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Bonn, A Capitol Trip
February 25, 2004
Dear Friends and Families,
We still try to work in a tourist trip as often as we can. In winter, this is harder because long drives that may be fun in other seasons are just risky, stress-filled hours in the gray cold of a German winter. Nevertheless, when Marianne had a Monday holiday coming up, we knew we needed to see SOMETHING on that three-day weekend. We chose a drive up to Bonn, the pre-unification capital of West Germany. Bonn is pretty close and we could drive along the Rhine past old castles and fortresses. Best of all, we had found a castle next to Bonn to stay in. Who could pass up a castle stay?
We drove up the Rhine under standard, gray, winter skies, but could see how we would need to repeat the trip in sunnier times. The Rhine was over its banks in low areas. The fast moving current gave us a feel for the difficulty boatmen must have had before mechanized propulsion. On this Saturday, even the powerful Rhine boats and barges struggled upstream.
In Bonn, we found our hotel and the castle entrance was as grand as we had imagined. Mostly, the Schlosshotel Kommende Ramersdorf is used for meetings and conventions, but on off-season weekends like this, they welcomed us as almost the only guests. For the rest of the afternoon, we wandered through Bonn. Somehow we had imagined that the place would reflect the fact that its biggest industry, the West German government, had left town a few years before. However, Bonn seemed to be as prosperous and as busy as any small city we've seen in Germany.
On Sunday, we went to two of the many museums. First we wandered in the Modern Art Museum, taking pictures and generally having fun making observations on the art and the "art patrons". This is a good art museum, but not a world-capital museum, so it fits Bonn perfectly. We also went into the museum of modern German History and this place was special. It traces the history of Germany, from the end of World War II up through the present. The story of the almost-complete destruction of Germany during the War and the years-long process to rebuild a modern nation, was extremely well told. The five-level museum told of the parallel developments in West and East Germany from the fifties through the end of the eighties and the ultimate reunification that, ironically, removed Bonn from the list of world capitals.
On our drive back, we managed one stop, at the village of Adendorf, the home of many traditional Germany pottery makers. By now, a mixture of snow and rain was coming down, but we managed a quick visit and vowed again, to do this in better weather! After this last tourist stop, we suffered through a miserable drive down snowy and slushy autobahns, almost buried by the backwash from some of the trucks we had to pass.
All in all, the weekend in Bonn was nice enough, but now we know why it's not a Winter tourist center.
Regards, and we hope you visit (in Spring, Summer, or Fall)
John and Marianne
|The drive up the Rhine was interesting. The flooded river brought the boats even closer to shore. The villages and castles were as quaint as always, but it was easy to see that sun would have improved the view.|
|Our castle-hotel, the Schlosshotel Kommende Ramersdorf, was great. The grand entrance impressed us, even on our dark-and-gloomy day. The rooms were a bit less grand, since they were in the former servants wing, but cozy and warm. (Sorry, no web connection or email address. This REALLY was an old place!)|
Since we had already seen a castle, we needed a church and in Bonn, the Dopplekirche (double church) of Schwarzrheindorf was a treat. Started in the 12th Century, the church grew over the ages until there were almost two full churches. The story goes that the regular folks sat in the lower church and royalty sat upstairs. Each church had its own altar but the open center extended through both levels so it was hard to determine just how all this interacted. Maybe a Sunday morning Battle-of-the Sermons?
|The Modern Art Museum was filled with "interesting"pieces. One was good for Art and Robin to peer through. Another room was filled with a macabre rope ball, with bloody themes reflected along the walls. Another favorite was a sign warning of a chocolate "fat bomb" ("Kalorienbombe Fett und Schokolate") -- as if we couldn't recognize it.|
This was definitely was an education museum - to the degree museums CAN be educational. When mom's try to explain to young sons why blobs across the floor are art, she's stretching her credibility. When art teachers try to open the eyes and minds of teenage students, she's just plain stretching. Good luck to both!
The (Modern) German History Museum was five stories of excellent displays, tracing history from the end of the Third Reich, through The Divide, up to Reunification (and Bonn's fall from capitalship.) We could not take our own pictures but the museums website more than makes up for it.
|At the end of the day, or the beginning of the next, digital photos are great to share. Marianne and I have ended up with a travel morning routine that we shared with Robin and Art.|
Finally, our stop in Adendorf to look at hand-made pots. I didn't think I'd like this folk art but, with some explanation from Herr Giertz, a fifth-generation potter, I gained an appreciation for the old-world skill and the resulting quality.
"Our" potter: http://www.toepferei-giertz.de/
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