It was on a warm sunny afternoon this same week 15 years ago that I experienced one of the most memorable moments of my life. In the Japanese Garden of Planten un Blomen I dangled my feet in the pond and exchanged alternately bashful and flirtatious looks with a tall blond med student I had become acquainted with in the previous weeks. It may have been the gorgeous weather, or the gorgeous man, but as I looked into his eyes, I felt really at home in Hamburg. Just weeks later we were at the park again, this time by the lake in the evening for ice cream, a look at the cutest fuzzy ducklings I’d ever seen, and a beautiful water-light-and-music show.
Perhaps it was these early dates with my now-husband that created my feelings about this beautiful inner-city park, but perhaps Planten un Blomen really is a special place. Located right in the middle of the north German metropolis, it stretches 47 hectares from Stephansplatz to the Reeperbahn. Its name seems quite obvious to us English-speakers, for Germans from outside of Hamburg it seems a bit odd – it comes from Plattdeutsch, the dialect spoken only in the north of Germany, and means just what it seems to: plants and flowers. Yet, it is much more than that: it is a lush green paradise in the city, a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the hard, loud streets.
Planten un Blomen was first planned and planted in the 1930s, and is still changing and growing today. At the moment, it comprises not only the meditative Japanese Garden, but also fancy rose gardens, a tropical plant house, an ice- or roller-skating rink, several open-air stages and at least two sizeable and well-equipped playgrounds as well as numerous cafés and ice-cream shops. You can take your lunch break here, a quiet stroll, or soak up the sun in one of the comfortable Adirondack chairs; you can spend hours at the playground trying out all the jungle-gyms, swings, sandboxes and water games; you can attend one of the fabulous late-evening shows of the water-organ played to the strains of classical music or the fun openair concerts on weekends.
Check out the park’s own website for more photographs, a map of the grounds and the events scheduled for this summer: www.plantenunblomen.hamburg.de - then stop by to feel a bit of the magic.
originally published in Currents Jun/Jul 2008