The Royal Palace of Gödöllõ, one of central Hungary’s mostly visited attractions outside the capital, and its park is open again as of May 1, 2010.
The building ensemble of the baroque Grassalkovich Castle is considered unique and special in many ways and it became a sample and model for other buildings throughout the region. The surrounding garden is also a peculiarity, which has experienced several garden-architectural periods of style and still preserves the traces of previous reconstructions.
“The castle garden has gone through numerous alterations in the past few centuries,” says Dr. Mihály T.Révész manager. “The first significant transformation recorded dates back to the early 19th century, when it was expanded and modified in British style. The symmetrical spaces were replaced by freely formed, more liberal areas leaving only some aspects of the Baroque style. Unfortunately, we don’t have proper, detailed data of the very first version of the garden, due to the destruction of the Grassalkovich Family’s archives. So we can only lean on secondary sources about the garden’s original state, ”he adds. The following years, up to as far as WWII, brought further changes. After the 1848-49 Hungarian Revolution, under the Habsburg reign, the garden was filled with flowers and plants preferred by Queen Elizabeth; furthermore several relaxation areas were set up, as the small pavilions and the Elizabeth-porch. “The modern times brought developments and innovations into the garden,” Révész notes. “More modern watering-pipe system, up-to-date greenhouses and seed-beds were set. Even in the Horthy era, the garden didn’t stop progressing as a swimming pool and a bath-house was added. However, the forty years following WWII left some serious marks”, Revesz explains. “Most of the lower park was built-in, only a smaller part was left alone. The upper park also suffered several alterations but it had less spatial loss. The Reserve-Garden, at the southern part, was turned into a Soviet military base. Although, some small steps were taken, no one could prevent the garden from running wild. Most of the decorations perished or deteriorated. It was really the time to reconstruct it.”
Evoking the romance
The reconstruction of the upper park started in the summer of 2009 when that of the Rudolf and Gizella wing of the castle was launched. “Due to a successful application, we managed to renew 5.2 hectars of the garden, including the central part of the park as well as the front yards. And this is only the first phase of the reconstruction work,” the manager reveals enthusiastically. “The construction plans were designed by the Department of Garden and Outer-Space Design of the Budapest Corvinus University, along with constructing, dendrology and historical building experts”, he adds. When reviving the garden, the designers decided for the romantic style when Queen Elizabeth inhabited the castle. “The romantic period meant a flourishing era in the history of the garden. This was the time when it had the largest expansion and when it acquainted a sophisticated but strained spatial composition. The garden bore a more ‘moderate’ form in spatial composition, road-system, tracing and planting. Perhaps this is why it could become a worthy dwelling for the royal family, a calm estate, far away from urban life,” Révész explains. “Furthermore, we have abundant information, sources and descriptions of this time, enough for the reconstruction”, he adds.
Filling up the garden
However, as for the different plant species, sources say rather little. According to Révész, though, the descriptions mention several species, like lime trees, birches, different pines, hydrangeas, dahlias, lilies, roses and geraniums, designers also had to lean on the portrayals of other castle-gardens when shaping the reconstruction work. Nevertheless, the descriptions and sources provided a good base in the formation of the renewed garden, new aspects, functions and demands also had to be considered. The esplanade has been re-planted several times in the past few decades and centuries but many of the living and existing trees were either ill or dangerous. “Planting the missing trees would have solved the problems only temporarily, thus designers decided in favor of a complete substitution of the tree-substance. Hundreds of new trees were planted, 31 tree-species altogether”, the manager remarks. Up until now, the bush-level, an essential spatial-compositional component of a romantic garden, was completely missing from the Gödöllõ castle-garden.
“Bushes not only provide vision-links as they prevent seeing through trees, they improve the micro-climate of the garden, as well”, he explain, adding that the new garden includes several bushes now, like cornel, yew, honey-suckle or box-wood. “Perennials and annual plants, serving as decorative bedding-outs of a romantic garden were also missing from the park. Such ornamental beddings are placed now mainly along roads and meeting points. These ornate the park throughout the whole year, their height and color are in harmony. The largest flower bedding is placed in the arbor of the park and castle, above the ornament-yard, which one can see and admire from several angles.”
The first segment of the garden is done now; anyone can admire it. However, the much more difficult part of the reconstruction work is yet to come. “We are really glad for the already renewed 5.2-hectare area, but we still have at least 28 hectares left to revive, that is the bigger part of the upper-garden”, Révész says, but he is full of hopes. “We already have the conception for the rest of the work, the designing procedures are on and hopefully the Gödöllõ Royal Garden will soon glory in full flush.”