Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Weekend Wandering: An hour in Munich

Neues Rathaus aka the New Town Hall in Marienplatz, Munich
Neues Rathaus aka the New Town Hall in Marienplatz, Munich  

Is one hour enough to explore Munich? The answer is yes... and no.

Of course I would have liked more time to explore further, but an hour's certainly worth grabbing with both hands (and feet) when the opportunity arises.

View of the Bayerisches Nationaltheater on Max-Joseph-Platz
Our drop-off point, right by the huge architecture of the Bayerisches Nationaltheater on Max-Joseph-Platz  

Several factors helped make our time there worthwhile:
  • We were dropped off in the heart of the city, which is nicely compact to explore on foot
  • I was with someone who'd been there before, so no stopping to consult the map was needed
  • I had a vague idea of a couple of things I wanted to see nearby
  • I had 3 companions who were a huge help as we spotted more things of interest between us. Our conversation and delight at being there added to my experience of the city
We took a walk of around half a kilometre in a south westerly direction. Let's see what we found...

A walk around Munich city centre
A walk around the city centre

I like the feel of this city. It was bombed extensively during WWII, but unlike Birmingham where I grew up, the city's planners decided to keep to the previous layout for the rebuild. This decision also extended to the architecture of buildings like the Bayerisches Nationaltheater which was totally destroyed. Its later extension is also in keeping with the original design.

This approach gives a pleasing cohesion to the city centre. I also like the traditional style paintings and other ornamentation seen on many of the buildings, plus the plentiful bike storage areas. Like London, the centre of Munich is a low emissions zone, so the streets weren't choked with cars on the day we were there. There are underground train and tram systems to explore too.

Views of the New and Old Town Halls and the Marienplatz
Views of the New Town Hall and the Marienplatz. Top right is the Old Town Hall

The Gothic revival New Town Hall is a dramatic exception to the general architecture seen in the city, which I think still works. The main tower has a glockenspiel carillon (shown in the main picture above) which plays at 11am and 12pm (plus 5pm in summer). Luckily we arrived just in time to hear it chiming away.

In view of the cold, I was surprised to find the square's fountain was working, though there was also plenty of ice in evidence too.

Some of the goods on offer at Manufactum
Main picture: the deli section at Manufactum, which I've chosen to feature as German bread was sooooo good

There are plenty of shopping opportunities, and although I didn't plan to do that I did enjoy a brief look around Manufactum, an upmarket modern lifestyle store. I like this kind of shop as it gives a good idea of what's available and a country's general style. In the gardening section, the emphasis was on looking after our wildlife in winter, and I couldn't resist a photo of some hi-fi items for NAH.

Judging by some of my colleagues' shopping bags, Munich is good for Zara; bargain jumpers and warm winter hats; and quality kitchen knives. In contrast, I bought a kitsch magnet for my collection from a touristy stall which shows a snowy Marienplatz within a pretzel.

The Viktualienmarkt

One of my must-sees was the Viktualienmarkt. The site is a farmers market with around 100 stalls which dates back to the 1800s. They sold cheeses; fruit and vegetables; meat and game; sausages and cooked meats (including the famous Bavarian weisswurst aka white sausage); honey; plus decorative items made from dried flowers, seeds and woody materials.

Where appropriate stalls also sold wines and spirits to match their main produce. Many of them were protected by see-through plastic sheeting to protect their goods and customers/stallkeepers from the cold (around -14oC whilst we were there).  Note there's also a beer garden in the centre of the market, which sells locally brewed beer.

The indoor market

In nearby Blumenstrasse (aka Flower Street), the covered Schrannenhalle was warm and chic. This hall is a recent addition to the area, though the building was constructed from the century old materials (or more) reclaimed from the grain market that was on the site originally.

It had a marked Italian flavour and some innovative ways of displaying goods, one of which I may 'steal' for Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day. I also liked the way planters and black ironwork were used to screen the shopping area from the relaxed cafe.

Blutenrein flower shop

Imagine my delight when we chanced upon Blutenrein, an ultra-chic flower shop in the Viktualienmarkt. Both indoors and out were crammed with seasonal arrangements of flowers, plants and all kinds of gardeny trinkets, most of which I wanted to bring home with me. Having hand luggage only meant I had to restrict my choice to just one plant label (lavendel).

I particularly liked the tulip kokedama shown in the lower middle picture as I've not seen them used that way before. The shop's website is well worth a look, especially as you get to see the owner who served us, as well as all kinds of chic ideas and a better view of the shop's outside. I've since found out we were lucky to find the shop open as he'd only reopened the day before after his winter break.

View towards the Spatenhaus an der Oper restaurant
And finally back to Max-Joseph-Platz for lunch - our restaurant is the second building on the left

It's confession time - my hour in Munich didn't include the jolly meal we had at Spatenhaus an der Oper afterwards. This beautiful restaurant specialises in Bavarian dishes, which ensured we had a good taste of the region as well as its capital city.

Disclosure: Viking were my kind hosts for this trip, who not only showed their passion for the design, testing and production of their garden products, they were also keen to show off the best that Kufstein, Austria and Munich have to offer.

It was the most interesting, comfortable and enjoyable of times and I'm still pinching myself I was there. My thanks to everyone who helped organise the trip and to my delightful companions who joined me.

Getting there

Munich is just over an hour and a half away from London Heathrow by air with easy transfers available into the city by train (it takes around 45 minutes). It's perfect for another Weekend Wander - with NAH this time - methinks. I've included as many links as I can above so we can explore further and plan a visit at our leisure.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Hope in a garden

Fun garden entrance at Heligan

Yesterday was so-called 'Blue Monday', the day of the year when we're supposed to be at our most miserable. I can't think of a better way to counteract the winter blues than to visit a garden, especially when it's in Cornwall.

Come with me for a quick pick me up trot around Heligan, which I had the good fortune to visit last week...

Camellia in full bloom in January

The warmer Cornish climate is always going to cheer the heart in January, especially when the Camellias are enormous and in full flower like this one. There were plenty of daffodils in evidence too, plus lots of tender plants such as Dicksonia not wearing fleecy winter coats like they need in my garden.

This is a garden that gives hope that spring will come, even in the darkest days of winter.

Heligan Kitchen garden collage
Click to enlarge for a better view of the garden details

Winter is a great time to admire fruit tree pruning perfection, top-up greenhouse and cold frame envy, and appreciate the odd splashes of colour to be found in the enormous kitchen garden. I also added tool shed envy to my list of sighs, though only my photo of the hundreds of terracotta pots in there is worthy of inclusion on our walk.

Heligan takes advantage of the sea's bounty as they're allowed to harvest local seaweed for their mulched beds. It's also here in the kitchen garden where we find many of the poignant reminders of Heligan's story of the gardeners who left for WWI and never returned.

Wheelbarrows lined up ready for action at Heligan

I idly wondered what happens if a gardener appears with the wrong wheelbarrow for the area they're looking after ;)

A quick walk to The Jungle
The walk to The Jungle... and back. A small selection of the views and plants we found
A brisk walk to The Jungle allowed us to take in plenty of the rest of the garden, though sadly we didn't have time to explore the wider estate of around 200 acres.

We did have time to admire the restios, agaves and other unusual plants; focus in on interesting textures, bark in particular; have a discussion on land art (such as Andy Goldsworthy - the pictured form is Growth and Decay by Cornish sculptor James Eddy); and to sniff the glorious Mahonia, thoughtfully placed at the side of one of the paths, just at a time when a pause for a breather was needed.

Naomi Slade on the rope bridge at Heligan
Thanks to Naomi Slade for her invitation to join her for her talks at the Cornwall Garden Society
I also managed a new photographic technique - taking pictures whilst the two of us bounced up and down on the rope bridge!

Thanks goes to Heligan for their hospitality and allowing us to go garden bothering at relatively short notice, and to the Cornwall Garden Society for making us both so welcome.

Old tools artwork
I loved the use of old tools in the artwork decorating Heligan's cafe. Their salads are fab too!

Update: Naomi has A Different View of our visit, in her usual thoughtful, lyrical style.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Beginnings

Suggested resolutions for 2017

Here's a chuckle for regular readers who know I don't make new year's resolutions... it's the answer to a meme I was tempted by on Facebook the other day. It's a pretty good set of actions to live by in 2017... if I only knew who Ruth is!

However, despite my lack of resolutions I have made some new commitments for 2017. The clue is in the top line above; my mother's move to a local nursing home means I'll be spending more time with my family this year. I'm learning to appreciate the little things too - the impact of mum's stroke affected her speech, so every new word she speaks, or when she manages to string several together are very much appreciated. They're small victories to celebrate with a cheer.

As a result we smile a lot rather than talk. Each one is much appreciated by me as mum couldn't smile at all for a while and they show she's more comfortable in her new home. Her face lights up when the staff come into the room, so I'm reassured I've made a good choice for her. Today we had laughter too and a grabbing of both hands, a sign that some strength is returning to her at last. I'm told the road to recovery from a stroke can take up to two years, so we're living each of those precious moments too.

One of mum's new words is 'flower', in response to the thoughtful Christmas gift of a bowl of hyacinths from the nursing home staff. She loves their scent and her strong response to them means I've resolved to grow some cut flowers for her this year. I've earmarked two of my raised beds on the allotment, and I'm in the process of making a list of what to grow. Look out for more blog posts once seed sowing starts.
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