Berlin’s botanical gardens, one of the city’s most loved green spaces, reopened its gates to the public on Tuesday with May flowers in bloom as Germans began to get used to leisure activities under a strict regime of face coverings, physical distancing and online booking.
As the gardens welcomed their first visitors since mid March, visitors were promised “the fragrance of nectar in your nostrils, the sound of birdsong in your ear” in a welcome posted on the gardens’ online ticket shop.
Germany’s six-week lockdown had confined many of the city’s residents to their flats or to struggling to keep physical distance rules in overcrowded green spaces.
No more than 1,000 visitors will be allowed in the botanical grounds at one time, and the glasshouses will be closed because physical distancing rules would be difficult to keep.
Petra Scharf, a regular visitor before the shutdown, said she had counted the days for it to reopen. “I have a balcony, I’m lucky, but I have missed the expanse of colour and and the smell of the blossom,” the 57-year-old said by phone after her morning visit, during which she said she had kept a safe distance from the friend who accompanied her, pretending to prod him with an umbrella if he got too close.
Elsewhere across Germany cultural attractions were slowly beginning to reopen.
In Potsdam, east of Berlin, the Museum Barberini art gallery was preparing to open its doors on Wednesday, after the lockdown interrupted an exhibition of Monet landscapes only three weeks after it opened.
The museum said it had developed a “comprehensive catalogue of protective and hygiene measures”, which include limiting the number of visitors; and visitors having to book online and be guided in a strict circular path around the exhibition for a maximum stay of two hours. Audio guides will no longer be for hire while security guards will warn visitors not to get too close to the paintings and each other.
“We are very happy to be able to finally make the museum accessible again,” said Ortrud Westheider, the Barberini’s director. “We are also very aware of the responsibility we have towards our guests and employees.”
In Dresden the Sempergalerie, one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions, holding a collection of old-master paintings, also reopened on Tuesday. It had reopened at the end of February following a seven-year renovation, only to be closed because of the coronavirus lockdown two weeks later.
A lengthy queue had built up in front of the Sempergalerie’s entrance before it opened at 11am. A museum employee explained the hygiene regulations to the visitors, including the obligatory wearing of masks, or nose and mouth coverings, before entry.
Commercial galleries across Germany have also started opening their doors. State museums, including tourist magnets such as the Pergamon, the Alte Nationagalerie, and Gemälde Galerie, as well as a range of research institutes and libraries, are due to reopen on 12 May. Visitors are asked, in almost all cases, to book a time slot online. Digital guided tours during the lockdown will remain available for those whose health will not permit them to visit the museums.
Elsewhere zoos, several of which suggested that a lack of income meant they might have to kill their animals, have been allowed to reopen for the past week but with considerable restrictions.
In Berlin, panda cubs born in September are not on public display, and all feeding times in front of visitors have been cancelled.
Nightclubs, concert halls and other cultural institutes where physical distancing is virtually impossible, have so far had no indication from the government as to when and under what conditions they could reopen.
A meeting between the government and the country’s 16 state leaders on Wednesday is expected to make decisions on schools and nurseries as well as sporting activities, and to indicate when and under what conditions restaurants and tourist attractions might be allowed to reopen across the country.
On Tuesday Bavaria announced a phased reopening of its outdoor restaurants. Several states announced that rambling and hiking was allowed once again, as were other outdoor physical activities not requiring physical contact, such as golf.
All large events, such as football matches and other sports contests, music festivals, circuses and fairs, remain banned until further notice.
Hairdressers, cosmetic studios, nail and tattoo parlours were given permission to open on Monday, while print shops, and music and driving schools are also open for business again in most German states. Playgrounds have also opened their gates.