Mark had a presentation at a conference held at the university in Bonn, so we decided to turn it into a family vacation. We left home on Thursday morning and took several trains to Bonn. When you plan trips through the NS Hispeed website with enough notice, you can get really cheap fares to your destination. We made it to Bonn from our local train station at just €32 by booking the fares back in May, and the travel is far more convenient than trying to rent a car.
Once we arrived we found our hotel before heading out into the city centre. Our first stop was the Beethoven-Haus, the birthplace of one of the most famous composers the world has known.
The birthplace is actually behind the house that faces the street but the houses are connected. The buildings were slated for demolition in 1889, but a group of citizens saved the property and started the Beethoven-Haus Society.
|Beethoven's birthplace. The museum speculates he was born in a|
room on the top floor, all the way to the right of this photo.
The admission to the museum is €5 per adult. The house by itself, while important historically, doesn't feel like it's worth the admission. They have documents, instruments, and other artifacts from Beethoven's life - which are all interesting - but the house itself feels like it's missing something (this may also be because half the staff seem annoyed that you're there). An audio tour is available for €2, which we did not purchase, but that may have had more of the story element that I look for in a history museum, but it also wasn't clear that there was one available in English. What makes the admission price worth it is the "Stage for Musical Visualization." It's a 3D interactive show that puts a 3D graphic element that can be partially controlled by the audience to scenes from Beethoven's opera, "Fidelio." The visual interpretation is intriguing and well done, the added bonus of audience participation is engaging whether you're controlling or watching, and the staff member running the program was great with the guests and clearly appreciated the music, the story, and the artwork. Close to the museum, it's possible to visit the local statue of Beethoven that was dedicated in 1845.
|Ludwig van Beethoven dedication statue|
On the same square as the statue is the Bonn Münster, a Roman Catholic basilica. It's not huge like the grand cathedrals of larger cities, but it's still gorgeous inside. The large churches are always full of visitors, but this church clearly had many people their for worship and meditation, something that I haven't seen to the same extend in the other churches we've seen recently.
|Bonn Münster, a view toward the alter|
Before getting dinner, we decided to go for a walk along the path next to the river. The landscape is beautiful, and the paths are neatly kept. It's pretty clear that this is a popular pathway for locals traveling around the city by foot or bicycle.
|The Rhine River from Bonn|
We found a traditional German dinner in a little place by city centre. What's not to enjoy about home made sausage, sauerkraut, schnitzel, and various potato-makings?
Friday, Mark attended his conference, so Little Man and I took another tour of the town on our own. Our first stop was the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum - and it was well worth the half hour walk from the hotel. This museum offers so much for kids! On the main floor there are a variety of "habitats" represented (African grasslands, arctic circle, desserts, Eurasian forests) with taxidermied animals. It might sound a bit gruesome, but it's not. The displays let you see what the animals would look like "in the wild" but you can get up close enough to appreciate them.
|"Africa" at the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum, Bonn|
The museum has a several interactive parts to the exhibits (microscopes, moving charts, matching games, etc.) that make the visit even more enjoyable (and educational!).
Other floors include more taxidermied animals on display, a bug exhibit that explains DNA (though in German only), and a live animal display of lizards and reptiles in the Vivarium. This place was a gem of a find. We spent 2.5 hours in the museum, but it would have been easy to spend more time had we not gotten hungry. And the admission is really reasonable - €4.50 for adults, Little Man is still free.
|Little Man and the beetles|
Despite the rain, I decided to continue on with my plan of visiting the botanic gardens. We made the walk toward the gardens and managed to find a dry spot under a large ginko tree for some lunch before taking a good look around.
The gardens are on the grounds of the old Poppelsdorf Palace, which is now home to a mineral museum and part of the University of Bonn. The grounds are beautiful and provide a nice place for a stroll, picnic, or even reading a book; and the grounds open 10:00 to 18:00 with free admittance every day except Sunday.
|View of the Poppelsdorf Palace|
We had a relaxing evening getting cheap pizza dinner and playing in the hotel pool, but this morning before checkout, we made the walk down to the Contemporary History Museum (De Stiftung Haus der Geschichte Bundesrepublik Deutschland), which is free admittance and open every day of the week (there are also counterpart museums in Berlin and Leipzig). Currently, they have an exhibit documenting US relations with Germany after the Second World War through today, which was interesting if only because we got to see how our own country's involvement in Germany over the past 70 years is viewed by the Germans. The museum is really well done - it's easy to view the artifacts and you easily find your way through the exhibits, and as an added bonus, at least the major exhibit signage is translated into English.
|Apparently, the Boss (Bruce Springsteen) was really big in Germany|
After checking out of the hotel, we made our way to Cologne and started having some adventures here. More to come as we explore!
UPDATE: 12 January 2014I'm pulling this post out of the archives to join up with Sara at Chasing the Donkey and her co-hosts for the Sunday Traveler linky. There are lots of interesting travel posts linked up and worth checking out. Enjoy!