The manor and its dwellers
The Wild Fields (“Dyke Pole”) — that’s what they called a steppe far beyond the Dnipro way back in the 18th century. The region became home for free people, who created their settlements called 'Sloboda's, deriving from Ukrainian “svoboda”, freedom. They alone defended their homes, fields and families from the raids of the Tatars and Swedes. Becoming a neighbor was easy – all you needed was to be fair and strong. Times changed, new people came, estates and lands passed from family to family, and along with them – legends and real history did. Sharivka was founded way back in 1700 by a Cossack osaul Sharii. He built a house, quickly was surrounded by neighbors – and then sold the estate to a fellow Cossack, foreman Olkhovsky.
These were difficult times: the powerful Zaporozhian Sich was destroyed, Cossacks dissolved like water in the sand, but intelligent and wealthy people always found a way and strove for a better life. Thus, Olkhovsky’s son studied at the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum with Alexander Pushkin and completed his education in Europe a year later. Upon returning to Sharivka, he rebuilt the ancestral home – that’s how the first version of the White Swan Manor House, a one-story stone building, appeared in 1820. The story went on: according to a legend, the son was the one to lose Sharivka to the Gebenstriny brothers in a game of cards. One of the brothers, Christian, was keen on gardening and went down in history as the creator of a park with exotic plants in Sharivka.
The next owner of the estate was the sugar magnate Leopold König. Imagine a boy, the son of a baker from the German quarters of Saint Peterburg, who studied in a prestigious boarding school in England and dreamed of becoming an architect. But the fire destroyed his father's bakery and a 15-year-old boy went to work at a sugar factory to help the family. In 5 years, he became the right hand of the owner of the plant, in 10 - bought the first own plant, and 15 years later that plant became the largest sugar factory of the Tsarist empire. At the time, Leopold König was 30 years old. Only when König became old and tired of Europe, he sold a villa in Bonn and bought Sharivka. It really cost a fortune, roughly equaling four sugar factories. But is there a price for a dream of youth? And when the strength, wisdom, and experience of mature years unite in a single impulse, who can stop such a hurricane?
König rebuilt the estate according to his taste and needs, approaching everything systematically and harmoniously. He invited architects that turned the house into a neo-gothic castle with an entrance arch and added a second floor. The steppe ravine turned into park terraces, roses bloomed among the bridges and fountains, and alleys of the park became a place for horseback riding and driving cars. König owned one of the fastest car parks of the Empire - his cars accelerated to 100 km/h. Not bad for the beginning of the last century. To power the estate, König had to build a water tower and own small power plant, which appeared in Sharivka 6 years earlier than in Kharkiv. König was the one who gave the name to the manor, calling it “The White Swan”.
The more interesting the fate, the stronger the person, and the more legends surrounding the person appear. Very different things are told about König: for instance, he allegedly evicted the villagers to build a park and gardens on the site of their houses, and allegedly built a “sugar hill” so that his beloved wife could go sledding in the middle of summer (this is Ukraine’s favorite courting history). Another legend even says that his wife cheated on him at the resort, and the angry Leopold transported the stone, on which the deed allegedly happened, to the estate. Ever since the stone, naturally, fulfills desires, especially about love and childbirth.
Things to do in Sharivka
- Make a photo session. There are 26 rooms and 3 large halls in the manor, boasting a baroque molding and decor of fireplaces, each of them unique and never repeating.
- Play in a quest with kids. The utility rooms, the ruler's house, the terraces, the entrance part are preserved on the manor’s territory and they’re all equally good to play hide-and-seek, hobbits and princesses.
- Talk to the echo in the deserted ballrooms and hear something of your own. Hide from thoughts in a carved oak closet that miraculously survived to our days in the palace hallway.
- Have a picnic in the famous linden avenue, where the tops of the trees are shaped upwards and still reach out to the sky. For the past 150 years, these trees recall the love of purposefulness of Leopold Koenig, who made a youthful dream a reality with mature stubbornness.
- Check all the legends of the manor: make a wish on that same stone, kiss under the living arches of trees, roll down the rich grass that grows in the place of the “sugar hill” and feel unbearably alive, creating your own legends and stories.
- Enjoy the inspiration and feel the special atmosphere of Sharivka. Think about the history of the manor: after all, the stories of all owners partly repeated and echoed. Leopold König was born a year after the beginning of Olkhovsky’s estate works and was saying goodbye to the teenage dream of architecture in 1836 when Sharivka was rebuilt. His son Alexander Koenig became a famous botanist. Maybe it was here that he shared the passion of Christian Gebenshtrein? Think about what you will take with you. After all, the best souvenir is a heartfelt experience, emotions and fresh thoughts.
What to visit nearby
Shydlovskyi Manor in Old Merchyk village
The manor was founded in the late 1770s and passed by inheritance, until Gregorii Shydlovskyi, a state adviser, decided to build something worthy of a state adviser surrounded by sugar magnates. Shydlovskyi then built an oval mansion in the style of Louis XVI. The main rooms - the living room, the ballroom and the owner's office - were also built without sharp corners, so it’s no wonder that the guests gathered at the balls to witness the architecture.
Singing terraces in Nataliivskyi Park
The spot is located in the village of Vladymyrivka, Krasnokutsky District, about 15 km from Sharivka. Earlier the territory of Vladymyrivka was occupied by an oak grove. In 1884, the sugar factory and philanthropist Ivan Kharitonenko built a summer estate there and named it after the youngest daughter of his son Pavel, who finished the estate’s construction.
Now you can visit the Nataliivskyi Park, which merges with Krasnokutskyi Arboretum, organized more than 200 years ago by Ivan Karazin, the younger brother of the founder of Kharkov University Vasily Karazin. He brought saplings from all over the world, making red and Canadian maples, black and red fir trees, chestnuts, dogwoods, sea buckthorn, and sycamore trees appear in Ukraine.
The most interesting part, however, lies further away. The artificial terraces lie near the Horodnia village, 10 km from Nataliivskyi Park. The terraces were built by Pavel Kharitonenko in order to create the special climate for southern tree species. Six rows of terraces facing the south were warmed by the sun all day long, and the bricks at their base kept the warmth for a long time. Water ran in the copper pipes of the drainage system, and even at a distance of 60 meters, you could hear its whisper, merging with the rustling of leaves on the branches.
The vile legends say that Kharitonenko built terraces to compete with König’s flower greenhouses, and the good ones state that the famous Russian opera singer Feodor Chaliapin sang here inspired by the land’s beauty.
How to travel to Sharivka
From Kyiv – follow Khrakiv highway on M03 until Lubny, then P42 via Myrhorod. Then head in the direction of Opishnia and turn on H12 to Krasnokutsk. Look for Sharivka.
From Kharkiv – head in the direction of Lopanskyi bridge on M03. After Sanzhary village, turn on T2106 and via Staryi Merchyk head to Sharivka.
By bus or train:
From any spot in Ukraine – to Myrhorod. From there, take the Myrhorod-Kharkiv bus to Krasnokutsk (leaving from the Myrhorod bus station on 9, Voskresenskaya St., daily at 6.25 and 14.20). Next get on a local bus or order a taxi to Sharivka.
From Kharkiv – take the Kharkiv–Krasnokutsk bus via Murafa (departs from the Central Market daily, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday there’s also a minibus). Walk 2 km from the main road to Sharivka.
Where to stay
The country hotel complex "Kera" is located on the territory of the Lyubotinsky forest area 20 km from Kharkiv along the Kyiv highway. Here, you can sleep in quietness, soak in a bath and hammam, and have a good rest from the city noise and vibrations of the road. There are 6 lakes with grass carp and pike for those who’d like to go fishing. Horseback riding is another activity available here. Together with the children, you can visit an ostrich farm and a contact zoo - fallow deer, roe deer, mouflon and elk, of course, are unlikely to be relatives of long-time inhabitants of Sharivka, but are equally nice to play with.
The trip to Sharivka is perfect for those who cherish silence, as the manor lies in 2 kilometers from the highways, for couples, Instagram lovers and families with kids aged 4-5 years old, as you can organize a small family adventure and return to the hotel to rest. The best time to travel to Sharivka is spring – after the first spring showers, the grass becomes bright and silky.
Project idea by Lala Tarapakina, text by Yuliya Dzhugastryanska, translation by Kate Pryliuk, photo by Masha Bagan, Alex Rodoman / wikimedia.org, mykharkov.info.