Thursday, April 21, 2005

Herrenhäuser Royal Gardens

Yesterday, on a gloriously cool (50°F), sunny day here in Hannover, I did my Royal Gardens trek. I purposely waited till now, wanting to catch the spring flowers in their peak. Because I went on a weekday, there were relatively few tourists around. Sometimes I felt I had the entire complex to myself.

The Herrenhäuser Royal Gardens were built in 1666 by Duke Johann Friedrich of Calenberg but are owed mainly to Sophie, princess-elect of Hannover, who preserved and developed them. They are one of the city's most popular attractions, with its garden festivals, concerts, fireworks and theatre performances during the summer months. They are considered the only surviving intact Baroque gardens in Europe and are maintained by over 200 gardeners who work daily to keep the plants in shape (many of whom I saw!).

Over the centuries, three gardens have developed as follows:
1. GREAT GARDEN (Grosser Garten)
Very little has changed in the garden since the days of the Electors and later Kings of Hannover (who were also the Kings of Great Britain), escaping the fate of most baroque gardens which were converted into landscape gardens. The flowers, statues, fountains, and neatly-cut hedges invite visitors to stroll, linger and enjoy it all, night or day. The world-famous Niki de Saint Phalle has converted the garden's old historic Grotto into her unique work of art for the 21st century.

2. BOTANICAL GARDEN (Berggarten)
In contrast to the Great Garden, the botanical garden emphasizes the individual beauty of each plant. There are over 3,000 species of succulents alone and more than 3,900 varieties of orchids. The Rainforest House has 6,000 different jungle plants, a waterfall, exotic birds and butterflies.

3. GEORGE GARDEN (Georgengarten)
This is a landscape garden created in its present form 150 years ago out of former estates of the court nobility. There are open spaces, areas of water, and meadows, carefully shaped to be pleasing to the eye. This is where the Leibniz Temple and Wilhelm-Busch Museum (Caricature and Critical Graphic Arts) are. And this is where I felt I was in Heaven! I love the big trees, the quaint bridges and the narrow lanes.

On the far southernmost edge of the George Garden, across the Herrenhäusen Avenue, is Hannover University, whose main building faces the Garden. That's where I exited my trek, enlivened in a different way by the "ethos" of student life. Like Mom, I feel like the "professional student," wanting to learn about everything I see.

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