The Garden Path

by Yvonne Michie Horn

Had I stepped into a storybook? Cute-as-a-button little cottages painted in shades of red, yellow, white and green nestled behind white picket fences and clipped hedges, each surrounded by an array of flowers, abundant beds of vegetables, and fruit trees summer-heavy with fruit.

The path I followed took me deeper into the collection of little houses and gardens clinging to the hillside that descended to the edge of Sweden’s Årstaviken Bay.

“Yoo-hoo...

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When Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens opens for the season in the spring of 2010, its ornate gates will swing wide for the 168th time, providing, as from Tivoli’s first days, “a magical place for recreation and fresh air.”

That is how Tivoli’s creator, Georg Carstensen, a publisher of periodicals, described what he had in mind when he approached King Christian VIII to ask for permission to realize his dream. He topped off his proposal by mentioning that “when the people are amusing...

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by Yvonne Michie Horn

I’d come to the city of Oaxaca, southern Mexico’s cultural treasure, for a two-week immersion in Spanish. During that time, I wandered around the Old City in my off-school hours, jumping at every opportunity to practice my emerging language skills. As I walked cobbled streets, I kept running into the name of Francisco Toledo, Oaxaca’s reigning contemporary artist.

“Toledo is a seed,” my teacher told me. “Toledo has insisted that our total culture be...

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by Yvonne Michie Horn

Wrote an amazed Marco Polo of 13th-century Suzhou, “There are fully 6,000 stone bridges, such that one or two galleys could readily pass beneath them.”

He continued on with a detailed description of a noble city crisscrossed with canals — not unlike his native Venice — where “the citizens of this city,” men of enormous wealth and consequence, hobnobbed with philosophers, the literati and physicians schooled in nature. All dressed in the fine silk for...

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by Yvonne Michie Horn

There were three possibilities: I was waiting at the wrong harbor, had drastically misunderstood the ferry’s schedule or was the sole person bound for Lopud. The bench at the ferry departure dock was mine alone, with no other passengers in sight.

Ahh, a ferry, a small-sized member of the fleet that ties the islands and mainland of Croatia together, rounded the bend. Right on time, according to the schedule to Lopud.

With that, passengers streamed...

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by Yvonne Horn

“Ten years ago, this guy this tall.” Zabu Levin indicated a level close to his knees. “Kapooh! Now this tall!” His hand shot up as we looked through the monkey bread tree’s towering branches into the clear, blue Judean Desert sky.

The tree was a nighttime bloomer, Zabu told me, with large, white flowers that lasted but one night, attracting bats with their sweet nectar and the buzz of bees at dawn.

Zabu was walking with me through the botanical garden of...

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by Yvonne Horn

“Take the path to the sea,” the man in the blue, woolly sweater advised. “It’s quite a lovely walk.”

“Are you the head gardener?” I asked.

“No,” he responded with a smile. “I’m Peter Erskine.”

“Oh!,” I said, as it dawned on me that the blue, woolly sweater wearer was Sir Peter Erskine, heir to this estate to which I’d come to spend a day wandering its acres swathed in snowdrops. Cambo Estate, one of Scotland’s grandest.

Beginning in late...

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by Yvonne Horn

Visitors are encouraged to touch, smell and even nibble a berry or two as they stroll through Alnwick Castle’s walled 12 acres of shrubs, trees and flowers. . . until they reach the Poison Garden. Here some of the world’s most toxic and hallucinogenic plants are grown, some so virulent or hallucinogenic that they are incarcerated in caged beds.

Whirlwind of controversy

When the Poison Garden opened in 2005, the year of my visit, it was but the latest...

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