Eight questions for...

Maren Brechmacher-Ihnen, (Garden) historian

When I visit the World Heritage Site of Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, what should I definitely not miss?

The water features that were built more than 300 years ago. They are a unique masterpiece of garden landscaping, and they were created with the use of a clever system of reservoirs, lakes and channels - not a single pump is needed. Starting point for the water features is the Hercules monument that is on a hill at a height of 500 meters above sea level. From there the water makes its way down over five stations to the Wilhelmshöhe palace. There, about an after the water began flowing, it masses and then shoots from the top out of a geyser in a lake, toward the sky, reaching heights of up to 52 meters. The end point of a unique water performance.

What do you particularly like here?

What impresses me today is the size and especially the horticultural diversity of the park. In an area the size of some 350 soccer fields the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe offers an infinite number of landscapes. When you move through the park you keep discovering new perspectives and different styles of landscapes. As far as I'm aware there is no other park in Europe that equals this array of different landscapes. For me the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is an outdoor art exhibition.

Do you have an insider tip?

The northern half of the Bergpark. Hidden between trees you'll find the new water fall. The man-made garden structure was created around 1826 and was part of the famous water features. Today it is a ruin. Nature has reclaimed it and turned it into a haunted fairyland.

What impressed you most during your first visit here?

During my university studies in landscaping I read a lot about this park but had never actually seen it. When I visited the Bergpark for the first time in 1977 I was impressed not only with the sheer size of the park but also with the large number of exotic trees and plants from so many different corners of the world. I had never before in a park in Europe seen this kind of collection of different plants.

Which time of the year is the most attractive here?

It might sound trite but I think that this park is fascinating all year round. In the spring it is all the different colors created by the flowers and new foliage. In the summertime the water features are thrilling. Also the sounds, be it the rush of water, the breeze in the tree tops or the bird song. In autumn it is the palate of colors in the trees and plants. And in the winter it is the frozen water cascades and the often fairytale-like hush of the park landscape.

What else should I see here?

The palace and park Wilhelmsthal in the Calden municipality, some 10 kilometers north of the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. The palace and park were created in the late Baroque era, between 1747 and 1761. An interesting aspect of the park is a fence which has been placed in a ditch, making the palace and its park melt into the surrounding landscape seemly without any cross-over point or borderline. The fence is only visible when you stand right next to the ditch.

Visiting World Heritage Sites means working up an appetite. What regional specialty should I try?

The specialty of the Kassel region is "Ahle Wurst" or 'old sausage'. It is made with only pork meat. Adding flavor enhancers or any agents to speed up the maturation process are forbidden, and only certain spices can be used to season it. The air-dried sausage takes two to seven months to mature.

And which World Heritage Site would you like to see one day?

I am fascinated by how international relations have influenced garden landscaping. Therefore I'd be very interested in seeing the Chinese landscape gardens, like for example the imperial gardens in the Forbidden City in Beijing or the classical gardens in Suzhou or Wulingyuan. I'd also like to visit the nine selected Persian Gardens in Iran, which have only been a World Heritage Site since 2011.

Maren Brechmacher-Ihnen

spent over 30 years teaching history with a focus on gardens and parks at Kassel University.

The history of garden landscaping has remained her greatest passion. The park and garden landscaper since 2003 has also been the deputy chair of the citizens association of the World Heritage Site Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe.