27 July 2013

Bonnie Bonn

We've spent the last two days in Bonn, Germany, the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven, the former seat of government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and a pretty city along the Rhine River. We've moved on to Cologne today (and already seen a few things), but Bonn was wonderful, and worth recounting.

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.

Beethoven-Haus Museum

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 2014
I'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!


  1. Ohhh I was thinking, how can you be back from the USA and then already be travelling again. Then I read archives... and that made more sense. Thanks heaps for linking up :)

    I like the look of that African exhibit at the Zoologi...thingy place, but as for the those bugs. Um, no thanks!

  2. wow, what an excellent tour, love museums and botanical gardens, I can spend quite some time there...Please come join us and also link up for Travel Photo Mondays, the link is already live!

  3. Haha, I'm among the last people that can be prepared to return from one big trip and jump right into another. =) Thanks for hosting the linky, it's certainly provided some interesting reading already!

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Noel! I will give the Travel Photo Mondays a look!

  5. Those bugs give me the heeby jeebies! I had no idea Bonn was the birthplace of Beethoven. Very cool.

  6. At least the bugs were dead and in an enclosed space =) We really enjoyed the time there.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I'm glad some people realized it was worth preserving the property for the Beethoven-Haus! It's amazing to realize how many historical sites could have been lost just because no one thought they were important.

  8. That's very true! Shakespeare's home fell victim to that mentality - and that's Shakespeare! The history teacher in me cringes when I think about that sort of thing.
    Thanks for stopping by, Jess!


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