Since various friends of mine in Mannheim have or had allotment gardens, I was aware of some of the colonies, and knew that some of them were not really what I wanted. For one thing, they are sometimes located in somewhat undesirable areas such as along railroads, near the autobahn or the airport, etc. And I knew I wanted silence if possible. Also, it was to be as close as possible to where I live, and ideally accessible on foot, by bicycle, and by public transportation. So I narrowed my search down to two colonies in the South of Mannheim, one in Mannheim-Mallau, and one in Mannheim-Neckarau near Stollenwörthweiher (see picture below, that's the Rhine River in the upper left).
My 16-yr-old daughter agreed to accompany me (amazingly enough), so off we went. The first colony, in Mallau, turned out to be in the middle of a very industrialized area, full of huge electronic and consumer supermarkets and building supply places, and right next to a quite lovely large cemetery.
We looked at two available gardens, and I wasn't too impressed. They were pretty run down, and the surrounding industrial area was visible from almost everywhere. Margo told me that some of her school friends had gardens in the colony in Stollenwörthweiher, and that it was much much nicer there, so we drove right over and walked around, and it was indeed in a beautiful location with very nicely landscaped public areas.
So we went over a couple days later during office hours and applied. The association officers gave us a map showing 12 available gardens out of over 900 (!) gardens in the colony. I later found out that this was the second largest garden colony in all of Germany, second only to one of the original colonies in Leipzig. And what I really liked about it was the location: right next to one of Mannheim's most beautiful parks and the protected natural habitat Reisinsel.
Also, it was right on the Rhine dike. On the other side of the dike is the traditional Mannheim Rhine River beach, no longer used much for swimming, but still visited by many sunbathers and strollers, with snack bars and beer garden.
To make a long story short: we picked out one of the gardens, one that was right on the Rhine dike, and the association then gave us the name of the current owners. We got in touch with them, and took over their garden. They had had it for over 35 years and had to give it up due to their age (the man was 86). It works like this: you pay the previous owners for everything "above ground", i.e. the buildings, the plants, the trees, the paths, etc. The price for these things is estimated by the garden association and is fixed. On top of that you can negotiate with the previous owners about taking over their garden tools, lawnmower, furnishings of garden house, etc. So this we did, and ended up gladly paying 5000 Euros to the previous owners. We had to sign a contract with the garden association on paying the (piddling) 150 Euros per year to cover lease, water, and association fee. And then it was ours! Here are a few pictures of what the garden looked like when we bought it (please click to enlarge):
More on my first more exact assessment of the garden, and what needed to be done in my next post.