Thursday, 26 May 2016
Back to Göttingen: unter den Linden
I could have had lime blossom tea, but in fact this is a finished double espresso outside at Göttingen's Cafe Botanik, still run to judge from that wonderful crockery by Iranian German Manoucher Amin, with the flowers fallen on the table from above (if slightly rearranged). That place was one of two things I keenly anticipated on my return to the International Handel Festival after three years' absence - apart from the performances, of course. The other was the croaking of the frogs in the University Botanic ponds. Never heard such a sound as I'd encountered on my first two visits.
This, alas, was a bit too early in May for full brekekekex coax coax-ing, captured in the film I embedded after the first, 2011 visit, and for that matter for the water lily flowers seen in that entry; since the festival always starts on the Ascension Day holiday, it depends on the religious calendar. But the froggies could still be seen if you looked carefully
and the main thing was the extraordinary quasi-summer weather; Göttingen had been experiencing an intensely cold spring until our arrival, and then along came shirtsleeves-and-dining-outside weather. Even the three visits to the Botanics on each full day I was there showed a rapid onrush. Bloomings observed on Day One (6 May): Tulipa silvestris and Iris pallida adding colour to the as yet minimalist order beds,
Narcissus poetica in the higher-level beds,
a tree peony flower at its height,
dwarf irises flourishing
while the more standard variety was still in bud.
Plus, among the trees, the Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum' is a glory of the rock garden,
the leaves of the Hamamelis japonica provide some of the most intense greens
the wilder woodland to the north-east featured some attractive lichen
and various ferns were unfurling in the very bright sunlight.
If the frogs were not as yet vocal, wildlife still obliged around the lake. A mallard hen was out on the water keeping a watchful eye on her brood
and when a drake and his mate came up to the bench in the shade where I was sitting, I imagined they were on the lookout for food, but in fact they settled quietly within metres after a bout of self-grooming and dozed. The Bach bag from Thuringia, by the way, was a subversive gesture at the Handel Festival (but surely any self-respecting Handelian would surely acknowledge who's God).
Seeing this mallard hen shutting and half-opening her eyes, and observing the way she breathed in and out, made me resolve never to eat duck again. Am I being discriminatory against the far less social goose, specimens of which nearly had my guts for garters at a Connemara wedding?
Day Two (7 May) brought me to morning coffee with guiding festival spirit Victoria Viebahn (on the right below) and some of the other writers she'd invited along. I won't embarrass them by naming them all.
Several were subsequently amazed by what lay beyond the tunnel by the cafe. There are two: this one is less extensive, but gives you some idea of the green vision beyond.
The tree-lined path along what used to be the city walls, broken only in the zone of the concert hall and State Theatre, bisects the Botanics and helps create this sense of apartness on one side (even though the ring road is not far away). Looking down from the path
and up towards it from the area of the smaller ponds and order beds
as well as from in front of one of the greenhouses on the 'worldly', cafe side.
I did pop into some of them, and admired the typically German/Swiss collection of spiky devils from Madagascar. Here's Pacypodium lamerei with Senecio crassissimus attaching itself.
The last visit on 8 May, with the Italian and Bolivian among our contingent, witnessed another visitor. Again, we get plenty of herons by the Thames, but this one - I think it's a Great Blue to judge from the markings and the beak - was especially approachable
until it decided to take short flights around the Gardens, always settling close to its take-off point.
I've never known blackbirds to come quite so close as the ones in Göttingen - this male near the gunnera -
though the pair in the back yard here are always happy to splosh about not far from me the minute I've set down fresh water, about which they seem to be most particular. Mrs B has only just hopped out of this picture.
Anyway on that last day in Göttingen, the peonies, mostly in bud two days earlier, had decided to put on their show
and bees were happy that they had.
On, after that, to the university's art collection on its special Sunday opening (I was the only visitor). And I must return to other Göttingen discoveries new to me this year. In short, I really can't think of a more perfect town, both living and historic, among all the ones I've seen to date.