Visiting northern Germany in April we are intrigued by stories of huge living willow structures, see them for yourself here.
So we took a couple of days to hunt down some of these amazing creations and found the Boizenburger Schneck (Snail of Boizenburg) not too far from Hamburg. The weidenschneck (willow snail) was down by the Elbe River and when we saw all the high waters we wondered if it could be marooned out there, inaccessible. We drove back and forth along the river, searching, searching. We then resorted to asking for directions and hit pay dirt!
Through driving rain we walked down from the town and then found we could have driven up to it! Back to the car and we finally arrived at our goal. The snail was raised in 2005. No leaves yet this year, it’s still winter here but can you imagine walking through when it’s all green and leafy and climbing to the upper deck in the tower? Or watching performances on the stage? What a fabulous idea for any community!
There is a weidensymphonie (willow orchestra) on the same site. See the diagram of instruments here.
Each instrument is represented by a willow sculpture. Here is the piano and beyond is the bass then perhaps a trumpet on the left and a horn on the right, and is that a saxophone too? The tall straight ones are flutes, this was fascinating.
The entire orchestra must be represented here because the walk is at least 300 metres long. The long drive and the search were well worth it.
Another day, another search. Snowing this time, we drove to Wendeburg, about an hour from Hannover to find the weidenkirche (willow church). There it was in a churchyard right in town and obviously is being used for services, at least in the warmer weather - brrrrr! It was a nasty day - can you see the snow falling in this photo? That looks like espaliered trees in the surrounding fence in the background, it must be wonderful in the summer to worship here. There are a number of these willow churches in Germany and Googling 'weidenkirche' will find them for you. Pappenheim, Bayern, Steinberg are some of the towns and there is actually a cathedral at Rostock which was built in two months in early spring 2001 with over 600 volunteers from 12 different countries around the world. We’ll make a trip to Rostock another time, it’s quite a trek - but a willow cathedral! Amazing!
I found this design at Wendeburg simple and regular, it could be adapted for smaller structures. What to do with that heavy willow, yes this would be perfect for a nice shady retreat, large enough for a bench or two.
We had a great day in spite of the weather and when back in Hannover, drove around to find some temporary willow structures in a downtown church square. They were recently put up right on the pavement in beds of soil which are bounded by heavy logs, interesting to see how they will fare in the summertime. Three of these were put up around this church and they must be intended as decorative structures because there are no real openings inviting access to the interior. Hope the barriers will come down once the rods have taken root and leafed out.
The hunt for giant willow was definitely a fun highlight of this visit to Germany! Thanks to a loving and dedicated daughter who chauffeured her willow-obsessed mother on these day trips!