Bad Langensalza, the ‘rose town’

In full bloom

With its palm trees, olive trees and eleven parks and themed gardens, Bad Langensalza truly is a verdant town.

The scent of ‘Cherry Brandy’ roses still lingers in the air as the next scent wafts by. ‘Grand Amore’ it says on the sign. This is the favourite rose of Ingo Günther, who heads up Bad Langensalza’s horticultural department. The town is the gateway to Hainich National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. “Lovely style, large flowers and strong growth,” is how he describes his favourite. We take a stroll around the city’s rose garden, through fields of roses sorted by colour and with scent labels that read like tasting notes for wines: ‘hint of blackberries’, ‘apple and cinnamon notes’, ‘vanilla and pepper’. If you want to immerse yourself in this realm of the queen among flowers, you will need to bring more than just your sense of smell. You will also need time, as there are almost 450 rose varieties in bloom across 18,000 square metres, including shrub and hybrid tea roses with names such as ‘Red Dragon’, ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ and ‘Black Madonna’. This is thanks to rose grower and professional gardener Walter Berger, and especially his wife Anni Berger, who continued her husband’s passion. Their first cultivar, ‘Bergers Barbarina’, was launched in 1965, and many others followed. In total, Anni Berger brought 50 rose varieties onto the market. A bust in the centre of the park-like gardens commemorates this famous German rose grower.

From a sea of roses to Zen-like meditation

Bad Langensalza is not easily outdone when it comes to gardens. No fewer than eleven parks and themed gardens await visitors to the town. And the nearest one is right opposite: the Japanese Garden. ‘Garden of bliss’ it says on a sign at the entrance, and these words alone bring a smile to your face. As soon as we enter the garden, it hits us: silence. Only the rustling of the leaves in the wind and the babbling of the waterfalls can be heard. Place of sacred trees, cherry garden, bamboo and azalea garden, maple and tea garden – the various themed areas flow harmoniously into each other. “The focus here is on taking things slow. You should be free to unwind and concentrate on what really matters,” says Ingo Günther and points to the teahouse. “Over there is Europe’s only bonsai redwood forest.” We walk over to see the bonsai showpiece and then head inside the pagoda-like structure. Calming, far-eastern sounds murmur in your ear, and banana plants, bamboos and ferns stretch their leaves towards the sky, which can be seen through the glass roof. What a memorable experience it must be to take part in one of the Japanese tea ceremonies that are held here several times a year. That thought is still buzzing through my mind when my gaze falls on a framed quote by Sen no Rikyu, Buddhist monk and master of the Japanese tea ceremony: “Since the dewy path is a way that lies outside this most impure world, shall we not on entering it cleanse our hearts from earthly mire?” He might have been on to something there, I think. Strolling around gardens and surrounding ourselves with nature helps us to relax and refreshes the mind and the spirit. From the teahouse, we cross a wooden bridge that leads through a pond landscape with koi carp and water lilies. Suitably relaxed, we leave the Japanese garden and head for the Schlösschenpark.

Bonsai redwood forest
Even small redwood trees can be impressive. Visitors to Bad Langensalza’s Japanese Garden can admire Europe’s only bonsai redwood forest.

A stream as air conditioning

During our walk, I notice that we are following a stream. “The stream runs where the old mill race used to be,” says Günther. “It acts like a natural air conditioning system and brings the temperature down on hot summer days. And it provides a habitat for pretty aquatic plants.” Arriving at the terraced baroque Schlösschenpark, we chat about the town’s more than 200 years as a spa resort following the discovery of sulphurous springs in 1811. Today, Bad Langensalza is a state-approved spa resort that relies on the natural healing properties of sulphur water, thermal salt-water and therapeutic mineral water. The town is also a past winner of the Entente Florale Europe horticultural competition, which comes as no surprise as there are leaves and flowers as far as the eye can see. Tubs containing palm trees, olive trees, ornamental plants and laurel bushes can be found at nearly every turn. “We want visitors and residents to enjoy a mediterranean atmosphere,” says Günther. “The locals can hardly wait for the doors to our greenhouses to open again in mid-April and the plants to come out for summer.” Things have changed since the town put the plants out, he adds: “You tend to walk slower, feel more relaxed, and take time for a little chat over coffee.” And so we continue our leisurely stroll through Bad Langensalza’s green oases: the medicinal garden with its herb beds and the pharmacy museum, the nature garden with the dyer’s plants, wild perennials and the natural lake, and the arboretum with its more than 200 species of tree. What a pleasure!


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