Konstanz was a beautiful place to stay, but the travel bug rarely keeps me at the same place for too long. After touring the city more than once and intensively looking for more and more delicious treats, I was still left with enough time for trying something new. Like visiting one of the islands around the city. Once I’d found out about the live garden from Island Mainau, I took the first bus from the train station and in less than 30 minutes I was there. One can chose to enter the island either by foot, passing the bridge with a view over the lake, either by the special bus. Finally lucky with the weather in Germany, we decided for walking, although given so many natural temptations, it will be a bit difficult to stop your children for getting the real taste of the life in the nature.
Up in the sky, an UFO-esque Zeppelin was watching discretely our steps. The hot weather did not discourage tourists from all over the world and ages to join the crowds heading to the island. The entrance ticket, both for the park and the island is 28 Euro/person, but special family prices and discounts are also available. Children under 12 enjoy free entrance.
The joyful colours of the island charmed us from the very beginning of our excursion. Where the nature was silent or simply discrete, the human hands created matched clothes for the trees, trying to be as spontaneous and diverse in terms of the choice and combination of colours.
Regardless of the high ability of human hands, nothing compares with the spectacular free work of the nature. The good weather from the South of Germany where the island is located allows a seasonal change of the flowers. For our time slot, predominant were the field natural flowers, with a lot of interesting roses and some exotic flowers brought from abroad. Many of the flowers were used in the old times for medicinal purposes, as the art of homoeopathy, a German creation, developed in this part of the country too.
Huge works of wooden art are inserted into the landscape, inspiring for meditation and long summer readings, preferably somewhere on the shore with a view over the lake.
While the parents are ,lost in their dreams or thinking about philosophy, the children can enjoy watching the ride of a miniature train running fast near a Lilliputian Alpin landscape. Enjoyable by adults too.
Nearby, at the mini-farm, one can experience the real animal life, by feeding or by playing with the little ones. I had the initiative to get some food for the goats, but apparently did not inspire too much respect, as one of the ladies jumped on two feet on me and screamed a bit louder for my city ears. Maybe one day will spent some serious life at a farm and will have some real experiences to write about.
The collection of flowers is so beautiful, that although wanted to carefully notice the exotic Latin names I gave up the scientific approach and focused instead of the first hand experience of the smells and colours.
When it feels too hot, all you have to do is to get closer to the lake and feel the breeze. The little boats did take a discretion distance from the shore, thus the privacy is not a matter of concern.
The human hands were present only when needed and taking into account the highest environmental concerns. Nowadays, the island can be considered as an example of good practices in this domain, and an exhibition dedicated to various green policies applied was aimed to increase the public awareness.
The island belongs to Lennart Bernadotte Foundation, which is in charge with the permanent arrangement of the gardens.
On the island, there are around 30,000 rose bushes and almost 20,000 dahlias. While the visitors were walking carefree on the alleys, the gardeners were dedicated to keep the maintenance of the garden.
Although will be curious to pay a visit here on another season of the year, I bet that the full summer is one of the best moment to visit, with so many colourful flowers in mature bloom, under the blue sky and the long sunny days.
There is nothing stylish in arranging the alleys, as the flowers grew up in a natural environment, looking wild in the eyes of the outsider, but probably following a certain mathematical distribution of beauty. Some of the flowers and plants bear curious names, such as Black Hockrose, Shuffle the deck or Bourbon hybride Cypress, each name being able to tell its own mystery story.
We went up on the stairs leading to the little hills, almost mesmerized by the combination of deep distances, green grass with patches of colours leading straight into the lake. Hard to resist the temptation of recording a short video of the ambiance.
Contrary to an understandable misconception, the passion flower is very blue – without any single trace of red.
The manicured alleys displayed so many beautiful roses that I was about to dream that I am in a kind of Alice in Wonderland setting up. However, the reality of the varieties of roses was so diverse that it was no need to paint them in various colours.
From the top of the terrace, the coming and going of people seemed to never end, but it is enough place for everyone.
The greenhouse was even more crowded, with people admiring the spectacular trees, or just resting outside in the hot air for a coffee or some delicious treats.
Inside the castle, I visited an exhibition dedicated to – what else but- roses, by Josh Westrich, after looking at various products made on the island on sale as souvenirs.
The Castle used to belong to the Teutonic Order, but the secularization ended up this ownership. Bought by Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden, in the 18th century, it went through several stylistic transformations, in the Baroque style typical for this part of Germany.
The Duke brought to the island various exotic fruits and trees, many of them still there, especially the various sorts of citruses.
Equally spectacular is also the bamboo forest brought from the North of China. An interesting fact is that the bamboo grows up fantastically fast, with a rate of 20-25 cm. the day.
Another interesting element of the local collection: sequels of petrified wood from Arizona, my first time close encounter with this natural curiosity.
Overwhelmed by so many new things in only a matter of hours – our stay on the island lasted around 5 hours, but I bet you can easily spend one full day there – we made a tasty stop at the open restaurant Schwedenschenke for a Palmencocktail: a cold mixture of banana, lemon, orange juice, coconut syrup. Very sweet, but with many vitamins and fresh flavours for keeping us energized for the rest of the trip. The restaurant serves the famous Swedish Kottbullar, and many other fish-based meals, but we were too much in a hurry for a longer foodie experience.
After looking on one of the big maps hanging up on the alleys, we realized that we missed some highlights so returned to the park exploring the area near the 16th century Swedish tower.
Around the tower, the old vineyard part of the local wine trail were brought to life in the late 1990s, keeping alive a tradition of more than 6 centuries that started with the Teutonic Knights. the vineyard is nowadays part of the restoration and maintenance plan of the original layout of the park, as designed by the Grand Duke of Baden from 1853 on.
One of the most beautiful place to visit is the Butterflies house, when you can walk with colourful butterflies around you. Since visiting a butterflies farm in the North of Thailand a couple of years ago I did not have such an experience of fragility and beauty at one blink of wings away.
The butterflies were very friendly, getting closer to the humans, and even resting on the fingers, despite the noise and the high excitement of the visitors. But what makes the butterflies happier and friendlier are some little pieces of banana or apple on a plate. This is how most of them get closer to humans and allowed to be photographed and even touched.
In the little pound, the turtles were less dynamic and not easy to move out of their comfort zone at any sweet price.
On the map and the arrows guiding the visitors to the most interesting spots, the peacocks appeared often, and more than once we were in one of those areas. After not being able to spot any trace of the colourful birds, except some huge scale flower-made ones, we asked one of the gardeners where we can find them. Unfortunately, the answer was the last ones were eaten by the foxes living on the island.
With only one less accomplishment, and some beautiful hours spent in the paradise of flowers, we paid a last visit to the local shop, selling products made on the island, such as typical sorts of bread, liqueurs and many wines from the local production.
Konstanz was calling us back, for more travel adventures, this time in Liechtenstein and Switzerland, but the perfumes and images of the island of flowers are still powerful enough to call me back. One day, I promise.
For more insights and images from Island Mainau, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/island-mainau/