This weekends green trip was to Schloss Charlottenburg. I had been avoiding this as it is a major tourist attraction, but I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of peace and space we had when visiting.
Charlottenburg Palace was built at the end of the 17th century, commissioned by Sophie Charlotte who was the wife of the Elector of Brandenburg. It was heavily damaged during WWII, but has been renovated and now functions as a public space. Although entrance to the palace is 12 euro, anyone can enjoy the extensive gardens for free. Honestly, I recommend skipping the palace and saving yourself some money.
The gardens are split into formal and informal, the informal being much larger. You can easily walk around for 2 hours in this huge wild space, and although you will see joggers and sunbathers lounging around there are plenty of private nooks for those who need to escape the busy city.
For vegans making the trip, I highly recommend stopping at nearby Attila Hildmann on Schillerstraße 71 for incredible burgers and the best vegan ice cream I have ever had!
I’ve seen so many wonderful documentaries this month, and Chasing Coral stands out as one of the best.
A team of filmmakers and scientists race against the clock to capture coral bleaching, a phenomenon that is destroying our coral reefs at an alarming rate. Coral reefs are the start of life for 25% of all marine species. 500 million people get their food and livelihood directly from coral reefs. An event like this is comparable to losing huge portions of our rainforests every year.
What I didn’t realize before watching this documentary is that water actually absorbs 93% of the heat from global warming. In fact, if the ocean didn’t take in so much of our trapped heat the average temperature on earth would be 50 C (122 F) !
The thing that distinguishes us from our rocky dead neighbor planets is water. Water is life and we must protect it.
I highly recommend this documentary for the message, the beautiful (and possibly some of the last) footage of the reefs, and the passion of the team involved. Even in the darkest hours seeing the men and woman passionately working to make the world a better place is heartwarming and inspiring.
Join the campaign here.
One of the many reasons I love Berlin so much is the abundance of free or inexpensive public events. IGA (Internationale Garten Ausstellung) is on the pricier side of this, but still pretty reasonable considering the scale of the event. This festival of gardening is spread across a 104-hectare site, in fact, it is so large they installed a gondola lift to transport visitors between the main areas!
There are many attractions, but the three we particularly loved were the Blumenhalle which housed a diverse collection of plants from all around the world. The “Promenade Aquatica” or water gardens were relaxing and gave us a very welcomed mist bath on a hot day, and the International Gardens, where you can find a Chinese tea house nestled into the woods.
There was also a gardeners market, and we came away full of inspiration for expanding and diversifying our own little urban jungle. I was pretty excited to see so many vertical gardening solutions. We have ordered our first ‘green wall’ and started buying plants for it, but it was nice to see a mature example in person.
I’m afraid of heights, so riding the gondola lift was pretty scary, but it’s important to do scary things sometimes. I was proud of myself for getting to the end without crying, and we even spotted some deer from overhead!
The only downside I can think of for this event was food. There weren’t really any vegan options. They did have a few vegetarian offers, but the staff was unable to confirm if they were milk/egg free. Sadly a mix of hunger and rain caused us to leave earlier than planned.
Our first crop of spinach was mercilessly attacked by bugs, so I bought some natural bug repellent plants – mint and lemon thyme – to add to our garden. I also made a mixture of castile soap and water to give the plants a spray every few days. I used about 2 teaspoons of Dr. Bronners soap and 1 liter of water, plus some crushed garlic directly into the bottle. New spinach and cabbage seeds are germinating, and the older tomato, basil, and carrots are still going strong!
This weekend Jonathan and I woke up early to see a rare Amorphophallus titanum or ‘Corpse Flower’ in bloom. These flowers only bloom once every few years, for about 48 hours. The name comes from the potent smell that they give off to attract insects.
A flower that smells like rotting meat isn’t for everyone but I find the diversity of life on our planet awesome and try to seek out new experiences whenever possible. I was worried that the smell might be too overpowering but it wasn’t a strong odor.
We spent the rest of our time at botanical gardens enjoying the hundreds of species of plants growing there. For the most part, the greenhouses and gardens are not too sculpted, and I prefer this wild look to some of the greenhouses I have visited in other countries. I particularly enjoyed the sensory garden, in which every plant is chosen for the smell it gives off. There was a little girl of about 3 or 4 dressed like a princess, running around excitedly smelling everything. It was a beautiful reminder of the important things in life.
Jonathan and I have finally started our balcony garden! The carrots, basil, and tomatoes are germinating, with plans to add paprika, courgettes, carrots, radish, and spinach in the coming weeks. We would like to grow as many of our own vegetables as possible, and I am lucky enough to have a close friend with a thriving balcony garden to get advice from.
In addition to the seeds and planters, we got a home growbox. This allows us to moderate temperature, light, and humidity so that we can grow plants out of season. Berlin is a wonderful city, but it’s not an ideal environment for some of my favorite veggies! As a minimalist, I struggled with the volume of ‘stuff’ I needed to get this garden going, but growing my own food is an important step towards zero-waste and the act of tending to the garden is a great stress reliever so I think it’s worth it.
Now that the seeds have germinated we will transfer them into their containers (carrots and basil in the open air, tomatoes in the growbox) and hopefully, after 12 weeks of loving care, our first batch should be ready to eat! The unit does cost some energy to run, but since our home is powered with 100% green energy I am not too concerned about a negative environmental impact.
Although it varies plant to plant, the general cycle is something like this. Germination phase (in a small container, or using the paper towel method) 10 – 20 days, plant and cultivate for 3 months, pick and eat. Once we have a healthy and thriving crop we are going to experiment with cloning our plants rather than buying new seeds.
I can’t wait for the first batch!
One of my favorite things about Berlin is the numerous parks and green spaces available to the public. From mammoth wooded areas like Grunwald to the tiny retreats nestled into courtyards there is always somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life without needing a car.
This week J and I are dog-sitting so we have been enjoying even more greenery than usual. The second I step into the woods and the noises of traffic die away I am filled with calm and confidence. Humans need the natural world, we need the smell of grass and sound of wind rustling through the trees to remind us of our place in the world.
In the past, I have suffered from stress, and many people suggested mindfulness or meditation. Although those things may be beneficial to some, all I need is a stroll in the park to clear my head and help me put my priorities in order.