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Friday, July 25, 2008

Germany, The beginning...

For those of you who are new here, my mom and I just returned from a wonderful two week tour of central and northern Germany (where we have many relatives).

Our first two days were spent in the charming town of Heidelberg. Our intention was to spend two days on our own as our bodies acclimated to the time, weather and food changes. It was a good idea and worked perfectly for us.

This first shot was taken from the castle, overlooking the town and the Neckar River. Our hotel was ideally placed at the left end of the historic pedestrian-only bridge in the center of the photo.
Although we knew there was a botanical garden in Heidelberg, we never made it over to that area but no worries, there was plenty of flowers for us to see. It seemed like everywhere we turned there were balconies just dripping with wonderful annuals.

In most cases the plants were ones that would not survive the summer heat and sporadic droughts here in New York so I imagine it would be the same for most of the USA. The ivy Geraniums in this photo were the number one, most popular plant we saw in all the German cities we visited.

It was hard to decide what to photograph. The storybook-like historic buildings built into the hillsides or the plant material that so gleefully took hold in every possible nook and cranny.

Corydalis lutea was like a weed, it filled the surface of so many stone facades and still had quite a bit of bloom in July.

Walking out of the tourist areas, where the locals lived, we came across balcony after balcony just loaded with blooms. Wisteria was fairly frequent, trained to grow up the sides of the buildings.

Also popular were these Hibiscus syriacus shrubs which were the most amazing shade of lavender blue. Unfortunately I took many shots but my camera just couldn't capture the true depth of color.

It's funny, I see these shrubs all over my neighborhood and yet I always had the feeling from gardeners that they were kind of "junky". Now of course I want one for my garden and I'll have to start shopping around for the right color.

The hotel we stayed at was a total surprise. As we rolled our heavy suitcases along the cobblestone streets, we were exhausted and our first impression when we saw the entrance was "uh oh". It turns out that our impression was totally wrong, the place was total perfection in our experience.

Inside the simple doorway was a cozy courtyard just filled with gemutlichkeit (German for comfort, warmth, ambiance and so on). The owners of this hotel bent over backwards to make sure we were comfortable, even lending us umbrella's as the skies darkened.

The tables in the hotel were all filled with simple arrangements of fruit. We learned quickly that the German people love their fruit and I must say that we ate an abundance of locally grown, organic, freshly picked fruit in every part of Germany that we visited.

Last stop in Heidelberg was the train station, this was just a corner of the bicycle parking lot. Watching all the pedestrians and cyclists, made me wish for a similar lifestyle here on Long Island.

Stay tuned, next stop on our tour is up north in the Hamburg vicinity.


Beth said...

The balcony flowers are gorgeous. Do they focus more on balcony flowers because of lack of garden space?
Thanks for sharing photos of Heidelberg. That is a special city for our family as my husband's mother was from there and his brother was born in Heidelberg too.

Melanie said...

Hi Beth, yes, I do believe there is more of a focus on balcony flowers because of lack of garden space.

My opinion of Germany (and other parts of Europe) is that the towns were built long before modern transportation and so people lived close together. In most cases, the most spectacular balcony displays were in locations that had no "garden". That's not to say that the home owners didn't also have a plot at another location where they grow what ever they desire.

Another thought that came to me is that container plants should be easier to grow when average temperatures are lower than our high temps and while the air didn't feel humid, there were often showers and rainfalls. Ideal conditions for container plants. Here where I live it would take an incredible amount of work to keep containers looking so spectacular.

Niels Plougmann said...

Yes we do like our bikes here in Northern Europe! Almost everybody has one. It is also interesting to see how many really know how to make good use of their balconies, when they do not have gardens. I hope you enjoy your vacation and see some nice gardens - everything in Europe is sooo expensive, due to the low dollar exchange rate. This Is why we go shopping in US!

Bek said...

I think container plants are not only for people living in apartments but also for those who have gardens over there. Many single family homes have two floors and therefore also a balcony. It just lends to be decorated by beautiful bold annuals.
I wish we would have bike paths here in Virginia as well. With our traffic it's just too dangerous to share the road with cars. We spent a couple days in Delaware last week and they had them all over the place there. Really nice.
I am looking forward to see more of your vacation.

Ewa said...

Dear Melanie,
I just have red your post and I like dit a lot. I haven't been in germany since some time, so most surprising for me was the amount of bicycles at the station. I have never seen such amount there. I see it as the result of few things: global warming, more healthy and gasoline prices. You have been there - which one you think coused such change in habits?
Greetings from Poland,

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

Hi Melanie, If you EVER come back to blogging, I will be here waiting to read your lovely posts! I like this one, because my daughter was born while lived in Heidelberg. I was there for 3 yrs with my husband while he served with the US Army. A truly lovely is Germany as a whole...I loved it over there:)

Hillside Garden said...

Hi, I found your posts about German gardens, wonderful to read!
And I must laugh about Tante Inge and Onkel Heinz, realy German names!

Sigrun from Germany