One of the things I loved about western Europe was the way many of its cities preserved its riverfront property, protecting them with gorgeous parks and gardens that people loved to visit no matter the weather. I saw some really wonderful riverside parks in my time, but one of the most impressive was the Fulda River Basin in the city of Kassel. It was one of the largest and most wonderful (and longest) on-foot experiences I've ever had.
Like Kassel's main attraction, the Schloss Wilhelmshoehe, the basin was largely constructed around artificial waterways and ponds. But while the Schloss used them to provide water for its magnificent mountainside waterfalls, the basin offered a more serene setting for casual, lengthy strolls. This subchapter covers the decorative Karlsaue with its fantastic Orangerie (shown in the first photo) on the west bank of the Fulda, the Bugasee and the Fuldaaue on the east bank, and the Unterneustadt and Waldau districts to Kassel's east and southeast, respectively.
The Karlsaue occupied the entire west bank. It was a mile-long park, shaped like a teardrop, facing north. Much of it was completely flat with sculpted ponds and floral-shaped pathways. The ground in front of the Orangerie, marked on the map as the Karlswiese, was a four-hundred meter long lawn shaped like a massive shamrock, outlined at the far end by a series of columns hosting mythological figurines. The Orangerie dominated the north corner, sitting directly below the Staatstheater in Kassel's downtown. It now houses a technical museum. I loved the bright cheerful yellow color (common among German palace buildings) that made it look like it was recently repainted. Even from the opposite end of the park, the Orangerie was so bright I had no trouble picking it out!
The pathways in the middle of the park (like that of the second photo) spread from the Karlswiese like a fan, following two very wide artificial canals lined with trees and crossed by decorative bridges. The middle was forested until I reached the Aueteich, a massive artificial pond shaped something like a fleur-de-lis, with an artificial flower-shaped island at one end hosting a temple. The south end of the park had another artificial island -- the square-shaped Siebenbergen (seven castles) that was completely forested.
I walked the entire perimeter of the park, enjoying the sunshine. By mid-afternoon, a large number of Kasselers were in the park with their families or loved ones for a pleasant walk and a chance to feed the park's many ducks and geese.
My hotel was in the suburb of Waldau to the southeast, so after returning to the downtown, I charted a course along the main road of the west bank, crossed the Damaschkebruecke in the south, and followed the reservoirs on the east bank. That "main road" was Frankfurterstrasse to the city's sportsplatz (the Auestadion, home of the third division soccer club and the first division hockey team). I followed the back roads behind the Auestadion and went across the bridge to the Kassel convention center (Messeplatz).
This area was very pretty. The lowlands were open and green. I passed several ranches filled with horses on the right, while the south edge of the Karlsaue was on my left. I saw many more people out walking, or fishing in the reservoirs.
The suburb of Waldau was a mixture of classic half-timber houses and more modern plaster buildings. Obviously, the older-style buildings were more interesting -- although most of them looked newly rebuilt. As small as Waldau was, it actually had a designated "old town", primarily its stone church (third photo) and the block surrounding it.
The next morning I returned to Kassel via the east bank. I followed the walking path, called the Waldauer Fussweg, that traversed the Fuldaaue along the Bugasee. I started at a tall hilltop overlooking the Bugasee and took in the view shown in the fourth photo. The city of Kassel can be seen in the distance through the morning fog. There were several motorrafts in the center of the reservoir with people fishing, otherwise it was yet too chilly for any other brave souls to venture out. My primary company was a flock of sheep grazing just off the photo to the right.
Following the Fussweg, I passed by several very old stone houses along the Fulda bank, occupied by older folks. Many of them were just coming out for their morning stroll or bike ride (I noticed a lot of bikers all around Kassel). I eventually reached the Unterneustadt (Lower New City). As its name suggested, it was a very new district, mostly high-rise apartments that I guessed were 1970s/1980s vintage.
I finally reached the end of the east bank where it merged with the Karlsaue. That was the region of the Fuldabruecke, which can be seen in the distance in the fifth photo. This was the city's main river harbor, complete with wide defensive towers and colorful warehouses.
The point of the Karlsaue hosted a sportsplatz, including a large soccerfield (with, unsurprisingly, a large net to keep soccer balls from being kicked into the Orangerie!). But the pickaxe sculpture in the fifth photo was what caught my attention! Modern art, gotta love it!
All told, my venturing around the Karlsaue on Saturday, following by the full circumference of the river basin and the Waldau district over the weekend came to about fifteen kilometers, or nine miles -- this plus the climbing up and down the Schloss Wilhelmshoehe. I mention this because while some of my travelogues inherently recommend itineraries to follow, this was probably not one of them (except for the most avid walkers). Part of my incentive to travel was the great exercise I got, after all.
But if you are an avid walker and a lover of beautiful parks and scenery, you would do just fine doing a couple loops around the Fulda River basin below Kassel, especially on a sunny weekend!
Trip taken 15-16 March 2003 -- Page last updated 24 October 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin