europe quick trips

Germany’s Bundesgartenschau: Come for the flowers, stay for the art, architecture, leisure

By MICHAEL ABRAMS | Stars and Stripes | Published: May 9, 2019

There is a lot blooming in Heilbronn these days.

The German city on the banks of the Neckar River is host to the country’s federal garden show.

The Bundesgartenschau — or BUGA, as it is known for short — covers an area of nearly 100 acres on what was once industrial wasteland.

Around a million flower bulbs were planted here for the show, along with thousands of shrubs, trees and other plants.

Not as pretty, but almost as interesting is what was pulled out of the ground in preparation: a ship’s bow with anchor, a railroad car and a truckload of unexploded ordnance, among other things.

As the name suggests, the BUGA is about gardens, but there is so much more — art, architecture, environment, rest and recreation.

The grounds encompass two lakes, and an arm of the river, the Alt-Neckar, has been incorporated in the show.

The biennial exhibit, hosted by different cities, has often been used to upgrade a neighborhood or establish a new part of town, but this is the first BUGA to actually have residents.

One section of the grounds is called the Stadtausstellung, or city exhibit. Here are the beginnings of a new city quarter that will expand after the show ends in October.

More than 800 people already live here in apartment buildings that include a kindergarten and bakery. In the future, up to 3,500 people will reside in the area.

The garden exhibits show how different kinds of gardens can be grown, be it with herbs, flowers or fruits and vegetables. One exhibit is on beekeeping and the importance of the little creatures for life on earth.

Plenty of art dots the grounds, from the soaring ‘’Hoop-La,’’ by Alice Aycock, to the playful “Monumental Brooke with Beach Ball,’’ by Carole A. Feuerman, and “WE,” by Jaume Plensa.

Works by local artists are also on display in temporary, rotating exhibits housed in containers.

Even if gardening or art is not your thing, you can still stroll through the grounds, or relax on the seating sprinkled throughout.

One area simulates a dune rose garden like those on the German North Sea island of Sylt, with beach bar included.

There are playgrounds for the kids, including a rock-climbing wall and two small beaches. A boat plies the Alt-Neckar, ferrying visitors to three different stops on the grounds, giving people a view from the river.

Restaurants, snack stands, cafes and a wine bar cater to one’s culinary needs, but you can also pack a picnic to enjoy among the flowers.

Should you miss it, the next BUGA is in Erfurt in 2021. Two years later, it is in Mannheim on the grounds of the U.S. Army’s former Spinelli Barracks.

Twitter: @stripes_photog


DIRECTIONS: Heilbronn is off Autobahn A6 on the Neckar River, about 40 miles north of Stuttgart, about 90 miles east of Kaiserslautern and about 100 miles south-east of Wiesbaden.
Follow the BUGA logo to parking. The Heilbronn main train station is across from the grounds, about a six-minute walk to the gate.

TIMES: Daily, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 6.

COSTS: Admission is free for people under 15; 8 euros for people 16 to 25; 23 euros if you are 26 to 66; and 21 euros for seniors 67 and above. Parking is 5 euros.

FOOD: There are restaurants scattered throughout the grounds.

INFORMATION: Online: buga2019.de. Under Hauptmenu, scroll down to Service and then BUGA — Life in Bloom for information in English. Dogs are not allowed on the BUGA grounds.

A sculpture by Jaume Plensa, made of painted steel, sits among the flowers at the Budesgartenschau in Heilbronn, Germany. There are many works of art sprinkled throughout the grounds of the federal garden show.