Tuesday 19 Oct, 2010

Pair of parks worth your (free) time

Munich English Gardens

Taking some time away from visiting major sites and museums is not always an obvious choice. However, if your EF tour takes you to either Munich or Dublin, then a visit to either of the park areas is highly recommended.

One of the great places to visit in Munich is the English Gardens (above). The gardens—although being originally planned by Benjamin Thompson (an Englishman, born in America, who lived in Germany and is buried in France)—are named for the informal style, popular in Europe at the time and distinct from the symmetrical styles made famous by Versailles and copied across Europe.

Within the one-and-a-half square miles, there is a Japanese Tea House (built in 1972 when Munich hosted the Summer Olympics), a replica Greek Temple on a hilltop, a lake with three small islands, an open air theater, as much grass as you could ever want for a pickup game of whatever you like and, perhaps best of all, surfing. There is a small part of the river where a standing wave exists. Surfers attempt to hold their position on the wave for as long as possible—anything over 30 seconds is met with great applause. Terrific to watch and only advised for professionals.

Deer - Phoenix Park in Dublin

Phoenix Park in Dublin

Dublin’s Phoenix Park takes its name from the Irish fionn uisce, meaning “clear water.” The park is spread over 1,750 acres (more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park) and features a monument to the Duke of Wellington, who was born in Ireland (despite his constant desire to play down the fact), and a cross to mark the site where Pope John Paul II said Mass to an estimated crowd of 1 million people in 1979.

Elsewhere, there are many sports fields, and you might be lucky enough to catch a game of polo, cricket or the Gaelic sports of hurling and Gaelic football. The park is home to a herd of fallow deer (right) as well as the residence of the Irish president and the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, the current incumbent is Dan Rooney (he of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers). Finally, you also can visit the Dublin Zoo, which was was the birthplace of Leo the Lion — you do know him, even if you think you don’t.

Dublin has recently introduced a city bike scheme, and it is a short ride along the River Liffey to the park. In Munich, your
EF Tour Director can help to arrange a bike tour of the city concentrating mainly on the English Gardens, definitely the best way to get around.

Either way, a bit of park life is highly recommended.

(Editor’s note: Paul Mattesini’s posts appear Tuesdays on Following the Equator. If you have a travel question for our resident expert tour director, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future posts.)

Photos: Storm Crypt (Munich) via Flickr (CC license); Ewelina Bl (Dublin) via Flickr (CC license)

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