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Home Page > Travelogues > Germany > Nordrhein-Westfalen > Bonn

Also available:  Segment on the Bonn Christmas Market


State of Nordrhein-Westfalen

Bonn  -- Capital No More But Still Great


State of Nordrhein-Westfalen

History can sometimes seem unfair.  For Bonn, it might seem even cruel.  It was the faithful capital of West Germany for lo so many years, staring down the face of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.  But her reward after the Curtain fell?  Ceding the capital seat back to Berlin during the 90s, and returning to being just Rathausanother pretty city on the Rhein.

My first visit to Bonn was back in 1997, and I admit it wasn't a pleasant occasion.  I was living in a Middle Eastern nation.  When I had to go to Germany for a conference, the immigration agents duly informed me that my visa had an "error", and when I went to Germany, I had to get another one in order to get back home.  So, after doing what I had to do in Garmisch, I had to race across the country to get to Bonn, find this Embassy and get my new visa.

My return visit during the Christmas season of 2002 was decidedly more relaxed and pleasant.  Most Embassies, like most of Germany's government agencies, have moved to Berlin.  Some still remain.

The town may not have all the glitz and glamour of the political scene, but it is still a gosh-darn pretty town, and a viable alternative Sterntorto nearby Cologne if you aren't interested in huge Cathedrals.  The downtown is a very large pedestrian zone, with many colorful buildings, large market squares, and a lot of history.  You'll also see a lot of references to Bonn's most familiar name, Ludwig von Beethoven, who was born in Bonn.  The city's Baroque architecture provides much of the color -- such as seen in the magnificent Rathaus (Town Hall), shown in the first photograph.

I combed virtually all of the downtown, starting with the Christmas markets that wrapped around the Sterntor (second photo), between the Munsterplatz and Friedensplatz, where an ice rink was set up.  The Sterntor was about all that's left of the old city wall that I found.  Nowadays, it is thoroughly surrounded by guesthouses such as in the background or massive (former) ministerial buildings.

The Munster, shown in the third photo, is strikingly similar to other Cathedrals along the Rheinland (look at Worms and Speyer for example), but the interior is Munstermuch more elaborately decorated.  I didn't quite get the significance of the two statue heads that are on the ground in front of the Munster (the roundish concrete things), but as Bonn used to be a capital city, I guess it can't avoid hosting bad art (see Berlin Gallery).  The Beethoven Monument was across the street.

By far, the most impressive feature of the downtown is the University.  The fourth photo shows the University's main building, which used to be the Elector's Palace.  This was shot from the southeast side, in the middle of the open Hofgarten.  At the opposite side of the garten was another impressive structure, the Akademische Kunstmuseum (University's Art Museum).

Bonn's impressive modern structures reside closer to the river, such as the Beethovenhalle to the north of the downtown and the Operahaus.  Frankly, though, Bonn doesn't occupy the most picturesque plot of Rheinland territory.  The prettier sights are inland.  One such sight I did not do because of limited time was the Schloss Poppelsdorf, located about a mile south of downtown.  It is supposedly another great example of Baroque palaces, and I hope to hit it some day.  A number of palaces surround Bonn further Elector's Palace, now Universityout towards the southern suburb of Gronau, according to the tourist map.

I was never able to get my bearings on where my Embassy search took me in 1997.  I am pretty certain that it was along the city's major highway that divides the pedestrian zone from the river.  For whatever reason, the highway has more than one name -- it is the Bedlerberg / Adenauerallee / Willy-Brandt-Friedrich-Ebert Allee.  The name you used depended on which block you were.  But, I supposed that if you were once a major capital city, you'd maintain as much of your history as you could.

Bonn and Cologne, being so close together, can be easily done in a weekend.  I certainly recommend it over a Cologne-Düsseldorf combination as Bonn seemed more majestic and colorful and less a city.  It might not be a capital anymore, but it's still great!

Also available:  Segment on the Bonn Christmas Market

Trip taken 15 December 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin

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