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Red calla lilies offer a burst of color in the tropical landscape inside the Palm House at Frankfurt's Palmengarten in Germany, one of the world's largest botanical gardens.

Red calla lilies offer a burst of color in the tropical landscape inside the Palm House at Frankfurt's Palmengarten in Germany, one of the world's largest botanical gardens. ()

Red calla lilies offer a burst of color in the tropical landscape inside the Palm House at Frankfurt's Palmengarten in Germany, one of the world's largest botanical gardens.

Red calla lilies offer a burst of color in the tropical landscape inside the Palm House at Frankfurt's Palmengarten in Germany, one of the world's largest botanical gardens. ()

An aquarium holding fish from the Amazon River lends a junglelike feel to the tropical landscape inside the Palm House at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany, one of the world's largest botanical gardens.

An aquarium holding fish from the Amazon River lends a junglelike feel to the tropical landscape inside the Palm House at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany, one of the world's largest botanical gardens. ()

This large leaf felt like rubber. We guessed it was from a banana tree, as not all foliage was labeled inside the Palm House at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany.

This large leaf felt like rubber. We guessed it was from a banana tree, as not all foliage was labeled inside the Palm House at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany. ()

A lush tropical environment is showcased inside the Palm House at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany. The indoor exhibitions and greenhouses offer a warm refuge in the wintertime.

A lush tropical environment is showcased inside the Palm House at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany. The indoor exhibitions and greenhouses offer a warm refuge in the wintertime. ()

Venus flytraps lay in wait behind a glass display case at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany. Unfortunately, no flies were buzzing by at the time.

Venus flytraps lay in wait behind a glass display case at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany. Unfortunately, no flies were buzzing by at the time. ()

The name of this pretty flower hanging inside a greenhouse at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany was a mystery. Not all of the plants were labeled; those that were carried Latin and German names.

The name of this pretty flower hanging inside a greenhouse at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany was a mystery. Not all of the plants were labeled; those that were carried Latin and German names. ()

This habitat inside the Tropicarium at Frankfurt, Germany's Palmengarten simulates the environment and plant life in southern Madagascar, where the climate tends to be more arid.

This habitat inside the Tropicarium at Frankfurt, Germany's Palmengarten simulates the environment and plant life in southern Madagascar, where the climate tends to be more arid. ()

You don't have to go to southern Madagascar to see this prickly tree. It can be found inside the Tropicarium at Frankfurt, Germany's Palmengarten.

You don't have to go to southern Madagascar to see this prickly tree. It can be found inside the Tropicarium at Frankfurt, Germany's Palmengarten. ()

A bird's-eye view from inside the Tropicarium at Frankfurt, Germany's Palmengarten, one of the world's largest botanical gardens.

A bird's-eye view from inside the Tropicarium at Frankfurt, Germany's Palmengarten, one of the world's largest botanical gardens. ()

A sweet-smelling Stanhopea orchid hangs inside the Tropicarium at Frankfurt, Germany's Palmengarten. The botanical garden, a green sanctuary in the heart of the city, offers a tropical refuge during wintertime.

A sweet-smelling Stanhopea orchid hangs inside the Tropicarium at Frankfurt, Germany's Palmengarten. The botanical garden, a green sanctuary in the heart of the city, offers a tropical refuge during wintertime. ()

The Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany, encompasses about 50 acres in the heart of the city. Flowers were still in bloom along its well-manicured lawns  in November.

The Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany, encompasses about 50 acres in the heart of the city. Flowers were still in bloom along its well-manicured lawns in November. ()

The stepping stones that traverse a '' koi'' pond inside the Palm House at Frankfurt, Germany's Palmengarten entertained a child and worried those who watched. Wet shoes can ruin a day trip.

The stepping stones that traverse a '' koi'' pond inside the Palm House at Frankfurt, Germany's Palmengarten entertained a child and worried those who watched. Wet shoes can ruin a day trip. ()

When the temperature starts to plunge, visiting a botanical garden could be the perfect antidote to the almost-winter blues.

In early November, on a day when the sky in Frankfurt, Germany, was a monochromatic drab, the city’s Palmengarten was a welcome refuge from winter’s pending arrival.

Since opening to the public in 1871, the Palmengarten has offered one of the world’s largest botanical displays of exotic plants from hard-to-reach, distant places.

Within the 50-acre green sanctuary in the heart of Frankfurt, one can view leafy palms, prickly cacti, carnivorous Venus flytraps and the sweet-smelling Stanhopea orchid.

My friend and I, along with my two kids, were amazed at how quickly the hustle and bustle of the city gave way to a peaceful oasis when we walked through the garden’s entry gate.

We stopped first in the Palm House, an impressive structure whose steel and glass construction was inspired by the buildings of the Paris World Fair.

It houses a lush tropical landscape teeming with palms, shrubs, ferns and flowers. Adding to the rainforest feel was a pond with koi; the steppingstones provided a way across — and heart palpitations for the 20 times my 5-year-old dashed back and forth across it.

For some reason — perhaps because our map was stuffed in a purse — we thought this was the only attraction: a palm house with a lovely but small garden outside.

After retrieving the map, we made it to the group of greenhouses that comprise the Tropicarium. We savored the warmth and quiet within, peering at the vegetation through glasses fogged up by the humidity.

The complex is divided into the humid tropics and the arid tropics, and further subdivided into fog deserts, cloud forests, mangrove swamps, lowland rainforests, thorn forests, deciduous dry forests and semidesert regions, among other habitats.

We almost spent the night in the mountain rain forest. Luckily for the rainbow lorikeets, which were already agitated by my kids’ high-pitched attempts to talk to them, we didn’t. At 4:40 p.m., as we were looking at the Arabica coffee plant, a worker, making the final rounds for the day, shooed us out, informing us that the Tropicarium had closed 40 minutes earlier.

As the sun set and garden lights lit our path, we wandered through the rose garden and an autumn-themed display in one of the Palm House exhibition galleries before we were chased out of there, too.

The lesson: It’s best to set aside a day if you want to take it all in at a leisurely pace. My kids loved it, and that was unexpected. And we didn’t even get to the rock or heather gardens or the subantarctic or blossom houses.

I had planned to return in the spring or summer, when the outdoor gardens are in bloom and special flower exhibitions and concerts are held.

But another winter visit to the Palmengarten may be in order.

From Nov. 24 to Dec. 26, Palmengarten holds its annual Christmas exhibition. Visitors also can see the garden illuminated with hundreds of lights at night from 5 to 8 p.m. from Dec. 10 to Jan. 22.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com

Palmengarten, Frankfurt

DIRECTIONS

Located in downtown Frankfurt, not far from the Senckenberg Museum. For GPS devices, the address is: Siesmayerstrasse 63/Main Entrance; 60323 Frankfurt am Main.

TIMES

Ticket booths and greenhouses: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily November through January; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily February through October.

COSTS

Admission costs 7 euros (about $7.60) for adults; 2 euros for children 6 to 13. Family admission is 16 euros.

FOOD

There are several kiosks and a nice cafe in the garden.

INFORMATION

Phone: (+49) (0) (69) 745839; website: http.palmengartengesellschaft.de (in German); email: info.palmengarten@stadt-frankfurt.de

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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