It is a small park, with old trees and a playground. The monument in its centre looks simple, with chipped stones and solid geometrical forms. Only when you get closer and really look at it can you see that there are names on the stones – hundreds of names. Those are the names of 531 doctors and nurses, all of them Russian medical workers who died in the 1877-8 Russo-Turkish War which liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule.
The history lesson in the Doctors’ Garden does not end with the monument. In the northeast corner there is a lapidarium with fragments of sculptures and buildings, some of them from Serdica, the Roman predecessor of modern-day Sofia. Others are mediaeval and some are Ottoman. The busts, carved bits of columns and stone tombs look as though the Archaeological Museum has mislaid a few valuable pieces. But here they are a part of the landscape
The design for the garden in 1889 was produced by the then Regional Gardener Daniel Neff, a Swiss. He attempted to lay out a park in the spirit of English and Chinese landscaping. It was divided into small symmetrical areas, whose alleys converged on the monument. This plan has not changed significantly since then.
The Doctors’ Garden may be small, but the locals love it. You can see this at the south entrance where there is a sign erected by the “Friends of Doctors’ Garden” committee, founded in 2004. They were the main force behind the restoration of the garden and the monument in 2003-2004.