Tag Archives: Garden

Palace

Pumpkin Festival

Red flowers, orange gourds, fountains

Ludwigsburg Palace grounds

In the fall, there is an annual pumpkin festival on the grounds of the Ludwigsburg palace.  Not sure what to expect, we visited it on a warm, sunny October day.  The castle grounds are picturesque with vast gardens in front of the palace itself.  There is a central garden leading the visitor from the palace grounds entrance at the street straight to the palace, and this garden has fountains every few feet. It draws one in, beckoning the visitor to venture further towards the palace.  Since it was the Pumpkin Fest, colorful gourds were placed in the gardens.

We wandered around the palace grounds and happened along an area specifically built to entertain children.  At various points along the path winding through the forest would be a life-sized structure as part of a traditional story German children would know: The Red Shoes, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, etc. If a button located somewhere on the structure was pressed, the story would be told, often with some part of the display moving. There were two over-sized frogs in a pond with stepping-stones so one could cross the pond rather than walk around it. However, once the first stone felt some weight, the frogs would begin spitting water at each other and the person crossing the stepping-stones would get wet in the crossfire!

The forest gave way to a wide meadow at the back of the palace where the Pumpkin Fest was located. There were gourds of all colors, shapes and sizes set up in a variety of displays. The theme of this year’s Pumpkin Fest was “Royalty” so among other things, there was a throne, a chess board with chess pieces, a lion, and even Elvis – all using pumpkins and gourds!  There were gourds that, along with their vines, were shaped like people with arms and legs!  Since it was a fest, there were various food stands offering the usual fare – bratwurst & fries – as well as all sorts of foodstuff made from pumpkin: soup, bread, various flavored seeds, and even beer! A delightful way to spend a warm, sunny, fall afternoon! 🙂

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Keukenhof Gardens

IMG_2673IMG_2636A feast for the eyes and a balm to the soul.  I couldn’t take enough pictures!  The Netherlands has been growing tulips for 400 years and those Dutch people know how to ‘do’ bulbs!  Centuries ago, tulips were so valuable that a single bulb was worth as much as a canal house in Amsterdam!  At Keukenhof Gardens (near Lisse, Netherlands) 100 participating companies showcase their living catalog of bulbs.  Every year, beginning in September, 7 million bulbs are planted – all by hand!  IMG_2625There are 30 gardeners and it takes 3 months to plant all the bulbs.  This park is only open for 8 weeks – during the bloom time of the bulbs:  daffodils, hyacinths and tulips.  When the park closes for the season all the bulbs are dug up and destroyed.

Hoping to avoid crowds, we intentionally visited the park on a weekday and in addition to all the privately owned vehicles, there were 30 tour buses in the parking lot when we ended our visit.  However, with the exception of simply getting through the entrance, it never felt crowded.

IMG_2693On our drive from The Hague to the Keukenhof Gardens we passed numerous farm fields growing colorful bulbs.  It looked like a rainbow in the fields.  The Netherlands exports 45 million flowers…every day!

This post is dedicated to my friends who are anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring!

Holzgerlingen Cemetery

I love cemeteries.  I didn’t pay them much attention while living in the United States, visiting them only when attending the graveside service following a funeral.  Then I would have passing thoughts such as, “It looks peaceful,” or “Hmm, interesting,” or “Everything looks the same.  How will I ever find my loved one in this maze of grey headstones and green grass?”  It seemed as if cemeteries were often set on the edge of town or out of the way.  Practically speaking, I realize they take up a lot of space on valuable land so it doesn’t make sense to place them on prime real estate in the middle of town – unless they are next to a church.  But when they are out of the way, are they also out of our thoughts?  Easily forgotten?  An ‘out of sight out of mind’ sort of thing?

HeadstoneI find cemeteries in Europe to be fascinating beautiful works of art.  When driving through villages, there is often a directional sign to the cemetery.  It is an important part of village life and many are living memorials to the deceased.

Bushes, flowering plants, headstoneTrees, flowers, headstoneThere is a cemetery behind my house.  Someone once said to me, “Good neighbors!”  So true; the residents of the cemetery are very quiet! 😉  However, this cemetery is a beehive of constant, yet quiet, activity.  As long as it isn’t raining or bitterly cold, there are people tending the gravesites, which are miniature gardens.  Some have potted plants, but many have flowers, plants, bushes and even the occasional tree planted at the site.  Rarely are there cut flowers.  On Christmas Eve, the cemetery flickered with dozens of burning candles, leading me to conclude that the living visited their loved ones before attending Mass on this Holy Night.  It was a quiet beauty in the darkness that cannot be captured on camera.  (Well, not my little ‘point and shoot’ pocket camera, at any rate.)

Daffodils with headstone

Daffodil Garden

Flowers, headstoneNow that it is springtime, the daffodils and other early spring blooming flowers adorn the gravesites.  Each gravesite is unique, reflecting the personality of those caring for that site.

Headstone

Lantern for Candle

Garden shops, home improvement stores, discount department superstores like Wal-Mart (except it’s called Real), and even the local grocery all carry candles specifically intended to be used at a gravesite.  They are pillar candles about 3” in diameter and 7” high in a (often red) sleeve.  They come with a metal cover which has cross-shaped cutouts allowing the smoke to escape.  These are designed to be lit and left unattended similar to the Eternal Flame in the church.  At the gravesite, the candles often sit in an iron and glass-enclosed lantern.  Many of these same shops also carry other items such as seasonal floral arrangements and décor designed to adorn a gravesite.

Grave covered in flowers

New grave

One afternoon, from inside my home, I heard the stately music of a brass ensemble.  Upon further investigation, I discovered musicians surrounding a gravesite and realized this was the graveside service for someone recently deceased.  Had the deceased been a member of the village band?  Were they an important member of the village?  Does everyone warrant a brass ensemble at the graveside service?  Much later I visited this gravesite and it was covered with brightly colored fresh flowers.  I have since noticed other graves covered with mounds of fresh flowers; they too are recently deceased.  I wonder how long the fresh flowers will adorn the grave; it has already been weeks past internment.

Headstones, wooden crosses

Each site is unique

A few gravesites have a simple wooden cross engraved with the name as well as the dates of birth and death.  But the vast majority have a granite headstone.  Is a wooden cross used until a granite stone is purchased or is a wooden cross preferred by some?

Headstone, flowers

My village is over one thousand years old!  While I haven’t found any headstones that old, I have gained a sense of the history of my village as I wander through the cemetery.  There are a couple of family names repeated throughout leading me to believe these are longtime residents with deep roots – no pun intended! 😉  One of the names is still displayed on various businesses throughout the village.  It is likely that many of these graves are so lovingly well-tended because the family still lives nearby.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons the cemeteries in the United States have a different atmosphere; we are such a transient society that we no longer live where we were born or where we grew up.  Therefore, we don’t live near the cemetery where our loved ones rest.

Sunrise over cemetery

Cemetery at sunrise

I watch the sunrise over the cemetery and marvel at the beauty the shadows cast through the trees and onto the headstones while other mornings there is a fog that is just as breathtaking as it weaves around the trees and headstones.

Cemetery with fog

Holzgerlingen Cemetery

Along the cemetery there is a well-used walking path.  Every morning I walk my dog on this path and even though we meet other dog-walkers, power-walkers, runners or bikers there is an overarching sense of serenity.  It is the perfect beginning to the day.