Day 2: Bonn

Cologne Cathedral

Dan slept much better last night, 7 hours; I slept about 6 hours and woke up naturally around 6am. So for now I’d say we’re pretty adjusted to the time change. We left early so he could catch a train to Monheim for work. His train left just before 7am. I took one about 30 minutes later to Bonn. In the mean time, I repeated yesterday and got coffee and a bite to eat at Kamps with my Churchill book.

That lovely thing is called a strueselthaler. Probably the closest thing we have in taste at home is coffee cake, minus the cinnamon. Texture probably a little more like a scone. It was a little sweeter than I generally like that early in the morning, but it was very good, and it didn’t give me the sugar crash I typically get after eating something like that at home.

Left and right views from where I was waiting for my train on the platform, with a closeup of the sign showing my train info. I do love the train culture in Europe, just like I loved the subways in NYC. It would be very easy to not own a car, and I don’t miss not having one while I’m here at all. In fact I prefer it.

I decided to spend the day in Bonn at somewhat the last minute. Originally I thought I would go there or Dusseldorf on this second day, then decided to spend it in Cologne still. I changed my mind Wednesday night while Dan and I were having dinner here. He has work colleagues from Monheim who live in Bonn and commute and really like it as a place to live. Monheim is about 30 minutes north of Cologne by car; Bonn is about 30 minutes south. I also learned that Bonn was the capital of West Germany during the time when it was it’s own country, separate from East Germany. Somehow I thought that Berlin was the capitol of both – why else have the weird little piece of democratic Germany in the middle of a communist state? That’s what the Berlin Wall kept apart. It was years before I learned that wasn’t actually the West Germany border – just a piece of Berlin carved out. All of that has always been a mystery to me so I thought maybe I’d learn something.

And I did. I got to Bonn about 8:15am, and since nothing opens until 10am I had plenty of time to just walk check out the scenery. It immediately reminded me of Mainz, my first European city last year, and also Koblenz, where we spent 2 days last year. And they are all similar; all 3:

  • Were established during the Roman Empire, something BC;
  • Are along the Rhine River
  • Are small-ish, with populations 300k or less, with quaint centrums that are very pedestrian friendly
  • Have a small town feel but have everything you need
  • All very different from say Cologne and Frankfurt, which definitely have big city vibes

Much of the centrum is this classic European urban design – pedestrians and bikes OK, but no cars. We love that.

Flower vendors on the street


This square across from the church reminded me a lot of the one in Mainz across from its cathedral. This building is the Kunstmuseum. Art. I passed 🙂 The guy of the statue? Beethoven More on that later.


This church is called Bonn Minster, and is about 800 years old. It was beautiful inside but too dark to take good pictures. I did my daily morning quiet time there; yesterday I’d done that in the Cologne cathedral.


This lovely building is Altes Rathaus – Old Town Hall. It was built during the 1700’s and was a city administration building until it was badly damaged in WWII. It became a place for official ceremonies again when Bonn became the federal capital in 1949. Charles de Gaulle and JFK have been welcomed on those steps.

Ludwig von Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770. His family lived in the small house shown below until he was 4 years old, then moved to several other places in Bonn over the years. He left Bonn at 22 to study with Joseph Haydn in Vienna, and and spent the rest of his life there. He died at 56. By the late 1800’s, his birthplace was about to be demolished until a group of artists banded together to preserve it as a historical monument. The Beethoven-Haus Society has maintained it as a commemorative museum since 1889; it houses the world’s largest Beethoven collection.

I walked past it the first time. If you’re not paying attention (clearly I wasn’t) it’s easy to miss.

This This is the “back house” that’s behind the one above, where he was born, and where the primary collection was.What I love about being in places like this is imagining was it was like to live in it during the late 1700’s. You weren’t allowed to take pictures and frankly it was a pretty simple home; I just appreciate what spending time in it makes me think about. Oh, and all the Beethoven stuff – I was pretty whatever about that, but anyone who was a big fan would have enjoyed it. The violin he played, lots of original manuscripts with notes in the margins, paintings of important people in his life. There was an electronic archives in the building across this courtyard where you could search your hearts content for any tidbit you were interested in.

And in the category of “it’s a small world”: When I was on the train bridge yesterday, I was asked to take a photo by a woman who appeared to be chaperoning a group of teenagers.  I ran into that same group in the Beethoven house today. And now you’ve got that song in your head. You’re welcome.

I was only there about 45 minutes. It was enough. I headed to the only other stop I really wanted to make in Bonn, a place on their “museum mile”, and it was about 2 miles from where I was. So a nice walk. The weather was schizo – I traded sunglasses for umbrella several times throughout the day. But when it was nice it was beautiful, so I didn’t mind the walk.

This was not the museum I was headed to, but it was the parliamentary building when Bonn was the federal capital. It’s now a museum of natural history.

The German National Museum of Contemporary History was #1 on TripAdvisor’s “things go do in Bonn” list, and if it was the only thing I did I would have been very satisfied. I was disappointed that Dan wasn’t with me; this was his kind of museum and he would have really liked it. I was also glad he wasn’t with me!, because he has much more bandwidth for this stuff than I do and it would have been hard to get him out. There was A LOT of information delivered in a wonderful mix of media. Only maybe 10% of it was in English, I read/listened to about 75% of that and I was still there over 2 hours. But my head was full and legs were tired so it was time to go!

The very first thing you see when you walk into the exhibit is an American Army Jeep. The Jeep led the way when the Americans came into Germany in 1945 and came to symbolize the Allied occupation. The first room of the exhibit also contained a memorial of the Holocaust done solely in black and white pictures in this small black steel room. The description on the outside was very clear: Germans after the war didn’t want to talk about what happened. They felt “complicit” and couldn’t face it. It was their children – coming to age during the 60’s – that reached back a generation and brought it all out into the open. Between this museum and the one yesterday, I’m starting to understand a different sort of survivor’s guilt the war generation of Germans experienced. I thought their use of the word “complicit” was profound – it acknowledges the incredible amount of looking the other way that had to be done while Jews were being driven from their businesses and homes. What’s the line? All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. That was their complicity. Then the news of the concentration camps hit after the Allies arrived. They really didn’t know. Or didn’t want to know. Complicit. It’s a good word.

The whole East Germany / West Germany thing had always been a mystery to me, but this museum made it real simple: the 4 Powers of Allied Forces split Germany into 4 zones, one each for USA, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. In 1946, the US put forward the Marshall Plan, an array of subsidies and loans available to the Germans to help the economy stabilize. Britain and France signed on. Stalin said no way, using the excuse that he didn’t want his zone influenced by American imperialism. The truth is, he planned on making it a Soviet state from the beginning. And by 1949, it was. The zone he controlled became the communist state of East Germany, the other 3 combined as the democracy of West Germany. Simple. (Although, I never did get a satisfying answer to the whole east/west Berlin thing…it was probably one of the things in German!)

It had to suck for the East Germans: they just went from one dictatorship to another.

The museum walked you through the history of both countries over the next 40 years, comparing as you went along. West Germany thrived in the 50’s. The Marshall Plan planted seeds that turned into what’s called the “economic miracle.” By the mid-50’s they were exporting more than they were importing. West Germany continued to thrive; East Germany continued in squalor and terror, with thousands of people fleeing. Until the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 to close what had been referred to as “the Berlin loophole” – an easy way out of East Germany once you got to the West Berlin side, because of the way parts of the train system was shared by both.

For some reason, I thought “the 60’s”, with hippies and VW buses were strictly an American thing; it never occurred to me it was happening in other countries. These youth influenced West Germany in big ways – including making their parents face the past. They were very interested in American culture and brought a lot of it over. The exhibits continued through the decades with big displays around 1989 and the start of reunification, including pieces of the Berlin Wall. It was originally thought reunification would take 5 years to be complete; it took only 329 days.

In 1999, government administration was still split between Berlin and Bonn. The elected body voted to consolidate and Berlin won by a small margin.

Pictures weren’t allowed and I couldn’t get a decent angle of the outside, but it wasn’t that impressive. the inside was very well done though.

I started the 2 mile walk back to the train station; somehow it went much faster than the first time, and took a few more pictures along the way.

A nice park in front of Bonn University.


Tree lined walk way just to the right of the park above.
Bonn Hauptbahnhof (main train station). DB = Deutsche Bahn. The picture below is a closer shot of that stained glass window.

As I was reading through last year’s blog sometime last month, I realized that I never included pictures of any of the places we stayed. I regret that now, in particular with regards to the apartment we had in Amsterdam. We stayed there a week and had many meals there; it was a significant part of the trip. So I promised myself I wouldn’t do that this year. So since this is our last night in Cologne, I figured I better thrown in a picture of the room. It was nothing special, but hopefully this will help me remember to keep doing it. We are at the Lindner.

It looks pretty much like the ones on the website.

I got back to the room about 4:30 this afternoon. Showered, rested some, got the pictures ready for the blog. Then the battery died on my wireless mouse. Dang it. Where to find batteries? The train station of course. Dan had just texted me that he would be back around 7:30. So I let him know that I would meet him there and we could go straight to dinner. I picked up the batteries and some travel toiletries at the same place we’d bought the nail clippers last year, then went to sit on the steps of the cathedral and people watch. Dan had jokingly said yesterday I should take selfies of myself when I’m out so here finally I thought, why not?

Not 5 minutes after I took this, Dan sends me a text suggesting we meet on the steps of the cathedral. I sent him this and said “Guess where I am?” We had dinner at Istanbul Pizza, interesting blend of Italian and Greek with a twist of something else. Turkey I guess.

That is beyond enough for today. Plus it’s past my bedtime, 11:45pm. We have a 6:44am train to Paris tomorrow.

0 thoughts on “Day 2: Bonn”

  1. Meher says:

    Beautiful photographs! I can completely empathise with the pleasure of train and subway journeys – miss it A LOT esp here in C'Bus.

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