This weekend we explored the city of Bonn, birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven and de facto capital of West Germany from 1949 through the 1990’s. Sunlight is a bit limited in the winter here, and with a 2 hour drive ahead of us we decided to go up Friday night and stay at a hotel for the night. I had a blast driving there, for some reason I was really excited about a night in a hotel even though we just recently lived in a hotel for a month ;). We kept passing signs for all these other places I wanted to go and I think the excitement just kept growing as I told Fil about all these other trips we would be taking in this direction.
We stayed at a really affordable 4-star hotel in the Zentrum (center city) that was full of quirks. We had a double room which was literally 2 beds made separately but next to each other like one big bed. The door to the bathroom was glass—not tinted or glazed, just clear glass, and the knobs for the hot and cold water in the shower were literally at the ceiling. To accommodate there was a step stool under the sink you could put in the tub—I’m glad I was tall enough, it kinda seems dangerous to put a step in the tub. With all the quirks, it was a modern, clean room that we got a good rest in (once Brock settled down—we found out he is a creature of habit and was not a fan of eating without his highchair and the different nighttime routine). Fil was especially excited about the salmon at the amazing breakfast buffet.
Once we got to the room Friday night, I fed Brock some green beans (one of his favorites) while Fil went out to grab some dinner. He came back with Döner kebabs which are really popular in Germany. It is a Turkish dish similar to the Greek gyro—shredded meats and vegetables wrapped in a flatbread with dressings. The language barrier meant that we got spicy kebabs, but they were still delicious… even if our mouths were numb afterwards.
In the morning, after enjoying breakfast we started out exploring the Zentrum and Alstadt (old town). One of the first things we found was a beautiful statue of Beethoven in one of the squares. When we initially saw it there was a sign hung around Beethoven’s neck that roughly translated to “I go back to Vienna. Your cultural policy pisses me off!” The sign was removed within an hour.
Alstadt was really beautiful. The driving streets were along the outside and so most of the streets in this part of the city were for walking only. Something about walking on cobblestones past cafes with small tables outside and watching artisans through the windows is so beautiful. There were a lot of restaurants and shops that we recognized, but also a handful of pipe/tobacco shops, and we even saw a hattery and cobbler! We found a few antique shops, but they didn’t seem to be open :(. We had so much fun just wandering the streets checking out the art, architecture, and specialty shops.
We kept seeing really scary faces though on the buildings as decorations and such. Here are pics of a gold fountain that creeped us out and a small statue up on the old city gate:
I am not sure if we found the weekly Saturday market or if this was special for the carnival season, but I am not complaining. The market was in the main marketplace outside of the old town hall which is considered to be one of the more beautiful in all of Germany.
The stands had beautiful fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, honey, artisan cheeses, meats, and of course breads, cakes, and delicious treats. The selection of produce at our local grocer is minimal so I especially liked the bountiful stands. There was a stand with tulip bulbs and stems which reminded me that in April we can go to Holland for the real Tulip Festival. Twice in Washington we went to the Skagit County tulip festival which is a close second to Holland so now we can see number one!
We walked right through the Alstadt, past the opera house (if it was just the two of us we would have dropped in for the matinee) and out alongside the Rhine River. As soon as we stepped on the river-walk both of us said, almost in unison that it reminded us of Portland, Oregon. It wasn’t just the river-walk that reminded us of Portland though. The whole zentrum felt very Portlandy with large staircases doubling as art and public seating, colorful graffiti, and similar architecture.
After a bit we headed back towards the market to find something for lunch and also found the Beethoven House. This was the home that Beethoven was born in and lived in until he was 22 before moving to Vienna. The house is now a museum with various Beethoven artifacts but we decided to skip it this time because we wanted enough time to go through the German National Museum of Contemporary History (post WWII).
The history museum was really great but we made a mistake by not waiting for a tour group. We knew we would likely have to pause to feed Brock so we didn’t think a tour guide would be a good idea but once we got in we really wished we could have read more of the descriptions so we knew what we were looking at. They had really interesting exhibits that covered reconstruction after WWII through the Berlin Wall being taken down. The museum was massive. It took us 2 hours to walk through without stopping to read much at all. You could easily spend a full afternoon there and be intrigued the whole time. If we return to Bonn I am sure we will re-do this museum with a guide.
Heading home was such a letdown. All day in Bonn we had beautiful, blue, sunny skies and after about half an hour of driving the grey cover and snow started. It felt as if we were driving from an early Spring back into Winter. But after a long drive we were happy to get home.
Fil had to shovel the snow off the sidewalk right away because we can actually get in trouble with our village if we don’t keep up with it. In the mail we got a village newsletter, which I am very excited to spend some time translating. From the headings I can tell that it lists births & deaths, events, church and club information, notes from the council meeting, and had articles about some studies that the university did in the area. I really want to translate the events page because it looks like there is a town musical happening in the next few weeks! Also our village has a few parties and events for the carnival season—Fasching. I still have to learn more, but from what I can tell this season leads up to lent and there are lots of parties, parades, and festivities before giving it all up. Apparently people even dress up like Americans do for Halloween but I don’t think trick-or-treating happens :lol:. Hopefully we can attend some events in our village, but I also plan on going to the Rose Monday parade in Mainz which is at the end of the carnival season.
Overall Bonn was a great day trip! I am so glad we spent the night so we could enjoy the sunshine all day. It would be nice to go back in the summer when the botanical gardens at the old palace are in full bloom. Who knows maybe it will be a stopping point on our way north to the beautiful German beaches :).
P.S here is the view from our living room window. its so beautiful but a little hard to take a picture of.