Old beauty and nobility, Charleston, U.S.A

Fortunately, there are some cities in the world that preserve not only their old beauty and nobility, but also their traditional life-style. Charleston in South Carolina is a vivid example. I really wanted to go there, to walk in the narrow streets where gardens of tropical plants surround beautiful houses. I wanted to see how the South was before the Civil war between the Northerners and Southerners. Because the city had not been destroyed. Little has changed since then. The fires reached just outside the first houses.

The history of Charleston is not very different from other cities of the colonial South, although it survived earthquakes, hurricanes, yellow fever and repeated fires. The difference is that, for 300 years as the cultural capital of the South, it remains true to its traditions, the architecture of its mansions and gardens, cuisine, and the way of speaking and entertainment of its residents.

Russell Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A.

Russell Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A.

Charleston is known as being the most hospitable city in the South. To entertain a foreigner or to be entertained is a very dear occupation of its inhabitants. For several years, the week of the races at the race track was the most important annual event. The shops would close and a few people would make small fortunes betting on thoroughbred horses. In the diaries, page after page was written on the elegant hostesses, the balls, the delicious local cuisine, the cellars filled with costly wines, Madeira being the favourite.

No American city has such a tradition in gardening. Because of the great variety of local flora, botanists of the 17th and 18th centuries came here to study and to introduce exotic plants from Europe. The plantations of Middleton Place, Magnolia and Cypress Gardens attract millions of visitors from around the world. The famous Avenue of the Oaks where part of the film “Gone with the Wind” was filmed can be viewed at Boone Hall. The Boone family no longer exists. The lady in the crinolines who greeted us and wandered with ease in the space of this grandiose villa, really was a perfect hostess. Time changes, traditions remain.

Magnolia Plantation Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A.      Photograph by Dave Allen

Magnolia Plantation Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A.

Photograph by Dave Allen

Barbara Athanassiadis