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                                     20/9-24/9 2012          DIARY

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  GERMANY IN ONE WEEKEND.

 In a effort to gain some knowledge on how others grow their orchids and desert plants, and maybe find some interesting work, I decided to try some German botanical gardens and a nursery. I have travelled the western part along with The Netherlands several times; now it is time for the eastern part.

 20/9. To shorten the drive and sleep just a tiny bit longer, I drive down to Møn after work, for a nights sleep.

 21/9. Despite the head start, I have to get real early up to reach the 7.00 ferry to Rostock. A lovely morning turns into a pleasant day for a drive. Not much traffic, no "stau" and I enjoy my new car. Decision to make: The short, longer drive or the short but slower? Well, I would like to see the countryside, and I chooses the scenic one.

 I see three pairs of cranes nearby the road, a kite crossing it right in front of me, loads of buzzard and numerous starlings. Strangely enough, I see no dears at all. A few road-works, but the light traffic make it glide smoothly enough. Coffee bought from home, and I keep driving until I reach Erfurt and Kakteen Haage.

 A huge cacti nursery with quite some caudiciforms. A chat with the manager brings no new knowledge and the only sale is to me. Many of their leaved plants are gasping for water, but besides from that, it is a well maintained nursery with perfect plants.

 Just before five, I have to rush on. My hotel in Dresden closes the reception at eight. Around six, I have to admit; I feel a bit drowsy. Pull-over at a gasoline/restaurant stop at the autobahn and feed the car and my selves. We been doing a bit more than 700 kilometres, and while the car get 25 litres of diesel, I get a Jäger Schnitzel and a Fruchtschnitte - cheesecake with cherries. I'm running three time the mileage on a €.

 Find the hotel ten minutes to curfew, get a nice room and feel like sleeping. Well, a fresh cup of coffee and some PC time keep me going to nine. Take a brief look at the photos, but that have to be another day - look all the same right now.

 22/9. I ordered the breakfast last night, not realising it only served after eight. I had hoped to be at the Botanischer Garten der TU Dresden when they opened at eight. Well, it is near bye, and I sure could do with some breakfast. The Hotel My Bed, Dresden is real good quality for the €30, including breakfast. It appears new, it is real quiet and spotless.

 I drive right through Dresden centre. Copestones roads, trams and huge, old buildings, many with little or none plaster on their bricks. A major castle, the enormous station and the entire scenery would make it a city to spend a few days in - some day.

 It have rained during the night, and it is still a bit misty. I arrival at the botanical garden quarter to nine, which turns out to be in good time. Although the garden is beautiful and real well mended, full of interesting plants, I'm here to have a chat with the greenhouse gardener and see their plants. That will be after ten o'clock.

 One large plastic tunnel with a open front houses cacti, yuccas and other dry area inhabitants. Besides from the usual Opuntia, another half meter high Opuntia imbricata which all is grown in the open. I recon they won't get it as cold as Copenhagen, but the actually get down to -20C or even worth for weeks in a row. I'm kind of through the outside garden half pass nine, but I still haven't seen an soul.  Many areas are representing specific origins, and it is interesting.

 One of the heated houses have a huge Victoria cruziana and a lot of different Rhipsalis'. Another is dedicated to cacti and other desert inhabitants. The layout is special. It is like you are walking on the high parts of a wadi - dried-out river, and you are looking down in a ravine. Never seen that before, but it works perfectly.

 There are hundreds of small trees, sitting in wooden barrows in the garden. I find a few caudex-forming ones, even some I can't recall seeing before. A huge Agapetes serpens catches my attention. It is a member of the heather family from the foothills of Himalaya, and we once had one in Copenhagen Botanical Garden.

 I have a long chat with one of the 20 gardeners - unfortunately in German. My German is fare from good, but it sure better than the average German's English! I'm would have gained more useful information, if we did share a languish, I'm afraid.

 At half pass eleven, I head for Botanischer Garten der Martin-Luther-Universität in Halle. Only thing worth mention on the way, is a stone chip in my windshield. If it hadn't been for the windshield, I would have had it right between my eyes! When I park, I'm a bit in doubt about where the entrance is. I end up walking all the way around the block. I remembered to make a photo of the street-nametag where I left the car - just in case.

 I'm there before 14:00, but it is open - was probably closed when I passed the entrance the first time. €2, and I'm in a pleasant garden. The perennial beds have passed their glory, but there are still some nice plants to be found. Huge stone beds, towering 5-6 metres. Many old trees and annuals, many with porcelain signs. The round tropical house is nice and warm, and as most of the outside areas, perfectly kept.

 A new house houses some trees from the temperate belt, and another, larger tropical house is next. It is a massive, green mass, but despite they are growing so close, their leaves are starting from the bottom, and all is perfect kept.

 Outside are large beds with more than ten different Opuntias, which all seem to be frost prune. A long, covered bench is stuffed with numerous cacti, divided into origin. A lot of work mus go into bringing them out in the spring and back in the autumn. In a off-limits area, many more houses are fund. Here, 1000 of cacti are standing shoulder by shoulder. A wild guess will be 500 species, but it could be 1000.

 The next house have carnivorous plants like Droseras, Sarracenia, Darlingtonia, Nepenthes and lots of Pinguicula species. Her are numerous orchids, tablel-beds with many Selaginellas and one house is dedicated to ferns. Huge beds with all sort of Peperomias, more orchids and others. Here are high altitude plants in their cold house and aquatic plants in their. I'm told they are only seven gardeners, but to judge from the state the collections are in, I would have guessed three times that much!

 Is is fun to see the contrast between some of the buildings lack of paint and plaster, compared to the newly build or renovated, state of the art buildings. I'm amassed by the quality of the collections and their maintenance in those tiny, low, demolishing houses!

 The sun only pops out in glimpses, and the temperature along with the wind make the exploring of the outside a short story. I find a Dioscorea communis (with Linne's original name: Tamus communis) with lots of red fruits, and get a shoot of the seeds. At four, I have used up all my German for one day, and used up my body heat too, I'm afraid.

 I have a long chat - in English - with a Indonesian PD Dr. who have been working in Germany for years. She share many of my point of view, and I learn even more. Her massive background provides her to have a real objective attitude towards subjects that normally are "fixed". Real refreshing and enlightening!

 At four, I head for Leipzig. A bit early,  but I might see something worth exploring on the way. The autobahn in combination with a strong head-wind have brought the car's fuel consumption down to 25 km/l, and I'll better gas, when I find a place. Strangely enough, those "oasis" are rather rare, especially when you are running low!

 Despite some closed roads, I find the B&B Hostal Elisa at five, but no-one opens. The area are not that entreating, especially not in the cold, and I just sit in the car, writing. Try again at half pass, and I'm in. Nice room in an old apartment, I got bath and kitchen for my self. Strangely enough, the B&B does NOT offer any food! Well, for €32, you can't expect it all.

 Luckily, I did buy some milk along with the diesel, and I have bought along breakfast from home. I passed several grills on the way here, and now; I head for something to eat. Guess I won't be starving after all. Back at the main street, one block away, it turns out I can choose from Döner, Döner and Döner. I choose the last; they had the most appealing seats.

 While I wait for my Dönner-Teller mit Pommes for €5,50, I try to decide wherever it will be enough. Turns out I don't have to worry: There are enough for three! A big plate is overfilled with fresh salad, fries and kebab meat. Chased down with a Fanta, and I'm ready to head home. I do look at the shops in what appears to be a Muslim quarter, but nothing interesting catches my eyes.

 Home to water Alex's plants I bought for him at Haage's, "brew" a pot of Nescafe, and am ready to sort out some  notes and photos - well, I ought to be... I have only taken 300, but some are for my work, some for my site and some for this diary. Just tagging them is a huge work, then resizing them and make the slideshows, add them to their pages and filing them. Why did I bring a camera??? At nine, I'm done - not with the photos, but mentally.

 23/9. I awake rather early, considering the botanical garden is in walking distance, and only opens at ten. Well, I do have some pictures and notes to attend to... Then I get a mail from Botanischer Garten der Technischen Universität Braunschweig: They can't meet me as planned. I reschedule, and end up taking the which's tour: Brocken or Bloksberg. It is the highest peak in Harz with 1142 meters. I was there 41 years ago, and I actually remember quite some.

 At ten I'm ready to see Botanischer Garten der Universität Leipzig. It turns out the garden opens at nine and only the greenhouses at ten. That gives me 20 minutes for the exterior, and that is - the temperature considered - enough. A lot of trees, some nice beds and ponds and once again; small trees in wooden barrows. But the new, huge greenhouse complex draws me, and I'm first in line.

 Here are a small but well equipped cacti house with a few caudiciforms as well. Two tropical houses, one with plenty of butterflies. Carnivorous plants, orchids and in the back: A big pond with Victoria and all the other usual. Most interesting for me it the technique: 4 bar moist vents, which I don't see working though.

  Next to the pond-house, the nursery and experimental houses are found. What I at first though were aeroponics it just oxygenising the water. I fail to find anything new, and the single employed is real hard for me to understand. I do a few more loops alone, and head towards Bloksberg

 I drive through what almost feels like a forest of windmills. Despite I'm a Dane, I am astonished. As long as I can see, and 360 degree around me, giant windmills are turning. Then I reach the first outskirts, and the flat farmland with maize and turnips turns into conifer country.

 I pass through real idyllic villages with old, rustic houses and lots of stonewalls. I stop briefly at a old viewing tower - I think, but there are too much mist in the air to gain much. Serpentine roads crosses the cast-iron railroad bridges, old buildings and plenty of conifers, growing on bare boulders.

 I drive a bit around in the highest village, but have to head a bit down to catch the Brockenbahnen. Everything from the tiny ticket office to the old steam engine and the tiny wagons and so adorable - just not the €32 return ticket. Well, Here I am touristing, and why not do it to full extension?

 While I wait for the train, I make a short walk thought the tall conifers, up to the Feuresteinklippen, whish is a tall, vertical rock, 20 metres tall. Back in time to get a few shoots of the engine. We climb op and around the pinnacle, gaining 450 metres.

 While the conifers were giants in the beginning, they turn crippled and finally vanishes at the peak. Large areas are completely dead on the way, and only the mosses are doing great. We passes another train on its way down; it is waiting on a side track for us to pass.

The top is nothing like I remembered. I actually think I was hustled 41 years ago: I remember a big, flat rock in a dense forest. Here, it is a barren, gravel and grass hill with some ugly buildings. The high wind and the low temperature does not really help, and after a couple of shoots out in the mist and at the placed boulders at the peak, I head for the restaurant.

 Nice and warm, old room, coffee and cheesecake with fruit, bring back the spirit and colour in my cheeks. I'm ready for the first train down again, and do a walk through the forest. Find another way down, passing through other villages. Each with their distinguish features. One have houses with tiles on the end of the house. Some look like they haven't been changes since the middle-aged.

 I'm at City Inn in Magdeburg at the time I promised. It is, despite its name, in the industrial quarter, but right next to the airport. No restaurant, but the receptionist suggest Paradiso, a short drive away. They have the best menu card I ever seen. It is rather big, and I would like every course on it! I get a aperitif, some newly baked bread with dip and olives and jalapeños. Brochettes followed by Penne ala Gorgonzola, and the waiter offers to throw-in some meet at my wish. All for €14.

 Back at the hotel, and do a bit of notes, photo and diary, but at ten, I have to give in. Nice room in a new building, by the way, and for €24!

 24/9. Good nights sleep, good time for breakfast and then I'm off to Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem; Berlin-Dahlem. The traffic is intense, but no stau at all. I find a parking place few metres from the entrance, pay the €3, and start outside. The area is huge, but quite some are either arboretum or simply kind of wild.

 One area that I have never seen in any other botanical garden, is the moss garden. Here numerous species of mosses from many genera an classes are grown separately. A nearby area is swamp plants.

 It is a bit late in the year to really get the full of the outside, and some of the rock mounts looks like they are low on staff too. Here are a Iberian peninsular, Chinese, Greek, Caucasus, Japanese and North American areas. Each huge and dominated by trees.

 Then I turn my attention to the massive complex of greenhouses. Here are  Madagascar, Australian, Cuban, Brazilian and India houses, but also spore plants, Begonias, cacti and other specialised houses and areas. I have a long chat with one of the three cacti gardeners before I see the rest.

 Most areas inside is perfectly keeps, and with a few exceptions; not too cramped. Although the houses are rather old, it seems like most expositions have gone through a recently renovation - or they are well staffed inside. A bit disappointing, I only find a few caudiciforms, but the general impression is great.

 One of the gardeners mentioned they had a tissue lab, which propagated i.e. orchids for them. I'll ask around - quite a lot actually - and end up at the Botanicher Museum. Nice place, but no one know anything about a tissue lab. I end up taking to the general director of all the university's laboratories, and he think I should ask in the Botanical Institute, outside the botanical garden.

 I do, but beside from a tour around a huge and very fancy facility, I find no sterile plants at all, and no one think they actually do that. Strange! I give up, it is a bit passed one, and all though I do have more time, the promised rain is darkening the clouds, and I call it a day.

 As no surprise, there is a bit of stay in Berlin. I'm getting half an hour delayed, but I had +2 on the account. The traffic is light when I get out of town, all the way to the ferry. Unfortunately, the thunderstorm with cats & dog rain continues all the way to the ferry. I drive slow and safe, and reach the ferry at five - which is 40 minutes delayed. Well, better than the seven o'clock ferry anyway.

 Grab a schnitzel at the ferry, and after additionally 134 kilometres inn the rain, I home. Hard but nice way to spend a weekend. I have got some impressions of how other botanical gardens are looking, how they grow and propagate their plants, and I have spread my "seeds" in the form of business cards. No jobs directly, but I keep my fingers crossed.

 

 

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