Urban parks: Englischer Garten, Munich
The Englischer Garten in Munich, Bavaria is – as its name would suggest – an English garden, not to mention one of the biggest city parks in the world, spanning a good 373 hectares. The project started in 1789, commissioned by Prince Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria, who welcomed the proposal of the American, Benjamin Thompson, who was – at the time – the Bavarian War Minister (originally from Massachusetts and better known by his title, Count Rumford), to set up military gardens in all cities that had active garrisons. The gardens were supposed to be a recreational space for soldiers where they could acquire agricultural skills, yet the area was also to be open to the public.
Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell, court gardener, oversaw the extension of the gardens and in 1792 the park was officially opened and decreed the first public park in Germany and Europe.
The park is divided into two areas and is scattered with several buildings, some with slightly bizarre features, such as the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) which has the largest "beer garden" in Munich at its base: 7000 seats beneath chestnut trees that provide some shade during summer days. Then there is the Monopteros, a small, neoclassical temple that overlooks the park and the city centre from up high and the small Japanisches Teehaus (Japanese Tea house), located to the south of the park and gifted to the city by the government of Tokyo for the 1972 Olympics.
The Schönfeldwiese is also very famous, the "Schönfeld Meadow", which is nestled between the Monopteros and the Japanisches Teehaus. People can also indulge in nudism here, which is popular and much-loved amongst Germans.
The expansive green meadows, interspersed with paths that cut through the small forests of ancient oaks and maple trees, not to mention the abundance of streams and ponds (in perfect English garden style), make it one of the most popular, not to mention busiest, parks in the Bavarian capital.
The oak trees, the common name for the genus Quercus, belong to the beech family, Fagaceae. They are large, deciduous, evergreen trees – often they reach or exceed 30 metres in height – and their distinctive feature is their longevity. In fact, you can stumble upon some extremely old specimens in this park. There are also many maple trees in the forests, which are distinguished by the incredible colours of the leaves, especially in autumn.
Residents and tourists can be found in the park all year round: vast fields provide space for sunbathing, playing or just relaxing, Kleinhesselohe Lake where you can sail the classic wooden row boats, the real waterways, first and foremost, the man-made "Eisbach", where young people can surf in the summer and tonnes of little bridges and paths that are perfect for a relaxing stroll or a bike ride. Expanses of white in the winter create the perfect environment for walks in the snow and ice skating.