Ancient Uzhgorod is often called the “window to Europe”. It is the centre of Transcarpathian region and the smallest regional centre in Ukraine. Uzhgorod is located at the bottom of the majestic Carpathian Mountains and close to the border with Slovakia. Its modern name comes from the mountain river Uzh on the banks of which it is situated. This Ukrainian city is extremely diverse and unique as created by many different eras, styles and cultures. Its unique location and multicultural influence have made it one of the most attractive places in western Ukraine.
Uzhgorod is known as one of the greenest cities in Ukraine. In spring and summer, it is smothered by the lush greenery of numerous public gardens and exotic parks, but the city is especially attractive in spring, from beginning or mid-April to early May, when delicate magnolia and splendid Japanese cherry tree flowers and exciting aroma turn the city into the fantastic garden.
Magnolia (photo allaa-h.livejournal.com)
Magnolias were brought to Transcarpathia about 100 years ago. Magnolia is the tree with incredibly beautiful white, pink, or violet flowers and expressive, exciting vanilla and lemon flavor, and usually it starts to bloom first. The Kobus magnolia by all rights can be called a priceless gift of nature, a first harbinger of the spring and awakening nature. This plant is considered a relic, its blossoms were seen even by prehistoric reptiles. Some specimen of this tree are more than 95 million years old. Also known as the Kobushi magnolia, this species of Magnolia is native to Japan.
Nowadays, there are about 2000 magnolias in Uzhgorod. When you are in the city, go straight to Narodna Square or Uzhgorod Laudon Park (established in 1886 by the local school teacher Istvan Laudon) and start enjoying the white magnolia blossoms.
But the biggest pride of Uzhgorod is the unique alley of rare sakuras (Japanese cherry trees) planted on both sides of the river Uzh, on Pravoslavna naberezhna (Orthodox embankment), Kyivska naberezhna (Kyiv embankment) and Slovyanska naberezhna. It was planted in 2009 and 2011 and now considered the longest and the most amazing alley in Europe with more than thousand Japanese cherry trees with wonderful soft pink blossom. Pushkin Square, Dovzhenko and Rakotsi streets turn into a fantastic Garden of Eden as well.
Here is the list of streets, squares and embankments, where you can see sakura in Uzhgorod (but you can see blooming trees in many other parts of the city):
Nezalezhnosti naberezhna (Independence embankment)
Pravoslavna naberezhna (Orthodox embankment)
Kyivska naberezhna (Kyiv embankment)
Mendeleeva street (towards Nezalezhnosti naberezhna)
Sándor Petőfi square
These unique trees grow only in 3 places in the world: Japan, several U.S. states and in Uzhgorod.
Moreover, on these days, usually from the middle of April, the city organizes the International Festival of Music and Creativity “Sakura Fest”. (Sakura Fest 2016 is announced this year from April 15 till April 24, 2016). The symbol of the this festival is the romantic magician Count Sakura. He appears in all Uzhgorod events and entertains visitors and guests of the city, tells legends, and according to the tradition, draws a huge sakura flower in the center of Uzhgorod. Every year during spring and especially during festival days, Uzhgorod residents plant new sakura trees. According to Japanese wisdom everybody who personally plants sakura gets good luck and good fortune. By the way in Japan people still believe that if you catch the petal of this beautiful flower in the air you will grab the tail of luck.
Sakura (photo Taras Kashchak)
Usually a peak of sakura blossom is the second half of April, but of course, depending on weather conditions, the beginning of Japanese cherry blossom can vary. Therefore it is best to look for information in advance to plan your trip. Dates of the Sakura Fest can serve as the benchmark of sakura blossom :). Obviously, the festival is organized at the beginning of flowering or at its very peak. Usually sakura trees bloom for about two weeks.
Sakura became one of the symbols of the city. Decorative Japanese cherry was brought to Uzhgorod from Vienna in 1923, when Transcarpatia belonged to Czechoslovakia. But Uzhgorod residents have their own version of how sakura appeared in the city. There is a legend that when the Japanese people brought sakura to the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I as a gift, they stopped to spend the night in Mukachevo. and about the mysterious tree learned across Transcarpatia. So there were brave men who stole several seedlings from Japanese. They went to Uzhhorod selling it as fruits trees. Since then sakura is a pleasure to the eye all residents, although the fruits of it they have never seen. Today, it is growing all over the city.
Once the Japanese went to visit the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. They had sakura trees to give as a gift to the Emperor. Their way was going through Transcarpathia, so the Japanese decided to stop in Mukachevo for the night. The news about the visit of the Japanese people and their extraordinary Japanese cherry trees immediately traveled around the city. So, at night, locals stole sakura seedlings, and then sold them in Uzhgorod just as the fruit trees. People did not get any exotic fruits from the Japanese cherry but since then, this charming tree grows in Uzhgorod and pleases residents and visitors of the city by beautiful pink flowers.
Japanese quince (photo allaa-h.livejournal.com)
But you can see not only magnolia and sakura trees in Uzhgorod. Japanese quince is blooming almost simultaneously with sakura. At the same time Nedzvetski apple trees are in full bloom (for example, on Svobody prospect). There are even Florida and Chinese apples in the city!
Nedzvetski apple trees (photo allaa-h.livejournal.com)
In Uzhgorod you can also find the longest in Europe Linden Tree Alley, stretched out on Nezalezhnosti (Independence) embankment and Students embankment. It’s length is about 2200 kilometers. Linden trees bloom nearly all summer.
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