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Day Trips Around Giessen and Alsfeld

September 4 , 2005



Dear Families and Friends,


Part 1: Giessen


While Marianne was getting ready for the start of her new school, I had to figure out something to do. On this Sunday, after one more picture of "Mrs. Trotter", I headed into Giessen to see what I could see in the few hours I had.

Background: Giessen arose as a city in the early 13th Century, surround a castle build in the previous century. The castle was surrounded by wetlands, and the German name translates roughly as "wet terrain" (according to the guide book) or swamp. It's probably not on many tourist routes but it is a center of transportation (reason for the Army base) and a science University. Our move in has been so hectic that we have seen virtually none of it. Today's' couple hours was only a glimpse as well.


My first stop was Johannes Church, the largest Protestant church in Giessen. It was built in the late 19th Century and is the blend of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles that was popular at the time. I glanced inside but the service was underway but of course I didn't want to barge in and be an ugly tourist so those pictures will have to wait.

Across the street, a long city park starts that borders Johannesstrasse. It is quite a lovely space, at least on a quiet Sunday morning.


Farther along in the park is a monument to the famous scientist William Conrad Roentgen, the first winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1901. He was professor of Physics at the University of Giessen from 1879 to 1888. The monument symbolizes the "invisible rays" he called "X-rays", a term that is dated but still recognized, as is the unit of radiation exposure called a "Roentgen".

The park continued past other monuments, playgrounds, pathways and a fountain that was particularly glittery this Fall morning.

Finally, before I had to return to Giessen Elementary School, I passed a pair of the landmark buildings of Giessen. First was the theater, an Art Nouveau building housing its own theater company as well as a song and dance ensemble. I suppose this is another place to return to!

The University itself contains many historic buildings, including the New Castle, built in the middle of the 16th Century. The lower part was heavily fortified because it was meant as a fortress during the time when the local prince needed to fortify the location as a Reformation stronghold.

With that, I had to go back and pick up my teacher. Particularly after looking though the guide book I used for this story, I realized there is still much to see of (one of) our new hometown.

Part 2: Alsfeld

Since it was still a sunny day, and we know those are not to be wasted, we left Giessen Elementary School and headed East, past the turn to home at Sommersmuehle. We drove past Gruenberg, our nearest "city", and continued until we came to Alsfeld, yet another quaint town filled with half-timbered houses, known locally as "fachwerk".

One of the first buildings we saw was attached to an old cloister. We immediately said "Another project!" Just kidding. I think.


The center of town was filled with more fachwerk, some of it with imaginative detail we had not seen much of elsewhere. It's a shame the day was getting short and the shadows long because I imagine the buildings are much more dramatic when well lighted. Next time, again.



Our last stop was by the town hall and a particularly painful-looking tourist attraction: an iron noose. These guys were getting a kick out of it, although the noose volunteer looked just a bit nervous. (I tried it on too, but discovered that it's not at all dramatic if the victim is tall, but for heights of a few hundred years ago, it would have been a different story.)


So that was our quick Sunday drive. Clearly, there are more places to see than Sundays to see them, even in rural Hessia.

Take care and send pictures of your hometown too.

John and Marianne.


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