schönborn Count, they characterized him as a “quirky man”. But it is important that when the Schönborns acquired this property, they immediately planted a park and beautified the area. That is, they turned the depressive landscape into an oasis. They created myths by planting exotic plants, building a palace with all the shticks, making a pond in the form of that year’s map of Austria-Hungary and the Beauty Spring. Schönborn Park is a kind of western version of Sofiivka. Then, there is the first decent train station on these lands, Karpaty even today is called the most beautiful railway station of Ukraine.”
“The construction of the palace and the park also had a social purpose. The peasants and workers who used to make lime in those places were refocused on hunting and forestry, by the way, they also planted vineyards, which, however, did not survive the Soviet rule. That is, the Schönborns were the first to create a unique recreational area on flat ground, ahead of their time. Back then, of course, the park and the palace began to get shrouded by legends. There were some good grounds for it. The water in the Beauty Spring is really valuable, it contains silicone and is very soft, so it has a good effect on the skin. So the legend that the one who will wash a face here won’t get old.
Nice eclectic Palace and gorgeous exotic trees that have more than a hundred-year-old history is no doubt an asset and magnet. One more fact – this is the largest sanatorium of Ukraine by the territory. It is a unique resort, one of its kind. We also may add wonderful logistics – international highway, railway station, and other centres of recreations such as skiing, hiking, balneological resorts… An ideal wind rose for Zakarpattia tourism,” Fedir Shandor tells.
Tourism expert says, “Does the potential of this place is used in full? Of course no. They just use the pearl that came out of the blue. By the way, it is also applied to the natural reserve, national park Sunevyr. Of course, there are ideas on how to develop this place in touristic perspective. An ideal object for informative cultural-historical quests, for eco-tourism, flora and fauna are quite interesting here, you can observe birds, etc. Now, nothing is made for tourists, the facility is solely medical resort-style and administration can say you goodbye at any time.”
Just as every stone in the Carpathians is called the Rock of Love and they tell you a romantic tale, so is the Berehvar Palace (one more name). Tourists are told a piquant story about adultery in which count Erwin Friedrich suspected his wife Frederika. So, he whether forced her to go down from the Falcon’s Rock on her own (to check her fidelity, if she survives it means she’s innocent) or threw her lover from it. No documentary sources have been found about such a turmoil, but the reason for the appearance of one of the palace’s “zests” is attributed to this story. The exotic chandelier in the now-abandoned stone hall is shown to all groups of visitors. They say that the design was personally ordered by offended Erwin Friedrich. Guides also say that the image of a strange lady with deer’s horns and a fishtail reveals three passions of Count Schönborn – hunting, fishing, and women. However, tourism expert Oleksandr Shershun says that the chandelier is a tribute to the ancient Schönborn family legend and has nothing to do with the couple at all.
“This is a Melusine, an interesting character of Celtic mythology. She’s a half-woman – half-sea dragon, whom the founder of the Lusignan family had married. And he was the one who laid the foundations of the Schönborn-Buchheim dynasty, and, perhaps, of several other noble families of Europe, including Anjou. But the Catholic Church was not in awe of such myth-making, that’s why in every possible way they tried to erase information in historical sources that noble families had such a fabulous origin. The very surname Schönborn is translated as ‘beautifully born’ and perhaps the history of this family includes the legend of the marriage of a man and a Melusine,” Oleksandr Shershun says. He says that the estate is a very interesting and promising tourist site, which needs a lot of attention to maintain the territory and the palace itself, because, for example, there are some noticeable problems with the tower already.
Another legend of the palace also comes from the area of “locals’ tales”. It is about the tragic death of Count Schönborn. It is said that right here in Berehvar he kept his treasures in a special safe room. And somehow he accidentally closed himself inside. They began to search for the count only after three days and found him dead from suffocation in the “armoured” treasury. Tourists are scared, historians are grinning, they question that anyone was looking for the count for all that time? However, it is considered to be the fact that one of the leaders of the Third Reich, Herman Goering, had his eye on the palace before the beginning of World War II. Just as Nikita Khrushchev was most fond of three locations in Zakarpattia: his “cottage” in the woods near Uzhhorod, the ancient wine cellars in Seredne (however, the Berehove wineries claim the same) and the Schönborn estate. They say it was the Secretary-General’s idea to create a large-scale sanatorium here.
Until 1944, George Erwin Schönborn owned the palace. Then Zakarpattia became part of the Soviet Union and the estate was nationalized together with the land. Since 1946, the castle has been a recreational centre. In 1958, the palace officially became a sanatorium Karpaty, as they liked to say, it was “of all-Union significance”. The last representative of the family to visit the former hunting palace is Christina von Schönborn-Buchheim, an active philanthropist, in the 1990s she helped with the restoration of the castle.
Today, the Schönborn’s heritage, a monument of history and nature, is a well-known health resort. Here, a large sanatorium operates. It specializes in helping pregnant women, as well as patients with cardiovascular, endocrine, and locomotor problems. It is said that not only doctors and procedures are helping here, but above all the nature itself, including valuable drinking and mineral water, and perhaps, the main “treatment” is walking the paths of the park under centuries-old oaks and tulip trees and observing dozens of exotic plants.
Beauty is inviting photographers and cinematographers here. Once episodes of the Soviet films were shot here. Also, the palace “acted” as the French castle in the latest Ukrainian series and was the background for TV shows.
Even though not everything here coincides with the original design of the construction, Berehvar breathes with antiquity and nobility, the park is a perfect unity of man-made and natural things. The Schönborn Counts found their perfect wind rose and left it in the heart of Europe, in the middle of the Ukrainian Carpathians.
Text by Alla Khayatova
Photo by Serhii Hudak