A couple of years ago, I wrote about visiting Mannheim and seeing the Art Nouveau-style Friedrichsplatz park and water tower and the very large palace (second only to Versailles). This week I had the opportunity to go back in glorious spring weather, and as the palace museum was closed (again!), I wandered off to spend a few hours in the Luisenpark, a city park which takes up a portion of land between the centre of town and the river Neckar, as far as I can make out, about 40 ha – pretty big! Although the park was first landscaped from 1886, the television tower in the background has only been there since 1975 – there’s a restaurant that rotates up at the top. The park began at only about 10 ha and was added to over the years, finally incorporating a (horse) racetrack where there is now large area of playing fields and playgrounds, dotted with trees for shade: on this bright, warm spring day there were groups of children and special needs adults settled in for a picnic lunch under the biggest ones and it was a bright, noisy and happy-sounding area!
The trees are all lovely – sunlight does help! – and I was surprised to see fruit trees in blossom, as they aren’t anywhere near being out a couple of hours further south where we live. It’s like pretty spring snow… The other thing I smiled about was the number of storks in the park, searching for food (or with their beaks deep in buckets of feed!) and flying to and from large, messy nests, one of which was on the top of a roomy voliere that also contained, among other birds, a stork – perhaps it had been injured? (The picture isn’t very good but that’s real life for you!) I thought I’d caught them with their heads back, rattling, but I seem to have been a millisecond too late… This appears to be their greeting whenever one gets back to the nest. We have quite a lot of storks here just south of Lake Constance and a friend was surprised when I wasn’t astounded when she took me to see a large colony of storks on the River Aare near Solothurn – it just happens that we both live near storks, though they aren’t common elsewhere, really. These storks in Mannheim, I discovered, are actually the park mascots and since a couple first settled in 1985 the colony has grown to around 30 couples – definitely a success story! (You may know that many storks die each year while migrating south to Spain and North Africa, as they get caught in electrical wiring, which is very sad.)
Although I was expecting to see the various parrots, ducks and other birds from signposts on the paths, these weren’t at all what I thought I would see – These are Humboldt penguins from South America / Chile and Peru and were delightful to watch as they dived, swam and chased each other through their long water track. Quite small, they are very nimble indeed and the water is so clear you could easily see them “flying” underwater and then they popped their little pink faces up to see what was going on. When they charge through the water (very fast!) they occasionally give a little jump off the water surface, which made me laugh, they are proper little clowns! I am fascinated by the shimmering shiny surface of their feathered coats that they preen, and by their comical clumsiness on land and spent quite a while watching this group of about a dozen birds in total.
I’m not sure where the black-necked swans are from but they certainly looked very pretty under the blossoming tree, almost like Japanese art! And I was extremely taken with these unusual… geese, I think, looking at the shape of their beaks! I don’t know, they might be large ducks? When they sat down in the grass they made a very satisfying, smooth dough shape! However, I have forgotten what their label was ;o It’s hard to believe that their chests and sides are feathers, so smooth and even. And all that dramatic eye make-up with pink stockings.Here are another two rather comical birds – it still seems weird that bird’s “knees” go the wrong way, though of course I know they are really on their “heels”, but in this constellation it does look rather funny! I think they are marabu; the one at the back had red-brown eyes and the other had very bright yellow eyes – which opened wide as the whole birds extended when some sound caught their attention, except they didn’t stand up… Otherwise they sat there stoically ignoring the passing pedestrians (you aren’t allowed to feed the birds fortunately, or they may well have become quite annoying!).
One of my favourite parts of the park was a “mountain stream” garden, which looked to me more like a Japanese garden (but what do I know?!), where under the trees there were patches of violets whose delicate scent wafted out if you bothered to stop and inhale it. It really was just a whisper but probably my favourite smell. So I lingered…
Actually, now I look at this photo, I see it’s perennial forget-me-nots, of which there were also many. Drat, I thought I’d snapped the violets!
It’s still very early for anything else to be blooming, a few scilla were out and a couple of patches of daffodils – this particular one perfectly positioned under the shadow of a tree, making a perfect “blooming shadow” picture! I had hoped to sit quietly over a nice cup of Chinese tea in the enormous tea house, but it only opens in the afternoons, so I missed out. The gardens around it are tranquil and pretty, though, and in the later spring they will be genuinely fantastic – there are hundreds of tree paeonies, some early ones already coming into leaf and bud, set into garden beds between imposing rocks and under overhanging branches. I’m sure it will be breathtaking! A fairly large lake runs through most of the park, which is lovely for all the different ducks that live freely, but then I rounded a corner of the rhododendron walk to see this My youngest daughter has always loved flamingoes, so how could I not photograph these beauties for her?! There were also some dwarf flamingoes nearby, smaller, more compact and a bit deeper in colouring. I think they were all enjoying a spring snooze.
Which is pretty much all I wanted by the time I had walked around the park for several hours! I certainly can’t complain about the hotel facilities, as despite being in the middle of a (it has to be said!) rather grubby part of town, they have made the effort to have a bright and sunny spring garden in the middle of it all… That’s the Delta Park Hotel garden in Mannheim, where we had a generously sized room! The conservatory/breakfast/dining room is newly renovated, presumably the garden, too.