While Tim needed to catch up on some work today, the rest of us decided to go on an excursion back to Merano. Not because Merano was so beautiful that we felt the need to see it for a second day in a row (although it was a gorgeous place!) but to visit a botanical garden, which is located a bit outside the main town centre.
We didn't have much luck with public transport initially, missing the 10.35 train we were trying to catch literally just by a minute when there was a last minute platform train. That meant we had almost half an hour to wait at Bolzano station until the next train to Merano. Fortunately, it was quite a scenic place to sit.
Once we made it to Merano, we then needed to catch a bus to the entrance to the gardens. The bus took us up some increasingly steep and narrow roads towards our destination.
Having missed the first train and then, by default, the bus which would have connected with it, it was around 12.30 by the time we'd bought a ticket and got inside the Trauttmansdorff Castle Gardens.
We knew they were botanical gardens, but otherwise weren't quite sure what to expect. I was pleased when one of the first things we walked past was a display of cactuses though.
There were some lovely views of the mountains surrounding Merano...
...and as we admired the views we noticed what looked like a rather unusual viewing platform sticking out of the hillside.
The gardens were really well laid out, so although they were on a hillside you never really felt like you were going very uphill because the paths were gently sloping.
We walked past some really colourful flowers, interspersed with the odd cactus.
We soon realised that the gardens were laid out in four different zones, with routes to follow around all of them.
We'd started with the route referred to as the Sun Gardens, which was concentrating on Mediterranean plants.
We also passed a display of carnivorous plants.
As we continued upwards, there were some pretty views down towards Merano.
There was also the occasional odd sculpture.
And we had a view of Trauttmansdorff Castle itself, the yellow building in whose gardens all this is housed.
We were climbing upwards towards the rather spectacular viewpoint we'd spotted from down below.
It was quite strange to stand on; it wobbled slightly and you could see a long way down when you looked through the floor! It gave us some nice views though.
After the viewpoint, our route continued along a very green path.
We were walking towards a rather unusual aviary.
There were multiple birds inside, including some rather colourful parrots.
I wasn't a massive fan of being inside an aviary with birds, but once you walked through it you could get to another viewing platform.
From there you could see down towards what was advertised as the palm beach, although that didn't look like it was going to be the most exciting part of the gardens.
We decided not to go to the palms but to retrace our steps downhill to the main restaurant to get some lunch.
I had some dumpling soup again and also an affogato which came in an actual coffee cup. I was very impressed!
As we left the restaurant I realised we could see up to the precarious viewpoint we'd been at earlier. It's not too easy to make out in this photo, but it's between the lefthand branch of the tree and its trunk. It looked quite high from down here!
Our plan was now to explore the second zone of the gardens, which was called Forests of the World.
The first sight we came to when following the forest trail didn't involve trees, though. Instead, we found ourselves looking at a rice paddy!
That was unexpected. The path continued past small waterfalls...
...little palm trees and all sorts of ferns.
At one point there was some artificial steam adding to a jungle atmosphere.
Towards the end of the forests trail we came to a large glasshouse.
There were some beautiful flowers in here.
I was excited to see a coffee plant.
There were all sorts of other exotic plants in there. Look at these baby pineapples!
Once we'd completed the forests trail, we moved on to the Water and Terraced Gardens zone.
I think we maybe took a wrong turning on the route at some point because rather than arriving at the large pond we had been expecting, we found ourselves in what seemed to be more like a cactus zone!
There were all kinds of different cactuses here.
I loved these little round ones!
Although I saw a lot of cactuses in Arizona last year, I'm not sure I've ever seen so many different types of cactuses all in the same place.
It was also just such a strange setting to see them in, with Alpine views behind.
It was all really pretty though
And some of the cactuses were even flowering!
I may have taken just a few photos!
Once we'd finished admiring the cactuses, our path continued down towards a more flowery part of the gardens.
There were so many different displays to look at that it was hard to take everything in.
I loved these bright red flowers though.
Eventually we got down to the water lily pond we'd been expecting.
It was really gorgeous here and the rain was just about holding off for us.
We saw what looked like enormous water lilies...
...and turned out to be lotus flowers.
There were also some giant water lilies where the leaves had edges.
Plus lots of more normal water lilies, of course.
It was a really spectacular place and there was so much more we could have seen if we'd had more time.
Unfortunately, it was around 4pm by this point and we needed to get to the bus stop, to start our journey back to Merano. It was a lovely day though and I'd definitely come to the gardens again if I was in this part of the world