If the Dutch Keukenhof is the most photographed place on the planet, Insel Mainau is the German equivalent.
Maybe what’s left of the Berlin Wall or Neuschwanstein Castle narrowly pip it as subjects for German holiday snaps, though even that is doubtful.
Since 1853 the island in Lake Constance, a few kilometres north of Konstanz has been owned by five generations of the Bernadotte family, descendants of plant lover Grand Duke Friedrich I von Baden. The descendants inherited his green thumbs. In 1932 Friedrich’s grandson Count Lennart Bernadotte opened Mainau to the public and turned the island into one of the best-known tourist attractions in Germany.
It goes to show that Grand Dukes can be good for something if they possess the necessary noblesse oblige or need to raise a few euros to maintain the stately home. Insel Mainau now operates as a private foundation, without government funding, employing 38 gardeners and countless ancillary staff.
Despite the buses and cars packing the parking area outside the gates, the gardens are big enough to accommodate the crowds, without feeling cramped. The tulips (over a million bulbs) were almost finished when we visited in late spring, but there were plenty of other things to fill the camera’s memory card.
Practical information: Insel Mainau is open all year round. Entry EUR8 (winter) EUR17.50 (summer). For information on programs and activities, see www.mainau.de.
Staying there: Hotel Viva Paradise Island in nearby Litzelstetten has rooms from EUR90 – and an entertaining Hawaaian design theme.