Sunday, October 10, 2010

A late afternoon fall stroll in Luisenpark, Mannheim

This post is dedicated to Tina at In the Garden, who visited Luisenpark during her sojourn in Germany.

On a beautiful fall afternoon last week I visited Luisenpark, right near where we live in Mannheim. Both Luisenpark and its sister park, Herzogenriedpark, were created in their modern form on the occasion of the German National Garden Exhibition when it was held in Mannheim in 1975. The National Garden Exhibition (Bundesgartenschau) has been held every two years since 1951 in a different city.

The hosting cities usually go all out, investing a lot of money not only in the infrastructure of the exhibition itself, but also in park and gardening infrastructure for their citizens. The exhibition draws millions of visitors - over 8 million people visited during the 5-month duration of the Mannheim exhibition.

As it turns out, I've personally benefited from the infrastructure created in Mannheim for the exhibit, since the section of the garden colony where my allotment is was appropriated by the city on this occasion, leveled, divided into plots, and turned over to the gardening association. This happened in other parts of the city, as well.

The lasting legacy of the exhibition is above all the two large urban parks, especially Luisenpark. When I first learned about the parks I was somewhat taken aback that there is an admission fee, but I've come to greatly appreciate this. It helps generate adequate funding for upkeep and you get plenty for the price (including clean restrooms). There are also no dogs allowed in the fully fenced-in park, which is great when you have small children. It's a very safe space. My annual pass costs me 28 Euros.

When you enter the park from our end, the first sight you see is the "lagoon" (you are welcome to click to enlarge any photo).
It's part of the Luisenpark ritual to take the boat ride on the lagoon. The boats are propelled by underground cable and are completely silent. Here is my boat approaching as if by magic.
The boat glides by many sights, including these rushes, and flamingos on the bird sanctuary island.
The fall colors were spectacular.
But the real reason to take the ride, especially in the fall, are the giant carp that approach every boat, hoping for food. These creatures used to scare the wits out of my children when they were small, and they would dare each other to stick their fingers down their gullets.

When you get to the other end of the lagoon and disembark, the first thing you see are stork nests and the "stork TV", affording a close-up view of one of the nests. These storks spend the entire year in Mannheim, and are sometimes a bother to picnickers in the park. I've seen one snatch a bratwurst right off the table. By the way, if you want to watch stork TV, here's a link to the web-cam. Give it a try!
Proceeding on foot you pass by the main entrance to the park, which always features a large floral design using flowers appropriate for the season.
Mannheim has an important archeological and ethnological museum, the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum, which is currently featuring a large exhibition on the Staufer emperors, including Frederick Barbarossa. In honor of this, Luisenpark has created a floral portrait of Frederick and his red beard. I couldn't get a good photo of it in its entirety, so am taking the aerial photo below from the Luisenpark website.
This park truly has something for everyone. One of my favorite places is the medicinal herb garden. The park offers regular tours of the herbs conducted by a local pharmacist whose hobby is researching traditional European herbal medicine.
Each section is dedicated to a different type of illness. Here's the section on colds and coughs.
The park includes many aviaries, an indoor butterfly garden, a cactus house, a fernery, an orangery, an aquarium, a reptile house, an outdoor theater, mini golf, an animal farm, as well as cafes, restaurants, and a wine tavern. Too much for a single blog post! To me, one of the greatest features of the park are the large meadows and playgrounds.
It has a swing for wheelchairs,
and swings for adults.
One of the newest, most spectacular features is the original Chinese tea house. This was built about 10 years ago in cooperation with Mannheim's partner city in China. Each and every stone and brick was imported from China, and Chinese builders were brought over and put up for months on the edge of the park while constructing it. It was closed for the evening when I walked by, but the interior is also very beautiful, and they serve traditional Chinese tea and small snacks.
There are sculptures everywhere, many of them donated. My favorite is the nymph washing her hair, in the midst of a labyrinth of hedges.
The park is a great place for lovers,
 for people looking for peace and solitude, for example in the "sound oasis" with its subdued classical music,
for young people having a barbecue with friends (don't be shocked by the beer bottles on those kids' tables - it's legal here at 16),
for chess players,
and for lovers of majestic trees and woodland scenes right in the middle of the city.

For a bird's eye view you can also take the elevator up to the top of the television tower on the edge of the park, right on the banks of the Neckar River, and sit in the revolving restaurant. If you enlarge the photo below, you can just see the tower in the background. It's a favorite place to take visitors, since on a clear day you can see all the way to Heidelberg on one side, to the Palatinate forests on the other, and below you the industrial panorama of Mannheim and Ludwigshafen, including the huge harbor where the Neckar flows into the Rhine.
Considering the size of Mannheim (about 300,000 inhabitants), I think this park can hold its own compared to the parks of Europe's and North America's great cities.


  1. It has been about 15+ years since I've been there but your post sure brings back memories. Especially of the chess set, the butterfly house and aviaries and of course the playgrounds. When I went it costed me about $1 per person and was such a deal! I miss Germany so much but am so honored to have lived there as long as I did. I had totally forgotten about the lagoon. Geez, it is truly amazing how much a brain can forget. Thanks so much for posting this lovely visit you had. Mannheim truly has a gem here and you captured it beautifully.

  2. Thank you for a great post! I remember visiting the Luisenpark many years ago as a little kid, before they built the Chinese tea house. Hopefully I will be able to visit again soon on one of my future visits to family and friends.

  3. Dear Barbara, Your city park can indeed hold its own amongst other great parks of Europe. It is such a wonderful landscape with so much of interest for gardeners or those just wanting to enjoy some quiet time outdoors. It is also good that there were spin-offs such as your allotment space, since that does build more of a sense of community.

  4. What a lovely stroll. Honestly, I'd rather see storks in the park, than our seagulls! I'm not sure about the carp though...they look awfully hungry! ;)

  5. Liebe Barbara, das macht richtig Lust, den schönen Park bald wieder einmal zu besuchen. Herzliche Grüße von Luzia.

  6. Dear Barbara, What a beautiful park! I love the herb garden, and how wonderful to have a swing for wheelchairs. You live in a lovely part of the world. Pam x

  7. I love the stork's nest and Stork! I have loved all the stork's nests around europe! I spent a month in Portugal and Spain with my mom years ago and was kind of obsessed with watching them!
    And, yes, a wheelchair swing! Brilliant! Why aren't there more of these everywhere. Everyone needs a good swing session now and again. =)

  8. This was one of our favorite places to visit when we lived in Mannheim. We bought ourselves the yearly pass and it more than paid for itself! My son was very little when we lived there, and he spent his first 3 years going to this park. I have such wonderful memories of it! Your pictures bring them all back. (My fave statute was also of the girl washing her hubby said it reminded him of me and my super-long hair!) I hope to one day visit Germany again, it is a wonderful place!