The wonderful weather in my first week, has led me to seek out points of interest with lots of green space and the opportunity to enjoy the sun and warmth.

It was therefore no surprise that I found myself on the U-bahn to the neighborhood or kieze of Charlottenburg.

First a few words about Berlin neighborhoods or kiezes. Officially Berlin consists of 12 boroughs, which are divided up into a total of 96 districts. But in reality Berliners don’t live in boroughs or districts they live in their kieze-a neighborhood which may be defined by geography but more typically a feeling, a sense of belonging. I have only been here about a week and already feel that my kieze of Pretzlauerberg Is my ‘hood’.

Soon after arriving, I discovered a great app called Going Local Berlin. It’s objective is to help you experience Berlin and explore the 12 boroughs like a local. It has more than 600 tips on what to see, do and experience -markets, cafes, boutiques, events, parks all organised by kieze. I have found it to be incredibly helpful wherever I am in Berlin. I simply look up that kieze and have at my finger tips lots of local options. It so much better than the typical tourist info.. so if you come to berlin, use this app.

So, earlier this week on a glorious spring morning I made my way to Charlottenburg Palace. The palace, the largest surviving royal place in Berlin, is in an affluent kieze, Charlottenburg-Wimersdorf. It is named after Sophia Charlotte of Hanover wife of Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg and sister of the English King George I. It was built by the architect Johann Arnold Nering in the 1690s. It was enhanced after Frederick crowned himself Frederick I, first King of Prussia. Clearly, the new King and Queen needed to have larger gilded rooms given their new status.

The palace was extensively bombed during the second world war and bit by bit is being restored. Many of the interior furnishings were destroyed, but I still found it a worthwhile visit. Queen Charlotte collected porcelain, consequently both the palace and the former garden Belvedere Tea House have beautiful porcelain displays

The gardens are huge and have seen many changes as various rulers landscaped in accordance with the sentiments of the times. Even though it was an early april spring morning, the main gardens had already been planted. I can only imagine how lovely these gardens are in full summer.


There is a beautiful boulevard, Schlossstrasse, that runs for several blocks to take you to the castle. Beautiful old homes and buildings line the street, and in the middle lovely green walking space. People play bacci and sit on the benches taking in the sun. As I neared the palace I came across an outdoor photo exhibit. Gegen das Vergessen

For two blocks screens, large 10 by 8 canvases of photos of faces. Old faces, men and women, wrinkled, some smile, some don’t. On some you see blue and white striped hats. It doesn’t take long to figure out I am again experiencing the schwer in Berlin. The portraits are striking, you see the whiskers on the old faces both men and women, smeared eyeliner, some women with jewels and scarves others starkly simple. They speak for themselves. While different, all share a common history-they survived the holocaust.

It is a moving installation! Walking along. I read many of the short histories of those portrayed. Their current age, where they now live, where they lived before the war, where they were incarcerated, who freed them.

On my return home, I researched the work. A “Mannheim artist Luigi Toscano has searched and portrayed Jews who have escaped Nazi persecution in five countries. The result is the photo installation “Against Oblivion”, in which the touching faces speak for themselves and their history.”


I am always attracted to green spaces…I love walking the belt line in Toronto, hiking in the Rockies, golfing as much to hit the ball, as to take in the scenery. It is no different in cities. I always seek out the parks and gardens.
Initially walking the streets of Florence is was not easy to see a lot of green..narrow streets with high walls, but I soon discovered that the city blocks of high walls held hidden gardens…most of which regrettably were private. With front green gardens not being a norm in Florence, I checked out the Florence city map and indeed found green slices for exploration.
062The first of these was close to my first Florence apartment and I found I was skirting this large green space without my knowledge as I made my way to the old city. The map indicated it was Giardino Della Gherardesca…but as is typical in Florence it was surrounded by walls or homes. At 4.5 hectares it is one of the largest private gardens in the city and has been in existence since the 15th century…and like most things of value was owned at one time by the Medici family. Constanza de Medici married Count Guido Alberto della Gherardesca hence the name. I discovered walking the block where the map indicated the garden was located, it was flanked on two sides by entrances to the Four Season’s Hotel… and so I had my entrance.
Years ago, traveling with my friend Mary in Paris she shared with me a great traveling tip. In the great cities of the world, research the famed hotels, dress up and of a late afternoon, stroll in, make your way to the bar, and experience some of the best cocktails and wines in the most beautiful bars of the world and simply enjoy!!! the surroundings, the drinks and the people. So that is what I did in Florence.

The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons

Of a late Sunday afternoon I strolled into the Four Seasons and asked to be shown to the garden bar.
It was delightful!! First of all the terrace, the impeccable service and to my delight the garden was filled with art!!! All in all a priceless day, a lovely glass of wine and the experience of a beautiful garden museum.



068I also got a glimpse of the beautiful hotel… a 15th century palazzo and a 16th century convent beautifully restored over seven years—original frescoes, bas reliefs and stuccos. Stunning!!!!!

Boboli and Pitti Palace

Boboli and Pitti Palace

The second garden is the famous Boboli gardens—a park behind the Medici’s Pitti Palace.



Entrance to the Pitti Palace includes entrance to the Boboli. It is 111 acres!!! In Medici times it was for the exclusive use of the Medici family—no entertainment or parties ever took place in it. A shame for as far as I am concerned, it would have been an amazing venue for a grand event.

The Boboli were laid out for Eleonora di Toledo, the wife of Cosimo I de Medici. The gardens had no natural water source, so a conduit was built from the nearby Arno to feed water into an elaborate irrigation system.


Even today the gardens are elaborate. I can only imagine what they must have been like in the Medici times. Statuary, an Egyptian obelisk, an ampitheatre, a hippodrome—a classical race course, garden temples, an orangery, fountains, Neptune, the Grotto of Vulcan and Bacchus.


Vulcan Grotto

Vulcan Grotto



The Boboli Gardens are situated on a rise over theFlorence so in addition to the gorgeous park surroundings one gets an amazing view out over the city of Florence.140

Both these gardens were definitely worth the hours spent wandering through them.



The Last Garden I want to introduce you to is Giardino Incantanto ( Garden in Bloom). This was the name of the second apartment I rented in Italy. Just outside of Firenze ( a mere 10 minute bus ride into town) near Imprunetta, this lovely Tuscan home was surrounded by an amazing garden, the love of Fiametta, mother of Lorenzo my host. I spent 3 weeks in Giardino Incantanto a marvelous airbnb location.

The house was beautiful and large enough to host family and friends. I welcomed my daughter, my sister and brother in law, friends and cousins ..all of whom marveled at this beautiful space. We enjoyed it with coffee in the mornings and with wine in the evenings. It soon became the most photographed garden in Tuscany!!!