It’s not necessary to travel all the way to Japan in order to admire the bright pink flowers of the famous Japanese Cherry tree, sakura. These miraculous trees grow in Europe, too, namely in Uzhgorod, the capital of Transcarpathia.
In late April – early May, a large number of travellers from Ukraine and abroad try to plan their itinerary so as to spend at least a couple of days in Uzhgorod. It’s during this time of the year that the city turns into a magic garden filled with the fantastic aroma of blossoming Japanese Cherries. Zankovetska, Mytna, March 8th streets and the Svobody avenue are all filled with people enjoying the cherry blossoms and taking pictures.
Sakura blossoms for two weeks. If you arrive to Uzhgorod closer to the end of the blossoming period, you’ll see the snowstorm of petals falling off the trees, circling in the air and carpeting the ground all around in pink.
There are a lot of tales about how Japanese Cherries arrived to Uzhgorod. According to one of them, back in the 16th century, an important trade route from Far East to West passed through Uzhgorod. One day, a few locals noticed saplings of a plant that looked like regular cherry on the travellers’ carts. So they stole a few, only to see that the trees don’t fruit but instead blossom every spring with beautiful blossoms.
Historians hold different opinions as to when exactly sakuras were brought to Transcarpathia. According to some, the first Japanese Cherry was brought to the region in the 17th century by a member of the noble Drugeth family. Uzhgorod historians maintain that the first Japanese Cherry trees appeared in the city in the Czechoslovakian period of 1919-1939, when a city district of Maly Galagov (the Czech town) was being actively developed. This is when a lot of sakura trees where planted, and today, most of them can be found on Galagov’s streets.
The Japanese Cherry’s second wind in Uzhgorod came in 1990s, when it began to be planted and sold commercially to lay people for planting in their backyards. And in 2009, the Alley of Sakuras was planted in Uzhgorod, which is said to be the longest of its kind in Europe.
It’s interesting to note that they tried to plant Japanese Cherry in a lot of places throughout the globe, but besides Japan, the tree really took root only in Transcarpathia and some of the states in the US.
According to a Japanese tradition, planting a sakura tree brings success and happiness. Transcarpathians add that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s 100% applicable to the blossoming of Japanese Cherries in Uzhgorod.
Photos courtesy Five Flags Hostel and Lady Bird.