Bonn Bonn baby!

The quiet allure of Bonn and the splendour of Cologne Cathedral cast a spell on Chethana Dinesh, making it a visit to remember

Cologne Germany

The charm is unmistakable. It envelops me so lovingly that it is hard to shake it off even if I want to. Quaint buildings with their old-world feel interspersed with modern structures all along the way. River Rhine flowing majestically, beckoning hypnotic glances as it makes its journey to the North Sea. Well, I am in the Federal City of Bonn, the erstwhile capital of West Germany, and the birthplace of renowned composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven.

Everywhere I go, every resident of Bonn I meet, has stories to relate. Of the times when Bonn was the capital city of West Germany after the country split into East Germany and West Germany in 1949, till 1990, the reunification of Germany, when Berlin became the capital of the reunified country. However, they also proudly proclaim that many ministries, including the ministries of health and defence, still operate from Bonn, and almost a third of the officials employed at the federal bureaucracy still work in Bonn. I get their point. Bonn ‘IS’ a prominent city in the history of Germany, and was an even more prominent one in the past.

Bonn Minster, Bonn, Germany; (top) Cologne city skyline
Bonn Minster, Bonn, Germany; (top) Cologne city skyline

 

Going with the flow

My first morning in Bonn, it is quite cold when I step out. A few minutes on the road, and suddenly it starts pouring. I look out of the window. The clouds quickly change colour. From a beautiful powder blue to slate grey. The rainfall becomes more intense. I am riding right next to River Rhine. As the racing sheets of rain hit the river, the river assumes an allure that’s hard to describe. I can only enjoy the magnificence of both the rain and the river from inside the vehicle. The fury of the rain is such.

I remind myself of the importance of Rhine, which has its origin in Switzerland, is one of the major European rivers, and flows through Germany and the Netherlands before reaching the North Sea. It was a significant waterway in the Holy Roman Empire, I am told.

A spectacular structure at a distance shakes me out of my reverie. Lost in thought, I don’t realise I have reached Bonn Minster. With its magnificent spires and awe-inspiring architecture, this Roman Catholic church, which is also one of Germany’s oldest churches dating back to 11th century, is incredible. I count the number of spires. There are five in all. The largest of them all is octagonal and looks like it’s reaching to the skies. Back in time, it served as the cathedral for the Archbishop of Cologne, I hear, as also the fact that two Holy Roman emperors, Charles IV and Frederick the Fair, were crowned here in the 14th century.

Monument of Ludwig van Beethoven in Bonn, Germany.
Monument of Ludwig van Beethoven in Bonn, Germany.

 

Musings of a genius

It’s still pouring. I can see people walking around with heavy rain ponchos on. I follow suit. A few metres away is Munsterplatz. And, what do I see? A large bronze statue of Beethoven. According to the literature available, this Beethoven Monument was unveiled on August 12, 1845 to mark the 75th anniversary of the famous composer’s birth. Standing majestically in the middle of the square, right in front of the former post office, the composer seemed to be watching over the people of his birthplace. I intently stare at him, trying to decipher the genius behind the calm composition. If only I had even an ounce of his musical genius, I wish.

This wish propels me to look for his house, the famous Beethoven House, where the composer stayed from his birth in 1770 till his move to Vienna in 1792. This memorial site comprises the composer’s birthplace, a museum, a library, a publishing house and a chamber music hall. No less than a holy site for music lovers, Beethoven House affords its visitors insights into the life and works of the famous composer through its original exhibits including manuscripts, photos, letters, furniture and other everyday objects from his life, as well as musical instruments and memorabilia, including his last grand piano, and valuable original manuscripts. It enjoys the distinction of housing the largest Beethoven collection in the world.

Unfortunately for me, Beethoven House is closed for renovation. My disappointment knows no bounds. My hopes of catching a glimpse of his everyday life are dashed. Alas! I make-do with a few Beethoven-themed souvenirs at Munsterplatz.

Alluring Cologne

With Cologne just 28 km away, the prospect of visiting the famous Cologne Cathedral strikes me. After all, it’s a World Heritage Site. The allure is too hard to resist. I succumb to it willingly by taking a train to Cologne. Within minutes, I am in Cologne. I step out of the train station and what do I see? Tall spires that seem like they are tearing into the air to reach the skies. I crane my neck to see the tip of the spires. These spires are the second tallest ones in Europe, I am told. I have my jaw-dropping moment of the day.

The history of the church is fascinating. The seat of the archbishop of Cologne now, this Catholic cathedral dates back to 1248, when its construction began, but was halted in 1473, resumed again in the 1840s, and completed in 1880. Phew! At that time, it was the tallest building in the world, with a height of 516.3 feet.

A major tourist attraction, this cathedral with its excellent Gothic architecture was a victim of aerial bombs during World War II for almost 14 times. Several rounds of repairs and renovations have been carried out to restore it to its original state. There are visible signs of the same, I notice. With its stained glass windows, the medieval statue of St Christopher, the shrine of the Three Kings, and the Crucifix of Bishop Gero, the oldest known crucifix carved in oak and dating back to 10th Century, Cologne Cathedral is definitely worth a visit.

As I head back to Bonn, I feel overwhelmed. The beauty of Bonn, the magnificence of Cologne Cathedral... I realise I have fallen helplessly, completely, in love with them.

 

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