STUTTGART – In SouthWest Germany, even the cities have their green and wild spaces. Wetland meadows, parks, forest gardens and rock formations add a nice extra touch to city life in Baden-Württemberg. Whether you want to relax in the cove of the Neckar, do gardening in the historic neighbourhoods or watch amphibians in the former quarry – you don’t have to go all the way to Baden-Württemberg’s nature parks to get away from the city bustle. You can even sometimes get right up close to nature in the city centre.
Mannheim: Natural paradise in the city of squares
Fancy strolling through a natural wetland forest in the city centre? Mannheim is just the place for that. This city lies on the Rhine / Neckar confluence and almost a third of it comprises nature conservation areas. The oldest and most well-known of these is the Mannheim Reißinsel by a meander of the Rhine to the south of the old city. The protected status of the peninsula as an important floodplain forest and breeding ground for rare bird species is accredited to the entrepreneur Carl Reiß (1843–1914). In his will, he ordered that the island be preserved for time eternity and made accessible to the people of Mannheim for their leisure. Outside the breeding season, you can now explore the green refugium via a circular path and see up to 60 different bird species, including the rare kingfisher, the little owl and the golden oriole.
Heidelberg: Amphibians in Wolfsbrunnen
The Wolfsbrunnen Castle hotel in Heidelberg has a wild and mysterious feel to it. As well as being surrounded not just by meadows, moss and forests, it is also steeped in legend. This is where a hungry she-wolf is said to have once torn the sorceress Jette into shreds. In the present day though, visitors can enjoy the very romantic atmosphere of the castle which was constructed in the 16th century under Prince Friedrich II. This popular getaway destination with its hearty beer garden cuisine has still retained some of its wild nature, where lots of amphibian populations feel at home.
Heilbronn: Green oasis by the Neckar
In Heilbronn city centre, water sports are very popular. On and by the Neckar, favourite activities among residents and visitors alike include relaxing, paddling, barbecuing and sunbathing. On the sandy beach of the “Coffee Bay”, a day relaxing in your deckchair just whizzes by, whilst you get a sweeping view across the Neckar oxbow lake surrounded by weeping willows and plane trees. But you can also get about in speedboats, pedal boats and dinghies. You can even go on a complete city tour just by canoe.
Freiburg: Community rolling garden
By the Deichelweiher in the Freiburg city quarter of Wiehre, where the meadows were once buried in rubble after the bridge collapsed, a committed neighbourhood has now created a flourishing forest garden in accordance with permaculture methods. In the environmentally aware model district of Vauban, a brownfield site has been devoted back to its natural state as a “rolling garden”. Both places have given rise to fertile oases with a variety of habitats for insects. There are lots of rows of plants and raised beds that are lovingly cared for. For leisure gardeners, these projects are a true paradise. But even if you’re just strolling through the gardens, you can still enjoy the newly gained biodiversity value of this site.
Baden-Baden: Wildwuchs in der Schlossruine
The ruins of the old Hohenbaden Castle just tower majestically high above Baden-Baden on the west slope of the Battert. Once you’ve scaled the many steps over the wall projections and viewing terraces, you will be greeted by a spectacular view of the city, Black Forest and the plains of the Rhine. But the greenery also thrives within the walls of the ruins, where nature has regained its place: a tall tree has put down its roots in the middle of the upper castle courtyard. If you want to experience something wilder than the steps to the ruin, you can climb scramble up the Battert rocks: Battert is known nationally for its range of uphill routes at all difficulties.
Pforzheim: Wild animals in the climbing garden
Pforzheim is the perfect place for wild animals. Ranging from deer to mouflon sheep, Przewalski horses, eagle owls and snowy owls, the Pforzheim wildlife park is teeming with fauna consisting of native and exotic species. In the park situated by the forest edge, there are over 400 animals to admire, stroke and sometimes even feed. Semi-natural enclosures and the keeping of central European wild animals in species-specific social groups form the wildlife park’s trademark. Show feeding in the otter and lynx enclosures will turn your visit into a very special nature adventure. One highlight is the forest climbing garden: from here, you can watch the animals up from a height of eleven metres.
Stuttgart: Experience nature in an old quarry
Where heavy machines once mined for the natural stone travertine in quarries, there is now an extraordinary park complex. Various footpaths wind their way between green meadows, overgrown break-off edges, grapevines and nostalgically preserved crane tracks. This is where you can experience some industrial history as well as see lizards and other animals. Meanwhile, you can enjoy a wonderful view of Bad Cannstatt and the Neckar valley. And if you’re into ancient history, the natural stone travertine will also tell you something about Stuttgart’s early development. In the state natural history museum, you can also admire remnants of prehistoric humans, forest elephants and fossils found in the travertine park.
Karlsruhe: in the urban jungle
1000 hectares of park and 6000 hectares of forest make the fan-shaped city of Karlsruhe a veritable urban jungle. One of the most popular green spaces lies right in the middle: the botanical garden. Alongside rare citrus species, cacti and a cinnamon plant, it is now also home to some very special botanical treasures: coffee plants. There has even been a successful harvest. Situated on the edge of the castle garden, the botanical garden takes visitors into a kingdom of tropical plants and floral splendour. On the open land, more rare woody plants from the royal plant collection of the 19th century are preserved. This is the place to enjoy the delightful Karlsruhe weather to the full.
Ulm: SUP on the Danube
Stand-up-paddling (SUP) is a trendy sport. In front of the impressive old city silhouette of Ulm with a view of the Ulm cathedral, water sports enthusiasts can surfboard down the Danube in the city centre. If you diligently dig your paddles deep into the water, you can also daringly pass along stretches such as the “Little Danube”. Trained and experienced paddlers who are not afraid of the currents can venture upstream towards the Iller river, where they can take a break between gravel banks and idyllic stretches of shallow water. There are many different providers of guided tours. Even the necessary equipment is provided for if your own board isn’t at hand when you’re out exploring the city.