There is an very interesting tourist site in Voronezh region, 9 km east of M-4 highway – the Princess of Oldenburg Castle in Ramon (see down below on how to get there). This Castle (officially it’s called Palace) can tell a lot to the mind and heart of a modern Russian. The Palace of Oldenburg’s family is the only residence of royal persons in the Black Soil Region of Russia. Tsar Alexander II gave the estate in Ramon to his niece, Princess Eugenia of Oldenburg, born Princess Romanovskaya. And she turned it into a zone of comfortable living not only for her family, but also for all the inhabitants of Ramon.
Everything is striking in this story: the lifestyle of Their Highnesse, far from chic and idle luxury, also the success of her entrepreneurial activities as well as generous but reasonable charity. And the Oldenburg’s family Castle itself is an example of comfortable housing, a kind of “smart home” without sophisticated electronics and modern bells and whistles.
The tragic end of all the undertakings of Princess Eugenia in Ramon is surrounded by horror legends, so the red castle in the neo-Gothic style attracts lovers of paranormal phenomena. But maybe an abandoned palace is a symbol of an old Russian problem: the number of those who like to destroy usually exceeds the number of those who can build.
1. The History of the Castle and the Oldenburg Family
The history of the palace begins in 1879 when a new owner arrived at the Ramon estate, a royal person with the royal blood named Eugenia Maximilianovna of Oldenburg, born princess Romanovskaya.
Eugenia’s mother Maria Nikolaevna was the daughter of Tsar Nicholas I. Our heroine is a granddaughter of him and at the same time the niece to the next Tsar Alexander II. The father of Princess Eugenia, who was born in 1845, was a native of Bavaria, Maximilian Beauharnais, the native grandson of Josephine, the wife of the Emperor Napoleon. Maximilian had two titles: the Duke of Leuchtenberg and Prince Romanovsky.
At the age of 23, Princess Eugenia Romanovskaya married Prince Alexander Petrovich of Oldenburg – his great-grandfather was a representative of the ruling dynasty of German princes, married to Catherine, one of the daughters of Paul I; the descendants of this marriage wore the titles of princes and princesses. The full name of the new owner of the Ramon estate sounded like this:
- Her imperial highness, Princess of Oldenburg,
- nee Princess Romanovskaya,
- Duchess of Leuchtenberg,
- Princess Beauharnais.
Thus, the Oldenburg spouses were descendants of the ruling houses of Europe and close relatives of the Imperial family of Russia.
Not a wedding gift
It is believed that Eugenia of Oldenburg received the Ramon estate from her uncle Alexander II as a gift for the wedding. But this is not at all the case. They got married in 1868, and the gift was made 10 years later – on June 27 (July 10 BC) 1879. The inscription on a marble stone delivered to Ramon from Bormazund military fortress said rhat.
The gift was not a sign of the emperor’s favor for her niece, but a reward for her services during the Russian-Turkish war in the Balkans. Princess of Oldenburg not only donated huge sums to help the wounded but she controlled every penny and achieved the exemplary order in the work of the sisters of mercy and providing hospitals with everything needed.
The gift of the emperor was magnificent: a manor, a sugar factory, 8000 hectares of plowed up black soil, virgin forests rich in game. And such a gift turned out to be in keeping with the character of Eugenia of Oldenburg, a passionate hunter and business woman of the 19th century. Since 1879, she was spending 10 months out of 12 in Ramon, only occasionally leaving for the capital.
The husband of Eugenia of Oldenburg, Alexander Petrovich, would come here just on short visits. He was busy with organising the Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg and the Black Sea resort in Gagrah, the objects located far from Ramon. The son of Oldenburg couple, Peter, was married to the sister of Emperor Nicholas II, Olga Alexandrovna, but they divorced in 1916.
The Oldenburg spouses began building a palace not immediately. For the first 5 years, Princess Eugenia was engaged in the restoration of a sugar factory and achieved an increase in its productivity by exactly 500 times!
Only in 1883-1887 their hands finally reached their own dwelling.
The castle of Princess of Oldenburg was built in a neo-Gothic style, popular at that time in the circles of the metropolitan nobility. In the Russian hinterland, among the soft nature, it looks like an unexpected or even an uninvited guest. Thick walls of red brick, narrow windows, 8-sided towers trimmed with snow-white battlements are too festive for the castle and not luxurious enough for the palace. In the style of elegant pseudo-gothic, all the buildings of the Palace complex are built:
- an asymmetric gate with towers of different heights, one of which is decorated with a white Lutheran cross and the other with chimes;
- Svitsky house, where escort staff of noble guests of the castle were located; now it is a museum of the Oldenburg family;
- a water tower which provided the castle with hot and cold water;
- a stable, so elegant that in the Soviet years it became the House of Culture.
The artistic taste of the owners is seen in the elegant details of the decoration: wrought-iron fence, balconies and gazebos, openwork cobweb of the glass roof of the veranda. The facade of the castle and the landscaped area in front of it create a mood of comfort, celebration and medieval romance.
Quite different feelings come to visitors when they go inside.
The unexplainable mystery of the palace is that for some reason it is never restored inside. Restoration began in the 70s of the XX century. Now almost half a century has passed, but visitors are still met with rolled-off plaster, half-destroyed ceilings, closed upper floors and a feeling of cold even on the hottest days of summer. Only the photos on the walls and the fascinating stories of the guides tell us about the luxury and comfort that prevailed here during old times.
Stairs, fireplaces, stove
From that old magnificence remained oak staircase leading to the upper floors and the fireplaces finishings. The staircase was made without a single nail, the height and width of the steps allowed the ladies in ball gowns to descend without stepping on their own hems. But it would seem inconvenient for a stooped person as descending the stairs required immaculate posture.
Ground floor rooms are decorated with tiled fireplaces and Dutch stoves with elegant facing. They were heated by logs of fruit trees, so fragrant heat spread throughout all the floors of the palace. The main source of heating was a stove in the basement. The heating pipes that had been built into the meter-thick brickwork spread the heat over the entire building. Hot air from the stove heated the walls in all the rooms of the palace. Parallel to the heat system, the labyrinths of chimneys and water pipes penetrated the walls. A clever system of communications ensured a comfortable life for high persons without any special expenses. However, its riddles baffle modern restorers and delay the reconstruction of the palace.
An amazing fact is that during the existence of the castle in Ramon there were never pests in it like insects and rodents. Fans of mystics explain this by the negative energy of his rooms, but the reality is much simpler. The inner lining of the castle walls consists of a thin layer of raw camel wool, which served as an additional means of thermal insulation. Its smell turned away flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, mice and rats.
Acoustics is another mystery of the castle. They say that the whisper in one of the towers of the castle is heard in all its rooms. Eugenia Maximilianovna herself could listen to all the conversations in the palace, being in the room next to her office which was called “ear”. Modern visitors test acoustic effects in another room called “musical”: in different parts of it the voice sounds different, while the sound of balls from the neighboring billiard room is not heard here at all, same as a hundred years ago.
2. Manor and Park
Princess of Oldenburg’s Castle in Ramon is a landscaped complex, as its parks and hunting grounds are of great importance.
The Upper Park in the French style was restored to the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The fountain at the entrance to the palace could not be restored so they put flower bed in its place, framed by emerald lawns. There are no centuries-old oaks in the park. Along the avenues going from the main flower bed, as sun beams, birch groves grow.
The Lower Park behind the palace is arranged in the romantic English style. From the old days, a picturesque grotto with a viewing platform came and a wide staircase leading to the ruins of a sugar factory. The poetic “Bridge of Love” connects the Oldenburg family Castle with the “Cozy” estate built for the young couple Peter and Olga. Unfortunately, you can’t get into the Lower Park today as its objects are awaiting restoration and are still closed for viewing. You only can spy something in the crack in the fence.
The hunting estate of Oldenburgs is a place which all the members of the Imperial family visited, with the exception of Alexander III and Nicholas II. It was located 4 km from the castle. Now it is within the boundaries of the Biosphere reserve. The main object of hunting were wolves. By the beginning of XX, the stately hunters killed them all. Instead of the wolves, the Princess of Oldenburg had brought spotted deer and beavers to the Menagerie in the forest. Today, their populations are the pride of the Voronezh Reserve.
3. Entrepreneurial activity
Princess of Oldenburg was hunting only during her leisure time. The main sphere of application of her talent was business. In a quarter of a century, Eugenia Maximilianovna managed to turn Ramon into a prosperous corner of Russia.
From the former owner of the estate I.I. Tulinova got her a sugar factory, which she restored, expanded, transferred production to steam engines. In 1891 opened a new refinery plant, in 1901 built the railway line “Ramon – st. Grafskaya. The factory began producing 205 centners of sugar per day. The plant survived the revolution, worked during Soviet times and stopped only in 2000. Now, unfortunately, the factory is red brick ruins and a stalker zone.
Favorite brainchild of Eugenia of Oldenburg – Steam factory of sweets and chocolate. It was producing up to 400 items of sweets. Ramon chocolate was highly valued in Europe, where the enterprising princess began to deliver products. Boxes and candy wrappers were a real piece of art.
However, during the First Russian Revolution, the insurgent workers set fire to the factory and the finished goods warehouses, and melted sweets flowed into the river. Eugenia of Oldenburg went bankrupt and since 1908 she has never appeared in Ramon. In 1917, already broken by paralysis, she left Russia forever, leaving first for France and then for Canada. Eugenia Maximilianovna died in 1925
Her competitors bought the equipment, transported it to Voronezh and began to produce products in the wrappers of her famous brand. Voronezh Confectionery Factory still exists today, being one of the largest in Russia.
Princess of Oldenburg was able to engage every little thing that could make a profit. And not only for profit she worked.
- After processing for sugar, beet pulp was allowed to feed livestock, creating a livestock complex of 1.5 thousand heads.
- The orchards planted on the estate gave raw materials for candy fillings.
- She organized the production of luxurious tapestries of camel wool. The products were bought by the nobles for huge money and gave food to needlewomen, widows who were raising children alone.
- For the employees of their enterprises, the princess built a free-of-charge dormitory, a canteen; for all residents of Ramoni – a school and a hospital.
4. Ghosts in the Castle
All successful people always earn a tail of evil fictions and rumors, spread by envious. The Oldenburg family was no exception.
Rumors about the basement of the castle
The basement floor with a labyrinth of service rooms and aisles became a source of scary legends.
In part, this was due to the hobbies of Peter Alexandrovich, the son of Princess Eugenia. He equipped a tiny octahedral room with beautiful vaults in the basement with mirrors and was completely engaged in spiritualism there. The son of Oldenburg family summoned the spirits of the dead, which was popular among the educated public of the XIX century. Rumors about these studies gave food for legends about the Black Healer and the Black Sorcerer.
People attributed strange shouts and howls from the basement to victims of witchcraft experiments or reprisals of the Princess who allegedly fed wild animals with the bodies of unruly servants. In fact, in the basement behind the bars, bear cubs and young animals of predators killed during the hunt were hibernating. After hibernation, the babies were released to the Menagerie, hunting estate, and then – to the will.
The ghosts in the castle are “tied” to real historical events.
“White girl” is a ghost who would visit the princess Eugenia herself after the sudden death of a young maid. A girl, nicely clad, was sent to meet the distinguished guests. While waiting for them, she got cold in the wind and got sick. She died with the words: “Why did you do it to me…” and she did not forgive her employer. Since then, the ghost began to disturb the conscience of Eugenia of Oldenburg who was too strict to the servants.
“Lady in a black veil” is a legend about the relationship of the Princess with the estate manager. The ghost of the mistress of the palace – a lady in a veil – appearing in the house, kissed the manager on the lips – and he got seriously ill. His son Sergey, trying to save his father, took off the veil from the ghost, and the witch disappeared from the house. At this moment, a real princess drove up to the gates of the castle. After hearing the story of the boy, she said only: “You, Serge, have a great future.” With the money of Eugenia of Oldenburg, Sergey Mosin was educated and became a famous designer of guns (you may have heard of the famous Mosin rifle). However, the Manager betrayed the princess later: the researchers believe that the burning of candy warehouses in the fateful year of 1906 was impossible without his help.
“The legend of the Sorcerer” is the evidence that the princess suffered from attacks of a serious disease. The local medicine man helped her get rid of these. As a reward, he was hoping for the love of a noble patient, but instead received death at the stake. Dying, he cursed the castle and its inhabitants. And the Oldenburg family left the palace in 1908.
The Lady in Veil still wanders through the basements where the son of Princess of Oldenburg was once summoned the dead spirits. Her silhouette follows the contours of a collapsed plaster on the wall in the basement. Psychics all keep saying about the anomalous zone and the negative energy of the castle, and restoration workers are afraid to spend a night there. The appearance of the castle pleases the eye, but inside it is still cold and desolated.
5. Castle during the Soviet era: restoration problems
For 70 years of Soviet power, the Ramon castle of the Princess of Oldenburg was actively exploited. It housed:
- military barracks;
- training rooms;
- administration of a sugar factory;
- pioneer circles;
- school of music.
They say that during the war years, the German pilots were ordered not to bomb the castle because it belonged to the descendants of the highest German aristocracy. However, the building did not have a permanent owner and has not been repaired for about 100 years. Restorations in it began 40 years ago, and then the unusual architecture and strange power of the palace were discovered.
Since 2006, it is considered an important tourist object. They started to restore the palace. The Upper Park and the Svitsky house located to the right of the entrance gate are the results of these efforts.
Here are some interiors of the Svitsky house:
Voronezh authorities tried to attract investors from abroad who were related to the Oldenburg family for participation in the restoration.
- In 2007, Alexander II’s great-great-grandson, English Prince Michael of Kent, offered to buy out and repair the palace.
- In 2009, Bibian Dorner, the Duchess of Oldenburg from Germany, offered to finance the restoration of the palace, but under the same conditions that the object would become her property.
These proposals had to be rejected. The palace complex is a part of Russian history, so it will be restored at the expense of Russian investors.
6. How to get there. Excursions in the Castle of Oldenburg Family
The location of the castle on the map is shown below (coordinates 51.908098, 39.340491):
The map of the palace, Svitsky house, Upper Park and Lower Park (click to enlarge):
Work hours of the Palace Complex of Oldenburgs in Ramon can be found at the official website of the institution.
- Address of the Oldenburg Palace Complex: ul. Mosina, 21, Ramon, Voronezh region
- Phones: +7 (47340) 2-22-52, +7 (900) 301-49-74
The Palace works by this schedule:
- Monday-Tuesday – days off
- Wednesday – 10:00-18:00
- Thursday – 10:00-20:00
- Friday, Saturday, Sunday – 10:00-18:00.
Excursions info is given in the table.
|Name of the tour||Place||Price adult/child|
|Romanovs – Oldenburg’s: Returning in a century||Palace||1-4 pers. 250 rub. Groups 150/60 rub. Audioguide 300 rub. Self 100/50 rub.|
|Romanovs – Oldenburg’s: History of relations||Svitsky house||Groups only: 400/200 rub.|
|Territory for centuries||Upper Park||80 rub./person|
|Taking pictures||50 rub.|
Excursions are done as soon as customers’ groups fill up. During the high season (weekends, holidays) there is shortage of the guides, so it’s suggested you sign up in advance. The Castle in Ramon is a mandatory object of the tours in the Voronezh region and the Black Soil region.
Besides local excursions, you can order an excursion starting from Voronezh. If you are traveling south by car from Moscow or St. Petersburg (or back), you can just stop by on the way, as the castle is only 9 km from the M4 highway.
Note that the palace complex is not only a museum object. Exhibitions, festivals, competitions are held here. Regular events include:
- Day of Monuments and Historic Sites – April 18;
- Easter quests for children – May;
- Platonov Arts Festival – June;
- Usadba Jazz Festival – July (see video below);
- Festival “Ramenye-opera” – August;
- Festival “Night of the Arts” – November.
The Castle of Oldenburg in Ramon attracts a constantly increasing interest of tourists. If you have a chance to get there, be sure to use it! And if you have already visited this place, tell us in the comments below what exactly impressed you the most – the story? The architecture? the parks? the Nature?
The article used photos and panoramas from sites oldenburgpalace.ru, maps.google.com, 2gis.ru