(Thursday - June 7, 2018)
Bonn, or \"Bonna\" as the Romans called the city, was founded over 2,000 years ago though evidence of Germanic peoples living there date back 14,000 years. I just arrived yesterday. But today is my day to explore the City of Beethoveen and the former Capital of West Germany.
Bonn, like many European cities is very easy to get around. From the Stadt-Bahn (City Railroad - a bit like the streetcars/light rail in Portland, Oregon) to walkable and bikeable streets, I had no trouble finding my way quickly to my destinations. One of the first and most touching events of my day was after breakfast. I was standing in a store waiting for help and heard a piano composition I recognized. My mom owns a baby grand piano that is in the living room of my boyhood home. She loved to play Beethoveen, and the song played by the lady out on the street is one of her favorites. I wish I could upload the video, but I can´t.
My first stop was to find the Beethoven Haus, but I ran across the Namen Jesu Kirche first (The Name of Jesus Church). It is a Jesuit Catholic church. I had a nice conversation, first in German than in English with the docent, a young man probably 30 years old. You will notice a pattern - I keep meeting people and getting into long conversations with them and running short of time.
The Beethoven Haus is where Ludwig von Beethoveen was born and lived during his time in Bonn. He also spent many years in Vienna, and due to a military conflict between the Rhineland area and, I believe, France, he never returned to his boyhood home. Mozart died soon before he arrived in Vienna, but he trained under Joseph Haydn. Count Waldstein, a supporter in Bonn, wrote a farewell note to the young Beethoven: \"Through uninterrupted diligence you will receive Mozart\'s spirit through Haydn\'s hands.¨
Beethoveen started losing his hearing at age 30, and several metal ear-horn listening devices were fabricated for him, but none of them worked to his satisfaction. He continued to compose and during his most prolific period he was essentially deaf. Absolutely amazing. Like many houses of the period it is small, the doorways short, and ceilings low. But the paintings, silhouettes (a way to create an image of a person before photography - remember when you made them in grade school?) and musical instruments on display are amazing. Interesting note, the family is actually of Dutch decent, hence the ¨von\" or in Dutch, ¨van¨ Beethoven.
On to Deutche Welle in South Bonn
As I mentioned in my prior post, I met a fellow cyclist as I approached Bonn the day before. His name is Benjamin and he was gracious enough to invite me to lunch with him at the Deutche Welle (DW) headquarters in Bonn. The DW headquarters are near the old capital and federal government complex. Currently the UN´s Bonn headquarters and ¨Museum Mile\" are the focus of this part of Bonn.
Benjamin and I had lunch and talked about Deutche Welle, public radio and television in Germany and the U.S., and American Politics. I hope I did not talk his ear off about the frightening state of current U.S. politics, but his perspective was very interesting to hear. He told me how the current U.S. ambassador to Germany came right out and said he is going to work with Breitbart and the Far Right in the U.S. to grow and support Far Right political parties in Germany and Europe... an AMBASSADOR! My God. Completely inappropriate. But what is appropriate or respectful about the Trump Administration? Okay, off my soapbox.
Our conversation turned to other things and a bit about technology, IT. He thinks there is a certain amount of ¨angst¨ (worry) in Germany about IT technologies. Germany has a very strong industrial sector - Volkswagen, BMW, Braun, Krupp, etc. but in the emerging Information Technology sector, the United States is the undisputed leader. Where is Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and others based? The United States (for Amazon and Microsoft, as my friends know, in our city of Seattle).
We took a photo at the entrance of DW, and I was off. He is preparing for a large journalism conference the following week. I do hope I did not overstay my welcome. He highly recomm
ended the Haus der Geschicte der Bundesrepublik Deutchland (The House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany). It is a museum about the history of West Germany (and the unified Germany after 1989) since 1945. That´s where I went next.
The History of Germany Since 1945
This could be an entire new post. So I won´t say too much. However, this was a very good suggestion from Benjamin. I spent 4 hours in this museum (it started to thunderstorm outside so this was a good use of my time). The museum discusses the end of World War II, the division of Germany by the allies in the west (U.S., Britian, and France) as well as the Soviet Union in the east. It explains how West and East Germany went their seperate ways, how the new West Germany was formed under the leadership of Chancellor Adenauer, the new political parties, and of course the ¨Wirtschaftswunder\" (the German Economic Miracle). I think the lesson for us in the United States today is that working with our allies and supporting our former enemies is more often a better policy than always punishing those we disagree with. An excellent
newspaper cartoon showing this is of Uncle Sam giving money and help to the ¨children¨ (countries) of western Europe, while Stalin (representing the Soviet Union) only shames East Germany, Poland, and other countries of Eastern Europe. The Marshall Plan was one of our best policies. A stable western Europe was, and is, good for Europeans and for us (makes you wonder about our current Ambassador I mentioned above). Sadly, the museum closed before I could get to reunifcation in 1989... a time I remember. I was 13 years old and we celebrated in my German language class.
As I said, I could talk a lot about this excellent museum, but I will spare you! 🙂
I went back to my hotel and found a restaurant. I felt a bit lonely this evening, eating alone, but it passed. I am truly enjoying myself and made a committment to keep meeting new people. But again, I needed rest. Only 15 miles to Köln (Cologne), but I´ve been biking a lot this past week.