Drawer with bees and honey, © TourismusMarketing Niedersachsen GmbH
© TourismusMarketing Niedersachsen GmbH

A vis­it to the cer­ti­fied sus­tain­able city of Celle

There she stands, as if rooted to the spot, her hair in curls, a pearl necklace for adornment, the blue skirt of her frock gathered up in one hand, her beloved white horse in the other – it’s Duchess Eleonore d’Olbreuse. Countless buzzing bees make a beeline for the amulet on her chest, before crawling into a hole the size of a plum. ‘This is what’s known as a figure hive. In the 18th century, apiaries carved these figure hives out of hollow tree trunks. The innards offer a good place for bees to construct their hive. A woodcarver gave it to us as a gift for the 75th anniversary of our institute,’ says Martina Janke, standing beside the nearly three-metre tall wooden effigy of the woman who, as the Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle, commissioned a French garden at this very spot in the 17th century.


The bee in­sti­tute in the French Garden of Celle

Anyone walking through this public garden today will be accompanied by lively buzzing: this green oasis in the centre of Celle is not only home to countless plants, but also the busy bees of the Institute for Apiculture. Since 1927 this city on the Lüneburg Heath is where beekeepers have been trained and research projects carried out in the laboratory on beekeeping, agriculture and plant protection under the direction of Martina Janke. ‘Beekeepers have kept bee colonies on the heath for centuries,’ she explains. ‘Many of the traditional methods still influence our work with our 800 bee colonies today.’ 

For a bee-friendly fu­ture

Martina walks further into the grounds, stopping here and there to shed light on all the different beehives and boxes. Her stories are a reminder of the huge ecological and economical importance of bees. We owe the very existence of our wildflowers and our harvests to their vital pollinating work. That’s why teaching and research go hand in hand at this institute. ‘We pass on all our new findings directly to the beekeepers. Or we use them to advise businesses and fruit growers who want to operate in a more bee-friendly way. This means we’re always working according to the latest knowledge,’ explains Martina.

A tour through the in­sti­tute grounds

It’s a fresh, autumnal September morning. Drops of dew glisten in the grass in the light of the pale rays of sun that valiantly break through the light cloud cover. Many plants have already wilted. Only the heather still glows a bold pink and purple at the edge of the path along which a group of six are walking. The group includes Kerrit Riesbek and Ulrike Eggers. These expert tour guides have been running tours of the grounds and the institute’s bee museum for many years and regale visitors with the fascinating background to traditional heath beekeeping and bee biology.

They are now leading the group through the round arch in an old brick wall to two narrow bee boxes. Kerrit goes up to one of the boxes, takes hold of the attached silver handle and opens a window which gives a view of the small beehive inside, where hundreds of bees are swarming between honey-coloured wax honeycombs. ‘This is one of our observation hives,’ explains Kerrit. ‘Here visitors can watch the bees working and get an impression of what the inside of this type of beehive looks like.’

Ex­per­i­ence sus­tain­ab­il­ity

The bee institute is just one of many places in Celle where visitors can experience sustainability at first hand. For this little city, filled with cosy half-timbered houses, is a real leader when it comes to sustainability. Ever since 2016 Celle has had a Sustainability Council, thanks to which the city on the Lüneburg Heath has been certified as a sustainable travel destination since 2017. Reasons for this include the many businesses in the city that have decided, together with the Celle public utilities, to be as efficient in their use of resources as possible. They now use exclusively green energy and local products, they avoid long transport routes when purchasing their goods, or they install solar panels on their roofs to generate electricity from renewable energy. Even the Celler Badeland water park, just a few minutes’ walk from the bee institute, plays its part by supplying its own heat and electricity.

Green elec­tri­city for Celler Bade­land Wa­ter Park

How does it work? ‘We use two large combined heat and power plants,’ explains Thomas Edathy, managing director of the public utilities. He’s standing at the top of the slide of the outdoor pool looking proudly out over the spacious grounds of the leisure pool complex. There, he explains how a combined heat and power plant (CHP) works: ‘In a CHP natural gas is combusted using a turbine construction. Not only does this produce electricity, it also automatically produces heat during the combustion process.’ This is good for the environment because instead of generating heat and electricity separately, they are produced together, which can reduce CO2 emissions by one-third.

Overall, the two CHPs generate more than enough energy to supply the entire water park with heat and electricity. Swimming pools, showers, saunas – everything here is heated using the park’s self-produced energy. Sometimes the CHP generates so much electricity that it can even supply other companies. Any excess heat produced that cannot be immediately used in the water park is stored in two 60,000-litre water tanks and can then be fed back into the leisure pool’s heating system as needed. This means that none of the energy generated is wasted.

Sus­tain­able saunas

Thomas comes down the steps of the slide and heads towards a building at the edge of the grounds that is surrounded by a high wooden fence. This is the latest sustainable achievement of the Celler Badeland water park: an event sauna that runs on heat recovery and solar power. The scent of fresh wood and sauna infusion wafts out the open door. Inside, the sauna is bright and spacious. Fifty guests can enjoy special infusions such as so-called singing bowl infusions and beer infusions. Sauna attendant Jeffrey Müller is standing in the empty sauna preparing the next sauna infusion. He is already wearing the pointy felt hat that protects his head from the heat.

Heat is not just used here to make people sweat, as Thomas explains. ‘Thanks to heat recovery, the heat of the sauna can also be used to heat the shower cubicles and the relaxation room.’

The windows in the hallway of the sauna building look out over the courtyard. Wrapped in bathrobes and towels, some of the sauna guests lie here on loungers, eyes closed enjoying the autumn sun, which not only provides them with a hit of vitamin D, but also their warm shower here at the Celle Badeland water park. If you look closely, black solar panels are visible on the roof of the sauna just a few metres above your head. These panels generate enough energy to easily heat all the shower water.

‘Every year the Celle public utilities have to prove that the city has earned its certification as a sustainable city with building projects such as this one,’ says Thomas. For Celle Badeland this means improved insulation and a green roof in the year ahead. For the city of Celle this means another step towards a sustainable future.