An Escapade to Asian Gardens

Trip Start May 31, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, September 9, 2007

The next day was supposed to be sunny with cloudy intervals. That's what the trustworthy BBC weather forecast predicted for Sunday in Bremen. This time however, they were wrong. Sunday morning was cloudy, grey, cold and rainy. The kind of weather that's perfect for staying in on a Sunday. And after a hearty breakfast buffet we certainly had to fight the urge to have a hotel-bed day.

We checked out of the hotel nonetheless and walked under the rain towards the tram that would take us to the Bothanika. The ride showed us the residential part of Bremen with wide avenues sheltered by tall acorn trees, their impressive canopies like dampened rooftops. The houses in this part of town were lavish, and some were borderline mansions, with their different levelled balconies overlooking lush gardens, elegant driveways and prim porches. The ground would crunch under our feet as we walked, stepping on the hundreds of acorns and small pine cones scattered across the sidewalks and street.

We entered the Botanical Gardens greeted by a natural pond were two lonely ducks were resting. In the quiet of the morning we could hear their gentle wading in the lightly rippled water. The park was filled with lawns of different colored flowers, plants and herbs. Ed spotted wild strawberries next to a tiny pond with small two turtles laying lazily. We took shelter on a short pine tree whose branches were reposed over the soil, creating the perfect natural awning.

Not too far off I spotted what seemed like a Buddhist shrine. Sure enough, inside the stone Sanskrit-filled dome was a small Buddha. The surrounding trees were decorated with colourful prayer flags, as they would be in the Himalayas to bless the countryside. It certainly was a strange sight for a botanical garden in Northern Germany, and we were instantly intrigued about what other surprises were hidden around here.

We entered the visitor's center and paid the 9€ fee which gave us entry to the museum. Too bad all the explanations were in German, if not it would've been fun. It was more of a science center for kids, where exhibitions of flowers, plants and small fauna were creatively designed. Towards the end, there was a mannequin dressed as a flight attendant showing the way through a door. We took small paper passports from her cart and walked through the door that led to an airplane cabin. There were two real airplane seats, and from the speakers came the sound effects of an airplane landing. The voice of a woman welcomed us somewhere in German as we walked out through a passageway.

We suddenly found ourselves in a huge greenhouse. The air was chilled yet humid, and gentle plumes of sweet incense filled each breath we took. Red and pink flowers hung from every bush and shrub in pots and vessels. We had obviously traveled to Asia.

We descended to the next level where we walked a path of rock and stone decorated with the faded face of Shiva and other Hindu deities. Each plant was labelled with its latin name as is customary in botanic gardens. We passed a small shrine holding large crimson flowers and a tiny bell. Engravings in Sanskrit were etched on the rocks and an opening on one of the stone walls held wooden prayer wheels. Soon we came upon a station which held information in German, but also ink and a stamp to mark your fake paper passport. We marked our first page with 'India'. Ed and I got excited as we realized that we were to travel to different landscapes and stamp our passports. It was brilliant!

Ed and I cruised the other recreated landscapes from around Asia including Nepal, Myanmar, Tibet, and Bhutan. There was even a Chinese temple were a small table held thermoses of hot jazmine and green tea. We drank our tea seated in the tiny temple enjoying the bright sun rays that finally began shining through the greenhouse roof.

A reclining Buddha lay on a stone cave across a pond where small orange and black fish swam to and fro within. A waterfall showered upon perfectly round lily pads and lotus flowers. Across a thick plastic curtain lay the hot, sticky climate of Burma. White and purple orchids grew from the side of a small cliff. Tall trees and tropical plants were dripping with humidity and a lingering mist prevented me from seeing Ed who lay not too far ahead.

Finally, in Japan, there were cherry blossoms and small zen shrines surrounding the central sand and stone garden. A pond of eager white and orange Koi were swimming happily. Ed and I stuck our fingers in the cool water only to find that the fish were more than happy to suck on them...sucking sounds and all. It was impressive to have a large fish with whiskers suck on your finger, so I guess you could say we had a bonding experience. Two little girls came around to play 'let the Koi suck your finger' but apparently it was only ours the fish preferred.

We were sad to see the Botanic tour end. Our paper passports were depleted with stamps from every central and eastern Asian country; we had drunk real green tea, prayed with wooden prayer wheels, and felt the mist of an Asian rainforest on our faces. There had been a group of small children doing the tour with us but Ed and I had been more hyper and excited in running about, competing on who got the most passport stamps first.

We relaxed in the café over beer and raspberry tart, looking over the gorgeous flower beds and ponds of the park. Later we continued to explore the park where people were jogging, riding their bikes, or just strolling as we were. There were more ponds and canals everywhere, some muddy and some crystal clear with the occasional green moss floating on the surface. A rose garden in the form up an upward spiral led to a landing with white benches amid rose bushes. While Ed was wandering off he found the credit cards and id's of someone who had obviously been robbed so we returned them to the main office before we left the Botanical Park.

On our way to the airport for our Ryanair flight back into London, Ed and I concluded Bremen was not a city we would visit again. Mainly because we had already done everything there was to do (except take a tour of the Beck's brewery but that was only because they didn't have round the clock English tours), but also because we didn't feel too welcomed. Bremen seemed to be more willing to accept German tourists than international tourists. People were generally friendly anyway, except for the older Bremen citizens who sneered at us when we passed or were unwilling to help us with directions.

For a first time in Germany it had been a relaxing trip. And as I read our Lonely Planet, Ed and I began to plan a car tour or the Romantic Road and the Black Forest of Germany. Perfect for the upcoming winter.

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