This part of green area in Gatchina does not look like the forest at all. Sylvia in Ancient Greek stands for the forest, but this is in name only. The gate, faced with yellowish limestone, has the plaque “Sylvia” above the entrance from the road. The face of the bearded forest spirit welcomes visitors into the nice fresh garden planned according to the French fashions.
Sylvia park history
In the early 1780s Grand Duke Paul and Grand Duchess Maria were sent on a long European journey by Catherine the Great. They were heartily welcomed to France by the entire Royal family. Prince of Conde, the royal cousin, was hosting the Russian couple in Chantilly, his countryside estate. Paul and Maria were greatly impressed by the garden there. Coming home to Gatchina, they were dreaming about emulating the Chantilly parks in Gatchina. Finally, in 1792, this idea came to fruition.
There are three radial alleys going through the park. They have terminated at the exit gates, Admiralty pavilion on the bank of the lake and the farm. It has regular planning; all the passages and lawns have geometric forms. One can find several mazes and flowerbeds.
But the most interesting structure on the grounds of Sylvia was the Farm.
Fast Facts on Sylvia park
Idea of life in harmony with nature, given by the French writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was tremendously popular in Europe of 1700s. Queen Marie Antoinette had her own farm, where she was herding the sheep and milking the cows. Maria and Paul visited the Queen of France and saw her playing the peasant woman. Maria was brought up on Rousseau works and she was enthusiastic about establishing her own farm in Russia. This could be done in Gatchina. Farm building was done in Pudost limestone. The edifice was looking almost like the palace in the middle of the woods. The best cow and sheep breeds were brought to Sylvia Farm, the Aviary was built next to it, where they had geese, ducks, turkeys. Farm daily delivered fresh milk and cream for the Imperial breakfast. Maria was supervising all activities of the Farm personally. She believed it was very important for the children to work at the farm and eat healthy food. Fresh and tasty poultry, dairy products, eggs, wool was produced there.
The firstborn son of Paul and Maria, Alexander, became the emperor of Russia. He was the Russia’s answer to Beau Brummel and the womanizer, but he had not forgotten his rustic childhood years in Gatchina. Alexander visited Farm in Sylvia occasionally. He was especially proud of the fact that his coat was made from the wool of the sheep bred in Gatchina Farm.