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Bonn jour, Monsieur Beethoven!

My social media accounts are not named CULTURECURVES for nothing. Apart from sharing my love for fashion and advocating for inclusion and diversity in the fashion industry, I love sharing my trips and adventures with you. I have not travelled extensively lately but I am hoping to change that. Meanwhile, let me get back to my roots, to the city where I was born: Bonn.

I have recently been able to visit there and realised that the city was a-buzz! Little did I know 2020 marks Beethoven’s 250th birthday and Bonn is going all-out in showcasing not only Beethoven but Bonn as a centre for not only music but the arts in general.

I felt very much obliged to hype up my birth city and thought I’d list down my most favourite places in the city, in the hope that you will book a ticket to Bonn at any time this year. Without further ado, here are my favourite places in Bonn

RHINE RIVER

I am a sucker for any bodies of water in places where I live and I think that comes from the fact that I was born in a city that lies by the Rhine River. I love having a long stroll by the Rhine Promenade on a sunny warm late afternoon in summer or on a sunny crisp morning in winter. Personally, I love looking at the Rhine from what used to be a 17th century defensive structure but has now turned into a perfect viewing deck for Rhine admirers. It is called the Alter Zoll and it stands proud by the University of Bonn on the west side of the river. When visiting in May make sure to time it during what is called Rhein in Flammen, a yearly late spring firework spectacle along the Rhine and best viewed either from the public park called Rheinaue or whilst chilling with a beer at the Alter Zoll.

THE OLD CITY HALL

Located on Marktplatz, the Old City Hall is a wonderful rococo piece of art that is inevitably inviting. You cannot go into the Marktplatz and NOT take a picture of the white-pink building that looks like a perfect fairytale manor. If you want to get married, you can reserve a date to get officiated in this venue and enjoy looking at picture of heads of states posing with past German presidents and chancellors. During Christmas the windows of the Old City Hall are transformed into advent calendar windows and during the summer it serves a backdrop to the many cafe tables filled with people enjoying their afternoon coffee and cake or ice cream.

METROPOL THEATRE

This Art Noveau structure used to be a movie theatre and I remember watching a couple of movies here when I was a teenager before it was ultimately closed down. The city was sad to see this landmark building close doors and people were unsure as to what exactly will be done to it. Plans to demolish the building in 2006 started a rather long and acrimonious legal battle between its former owners and the city of Bonn. In the end, book company Thalia purchased the building in 2010, did some work inside and opened their doors to curious and apprehensive Bonners. The theatre was transformed into a bookstore with books displayed over 4 storeys. Thalia did a great job preserving many of the characteristic decorations of the former movie theatre, giving Bonners like me a warm feeling whilst also allowing us to be nostalgic for the time when the building told stories through the silver screen. At least now, stories are still being told through books. Whilst in the bookstore, make sure to sit and relax in their cafe or in one of the seats in the couple of movie seat rows that were preserved on the second floor.

THE HARIBO STORE

If you still have no idea where your favourite golden gummy bears are originally from, then make sure to really fly out to Bonn right now. Haribo was founded in Bonn by a man named Hans Riegel Sr. HA for Hans, RI for Riegel and BO for Bonn. There you go, HARIBO fans! Even though the official headquarters are now in Graftschaft, Haribo retains a great presence in Bonn and its residents. For this reason, the good people at Haribo made a savvy business move to open a very colourful Haribo store to showcase not only the products that Germans have been able to try and love for years now but also to bring out products that can only be bought at this store. Tourists love to compare this store to the M&Ms store on Leicester Square in London but to be fair, the latter is so much bigger than Bonn’s humble Haribo store. Nevertheless, this dreamy candyland can still make the most serious of adults feel like a child ready to get high on sugar!

CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN THE ALTSTADT

This one definitely needed to be in this list despite the cherry blossoms only showing their beauty once a year in April for only few days. Some 15 years ago, no one really thought the cherry blossom trees (mainly) on Heerstrasse in the Old Town or Altstadt would morph into one of the most popular tourist areas in Bonn during springtime. These days it is almost normal to see big and small groups of tourists walking back and forth on Heerstrasse, taking pictures and marvelling at the pink flowers seemingly covering the street like soft linen curtains. It is a beautiful sight to behold. Now, I guess the questions is: when exactly do the trees blossom? Valid question. The answer is: no one knows. The blossoming happens depending on what whether April throws at it. Once in bloom, the cherry blossoms can stay put for two weeks, most of the times in mid-April. However, the warmer the weather becomes, the quicker the cherry blossoms die off. I guess, you will have to go on faith here and make sure to check out https://www.kirschbluete-bonn.de for updates on the cherry blossoms. PRINT and PAINT runs the unofficial official blog site on the beautiful pink nature spectacle. I took a few pictures back in the day but reckon I have lost those photos now. The pictures provided below are from Print and Paint. Also check out this great shout-out to the cherry blossoms on Places To See Before You Die: https://www.facebook.com/placestosee/photos/a.147696995267610.25736.146895365347773/431007523603221/?type=1.

STERNSTRASSE

After a stroll between the cherry blossoms, if you are indeed visiting in April, you can easily walk towards one of my favourite shopping streets in Bonn’s inner city or Innenstadt, which is gladly all for pedestrians only. The street is dotted with small indie and chain stores in old and narrow buildings, some of which date back to the 16th century. In the winter time, especially over Christmas, the street like all pedestrians streets in the Innenstadt are decorated with Christmas lights, which makes a slow stroll down Sternstrasse with a cup of Gluehwein a rather romantic activity. Fashionistas and beauty afficionados love this street with its many clothing and make-up stores options.

BEETHOVEN MONUMENT

Since this blog post is an ode to Beethoven and Bonn (see what I did there? ode? yeah, nah!) Beethoven’s bronze monument on Muensterplatz cannot be missing from this list. Tourists usually stop here for their first photo of Bonn. Beethoven stands in the middle of the square against the backdrop of the yellow post office, seemingly watching and frowning at the same time over Bonn, his birthplace. He would have seen a lot of crazy things going on on the square, that much is guaranteed. The monument was unveiled in 1845 and has stood proudly in its place ever since. Now remember I mentioned that yellow post office building? Consider this as a bonus tourist attraction on this list. The building behind Beethoven used to be a city palace in the 1700s. It was then called the Fuerstenbergisches Palais when it was the residence of one Caspar Anton Rademacher. In 1876 it became the main post office building or Hauptpostamt after being purchased by the postal and telegraph administration department of the city. The whole building is now home to TKMaxx, a post office and a few clothing stores around the back. Make sure to have a bit of a gander inside the post office and inside TKMaxx to appreciate the building a bit more.

THE BEETHOVEN HOUSE

This brings us to Ludwig’s family home on Bonngasse 20. It has now become a focal point for the year-long celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday. The house itself is unassuming. Its old pink facade does not stand out from all the other buildings on the same street. But it carries a lot of significance in understanding who Beethoven was up until age 21. It is a memorial site and museum that serves as a centrepiece for other buildings in the area whose work centre around Beethoven and the arts in general. For this year’s celebration, the city of Bonn decided to renovate its souvenir and merch store, adding to it a modern touch, a cafe (hopefully fully operational soon) and a separate place to purchase your ticket for the house itself.

Within the original house itself, tourist are able to tour around, essentially, two buildings: the front house and an annex by the garden. What awaits you inside? Anything and everything that can give you an insight into the genius’s mind, life and work. There are paintings, portraits, manuscripts, sheet music copies, instruments and even items of everyday life. Tiny trivia: ironically the City of Bonn back in the 1800s was not interested in preserving Beethoven’s house but 12 art-loving people got together to form an association and to buy the house to keep it as a memorial for the famous Bonner. Oh how times have changed, and how the City of Bonn has now become so eager in marketing Beethoven and his family home as a major tourist attraction!

In front of the newly refurbished Beethoven House merch store and cafe, you can find a rectangular post that almost looks like a short totem pole at the side of the street. This is one of 11 info posts which contain stories about Bonn and Beethoven and with which you can walk a trail all over Bonn to learn more about Beethoven. I personally enjoyed the viewfinder-type feature embedded in the post.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Okay, these are not honorable mentions because they are least relevant to Bonn. NOT AT ALL. I just wanted to highlight things to see in and near the city centre. The following are equally amazing places to visit but one will need a bus ride and longer walking time to see them in their full glory:

Museumsmeile – this is a strip that is home to a few well-curated museums including the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Park House Museum, Haus der Geschichte or House of History, Museum Koenig and Bundeskunsthalle. As a teenager with nerdy art history tendencies, I felt well at home on this strip!

Botanical Garden – this is for all you plant nerds. In the past the BG attracted a few plant nerds as it housed a rather giant stinky flower known as the titan arum. I personally have not seen or smelled it but it was quite a local sensation.

Old cemetery – this one is like a green island in the middle of modern streets and buildings. I know visiting a cemetery is not exactly a popular tourist idea but this is quite an important cemetery. It is around 3 acres big and is the last resting place of some notable personalities such as Clara and Robert Schumann, Friedrich Wilhelm Argelander, Ernst Moritz Arndt (whose monument you will see at Alter Zoll) and Maria Magdalena Beethoven, Ludwig’s mother. These are only a few of many.

Poppelsdorf Palace – this is a baroque palace and science museum now owned by the University of Bonn.

***When you are done with Bonn you have heaps of choices of places to go and see outside of Bonn. A few names I want to drop are: Drachenfels, Drachenburg, Cologne, Koblenz and the Naturepark Siebengebirge. When you have time and money left and some good weather to boot, make sure to book a boat tour along the Rhine. You will have a few choices as to duration and places to see, so make sure to do your research.

NOW WHAT?

So, now that I have convinced you to visit my beautiful city, you want to know more about the Beethoven Year. To know more about the year-long activities, you will want to check out the following links/socials/websites: https://www.bthvn2020.de/en/ https://www.facebook.com/BTHVN2020/ https://www.instagram.com/bthvn_2020/ https://www.instagram.com/beethoven_haus_bonn/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3ftLfAUnhZVIL2pCpUhL-w

If you want to fly over to Bonn, make sure to book a flight to Cologne-Bonn Airport or Duesseldorf Airport. From Cologne-Bonn you can take an express bus or a train to Bonn, which will take you an average 20-30 mins travel time. From Dueseldorf, it might take you an hour depending on which kind of train you take. Make sure to book accomodation ahead of time. Lots of Bonners have warmed up to AirBnB and so it will not be hard to find a good room or even a whole flat to rest your weary head after a day’s tour in the city.

I hope you will consider to pay Bonn a visit. Make sure to give me a shout if you have any questions or if you want to send me pictures. I will make sure to share it here on my stories on instagram, twitter and facebook. Make sure to also see my rather grainy IGtv video on my instagram profile @culturecurves for a quick look at some of the above-mentioned places!

Thank you for stopping by!

Love, Christine

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