A story hardly known by any tourist can be discovered in the north of Heidelberg – far away from the souvenir shops: a botanical garden going all the way back to the year 1593, when a certain Henricus Smetius, professor of medicine, decided to create a medical garden near the castle …
… 424 years later. Rush-Hour in Heidelberg. If you cross the Neckar on the four-lane bridge “Ernst-Walz-Brücke” heading north, you will see another facet of Heidelberg: the campus Neuenheimer Feld. A place where Nobel Prize winners greet each other in passing on their bikes and a natural sciences centre. Hospitals, laboratories, functional architecture everywhere – and in the midst of it all: the botanical garden.
“Many people think we are the mixture of a zoo and a gardening centre. Strictly speaking we are rather a university research institute with living objects,” Dr. Andreas Franzke says observing his visitors with a critical yet impish smile. The scientific director of the garden says aloud what most visitors immediately think: “This workplace is a real privilege.”
The passionate botanist found his dream job already one decade ago. He moved from Osnabrück to Heidelberg especially for his new life at the garden area of about three hectares between student residence and research institute.
“For most people this is not about rare orchid species, exotic pineapple plants or original brassicas. Our visitors enjoy the condensed splendour and the calming power of nature.”
The garden of today, which was established in 1915, in the meantime has become the seventh location in the eventful history of the botanical garden Heidelberg. The inhabitants of Heidelberg love it and the most diverse people turn every visit here into a ritual. Patients form the surrounding clinics join the connoisseurs and lovers of botany and the pupils of Heidelberg who came here to add a ginkgo leaf to their herbarium at the last minute. Students from the neighbourhood skipping their lecture take a coffee while the laboratory staff meet on the park bench during their lunch break.