Sunday, 27 September 2015

day-trip: bonn

As H was away this weekend for a conference in Berlin, I thought it would be fitting for me to take a trip to the other Federal City (Bundesstadt), Bonn, former capital of West Germany, to scout out the area. Before coming to Bonn, on the Rhine’s southern reaches of megalopolis of the industrialised Ruhrgebiet and surrounded by the Siebengebirge—the seven verdant peaks with picturesque valleys, I stopped in the vineyard village of Königswinter and climbed the first ascent of the Drachenfels, the dragon cliffs.
There was a funicular train or donkeys for hire for journey but I passed those to try the steep hike myself. It was very beautiful with the Post Tower of Bonn’s skyline already visible and a host of castles and fortifications hewn out of the mountain-face but on this day, I only wanted to make it to the first station and hold off on exploring the whole trail until we could see it to together. Having learned about this strange attraction quite by accident and then having planned this little trip, I could not skip a visit to the bizarre, Art Nouveau temple to composer and myth-maker Richard Wagner, the Nibelungenhalle, dedicated in 1913 by a devoted fan-club on what would have been Wagner’s hundredth birthday. The interior included a lot of documentation apologising for the “Swastika” motif—explaining it was ancient Germanic rune and had a series of murals of the saga of the Ring Cycle.
The woman at the counter turned on the music after I had come in—being the first visitor, I suppose, and there were a lot of random, non-contiguous artefacts present that made me think of the curating work in the museum of the Colossus of Prora which was a lot of fun to try to unravel but I suppose sadly it’s not there any longer since there converting the Nazi resort to luxury apartments. After viewing this altar, one was to walk down through an artificial grotto (which was a little a frightening because it was not illuminated although one could see the way out ahead, one had to trust that the path was manmade and free of obstacles) that led to a small garden and then quite inexplicable to a good old-fashioned roadside reptile farm, with lots of anacondas and pythons curled up and rest and a couple of lively crocodiles.
I walked back down to the Drachenfels base camp and proceeded on to the main attraction, Bonn, only a few kilometres away. Bonn was chosen to be the capital for symbolic reasons, a small city and not the nearby Köln or Frankfurt or Hamburg that might have seemed more reasonable, because Berlin, east and west, was enshrined as the true capital and the situation was understood as only temporary.
Had a larger, more prominent city been created as the West German Hauptstadt, then Berlin might have lost its rightful place, though the temporary situation lasted for over four decades. Also the industrial heft of the Ruhr region and its natural resources was a point of contention just after the war. I enjoyed a very nice stroll along the Rhein and up and down the length of Adenauer Allee, the once and present corridor of power and governance, with six federal offices still stationed along this boulevard and venue also to the representative second residence of the Chancellor and cabinet.
The route paralleling the river, begins with the castle since turned into a university and concludes with a United Nations campus housing nineteen institutions. In between were the former residences of the chancellery, which were disappointingly inaccessible it seemed—although I was excepting to be able to traipse through the rumpus-room, I did think I might see the bungalow up close and not through a fence with bales of razor-wire. I also passed the zoological museum that hosted the Bundesrat and Bundestag for the first few years of the provisional government.
A stuffed giraffe and other taxidermical creations were witness to proceedings as they could not be removed from the gallery without being decapitated. Despite not having access to the halls of power, it was nonetheless, an interesting experience to reflect on everything that had transpired on this one street. Aside from the secular, recent history, I was surprised to learn of Bonn’s religious connections and significance as the seat of the archdiocese and did not have the wherewithal to explore the old town too much—there was some festival that rendered the market-square pretty hectic and crowded—but it did of course seem worthy of further investigation, with Beethoven’s home, its Roman origins and fortification and many corporate headquarters as a sign of homesteading in the former capital as prognosis for what’s yet to come.