13 Jun 2012
Belfast Botanic Gardens
When I think of growing up in Germany, and visiting parks in most bordering countries, most of these tend to be sad affairs that are badly maintained, grey areas where drug addicts and homeless, but not even rebellious teenagers would congregate.
In the UK, parks are a different kind of thing. In this (by European standards) very densely populated country with a long fancy gardening tradition, they are not only beautiful, but also a real living space, at least when it's not raining. People come to have a picnic, or even watch special events on provided screens together (not everywhere, but in many places). My favourite thing to do in London was to visit Parliament Hill Farmers market (back when I lived in posh quarter...) and then stroll around Hampstead Heath for a while. After I've had bad experiences with Dublin's parks (there are areas where you are not allowed to sit on the grass – which make up more than 80% in some parks!), I didn't expect much from Belfast, but the Botanic Gardens, just a 3 Minute walk from my house, turn out to be wonderful.
As they are in the university quarter, they're also full of students, but I can live with noisy drunkenness (although drinking in the park is forbidden – but come on, this Ireland after all), because this park harbours so many wonderful special features, although it's not all that big. Among other things, there is a classic Victorian Palm House, the fascinating Tropical Ravine, the Rose Garden, and of course, the Museum of Ulster.
Now in mid-June, the rose garden is in full bloom. While is looks like a perfectly British rose garden, it is actually planted in the shape of a Celtic Cross. I yet have to find a point where I can photograph it – considering the lack of hills in central Belfast, the only option to do so might be on the roof of Queen's University. There are also many playing fields where you can watch drunk middle-aged men watch hilarious British and Irish sports, one of my most entertaining pastimes I picked up here ;)
My guide book says that at the southern tip of the gardens, there's a path that leads along the river and to some celtic monuments. I'll update you as soon as I've found the time!
Do you have a favourite inner-city park? Belfast Botanic gardens are sweet, yet I think my favourite ones are Yoyogi Park in Tokyo (yes, I said it. I liked something in Tokyo), Düsseldorf's Nordpark (it has fancy fountains and a Japanese garden!), but I have to admit, the best in the world is probably Singapore's Botanical Gardens, where I made great memories, along with Lumpini Park , because both are full of reptiles!
Maybe I spend too much time in parks - does that mean I'm Britified?