Fully prepared we started our trip to the secret Mecca of European orchid lovers – the Gargano peninsula in the south of Italy. With 69 species of orchids it is said to be the place with the greatest concentration of different orchid species in Europe.
The first days elapse with driving serpentines up and down, trying to match our maps (we have 3) with the actual roads. It happens that our maps (printed in 2002) are just too old to show the roads that have been built shortly after. As we come from the flatlands of Northern Germany, we are not used to drive bend after bend – so it’s not too difficult to get lost (it has nothing to do with gender … ;-).
We try to get a feeling for land and light around the Monte Sacro, our first destination within the Gargano National Park. Crouched down we inspect promising meadows and hillsides - searching for species of Anacamptis, Orchis, Ophrys and Serapias which hide successfully behind flowering plants and rocks. Looking for orchids is a little like collecting mushrooms – if you’ve found one, you’ll find’em all. GPS would make our lives easier as there are brochures that depict the exact habitat of the different orchid species, but unfortunately we do not have GPS and no brochures. But even a blind hen sometimes finds a grain of corn, so we trust that we’ll find some floral surprises during the next days. …
When we travel to unknown regions, we usually have a vision of some ideal images we want to capture. In our case we thought of exuberantly colorful landscapes … plants that glisten like rainbows in the morning dew … warm and diffused light … dramatic clouds and a play of colors in the evening - just enough to drive home with a wide range of spectacular pictures on the flash card – happy and in pleasant anticipation of spaghetti and pizza.
Spaghetti and pizza have been really delicious. In all other aspects we have been dreamers. What we found was neglected grassland, not really rich in vegetation … sunny days with extremely bright light and harsh contrasts … no dewdrops in the morning due to the permanent wind (22miles/h) … a pale sun that is setting behind the hills before getting a chance to warm up … and the chalky rocks in between leave our camera light meters clueless. There will be a time in year when the sun will set with golden light between the hills of Monte Sacro – but I guess there will be no orchids at that time.
However, it’s beautiful up here … and every day we discover so many new and unseen things …
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.