Berlin: Lively Rüdesheimer Platz

In June 2022, I was at Berlin again, for five weeks. Berlin is my mother town. I explored some corners off the beaten tracks. One of them is the Rüdesheimer Platz at Steglitz.

 

Under ground start: The metro station “Rüdesheimerplatz” (Rüdesheim square)

Let us start under ground, at the metro station U3, Rüdesheimer Platz. The decoration alludes to wine growing, as Rüdesheim is a wine village on the river Rhine, north of Frankfurt.

So far, I had always been under the ground here, using the metro. Now I was curious, what Rüdesheimer Platz looks like above the ground. On a sunny and warm evening, I walk along Rüdesheimer Strasse. Some murmuring is getting louder and louder, as I am approaching the Rüdesheimer Platz.

 

The Weinbrunnen (wine fountain) at the Rüdesheimer Platz

I arrive at the Rüdesheimer Platz. The murmuring is loud now. In the shade of the trees, many people have congregated chatting, with glasses of wine in their hands. Some stand in line at the stand called ”Weinbrunnen” (wine fountain) which sells wine from the Rheingau. Rüdesheim belongs to the Rheingau (Hessen).

The site of the Bezirksamt Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf tells me: The “Weinbrunnen” has been a tradition for more than 50 years. Various wine growers from the Rheingau sell their wine by the glass and by the bottle. People bring their own food. I observe one  lady selling home-made onion pie. Consuming wine from the “Weinbrunnen” is restricted to the platform above the Siegried fountain.

Above the wall, the crowds are drinking wine. In the fountain, people are cooling off.

Emil junior Cauer had created this fountain in 1911: Siegfried tames his horse Grane, flanked by lady Nahe (or Mosel, unclear which) and Old Father Rhine. 

 

In 2016, I was at Rüdesheim and also visited the two ladies Nahe and Mosel

In 2016, we crossed Old Father Rhine to get to Rüdesheim – the vineyards are above the village. 

Also the rivers Nahe and Mosel  are renowned wine areas.

Lady Nahe impressed me with the spectacular Rotenfels (202m high) and the vineyard Bastei, where the grapes ripe marvellously just below the rocks and above the water. 

Also of lady Mosel, I keep great memories from 2016. Here we walked above Piesport looking back at the vineyard Goldtröpfchen. 

Now, six years later, I think of Old Father Rhine and the ladies Nahe and Mosel at the Rüdesheimer Platz.

 

The playground and garden behind the Siegfried fountain

On the playgrounds and meadows behind the fountain of Siegrid, people relax and enjoy the early summer evening. This is the view from the fountain to the east and towards Landauerstrasse. 

Now I am looking back to the Siegfried fountain. The gardens are well maintained. 

 

Around the Rüdesheimer Platz

At Rüdesheimer Platz, Hertz runs a wine shop that promises a great drinking experience – perhaps his wine will give you wings to fly to the clouds.

This little and beautifully crafted house may be needed after so many drinks. It is nick named “Café Achteck” (Achteck = Octagon).

In the beginning of the 20th century, the architects carefully designed the houses around Rüdesheimer Platz and along Landauerstrasse; the  half-timbered façades should resemble English cottages.

The houses have front gardens here.

The ambiance reminds me of the villages in the Rheingau. This is the famous (and touristy) Drosselgasse at Rüdesheim, where I was in 2016.

 

Joining the Weinbrunnen party with a glass of wine

I return to the Rüdesheimer Platz later to have a glass of dry Riesling. Currently Abel, a winegrower from Oestrich, sells his wines. My Riesling is from “Oestricher Lenchen”. I pay and look for a seat.

All seats are taken. Above the Siegried fountain, I  find a place to stand. I put my glass on to the wall. A couple joins me with a pizza from the pizzeria nearby, where I had noticed a long waiting line. A slim athletic looking man in his sixties joins us. I learn that he is from Frankfurt, that he has worked at Berlin, that he sails on the lakes around Berlin and also navigates his motor boat through the channels of the German channels and rivers.

I feel like being in a mediterranean country. But no, I am at Berlin, in Northern Germany, and people enjoy their lives here, too. I really start to feel at home at Berlin, my mother town.

 

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Delémont – more reminiscences of the bishops and a look at the museum

In April 2022, I discovered charming Delémont:

  • the welcoming atmosphere with enticing shops, a small market, traditional restaurants, all mirrored in Renaissance fountains,
  • the medieval city centre with reminiscences of the Prince-Bishopric of Basel, 
  • the jurassic museum (Musée Jurassien d’Art et d’Histoire), curated with a twinkle in the eye. 

After having presented my first impressions of the welcoming atmosphere of Delémont and the Renaissance fountains, I will turn to some more reminiscences of the Prince-Bishops and to the jurassic museum. 

Have you noticed this coat of arms with the lions and the bishop’s crooks at the castle of Delémont? What does it tell us? 

It tells us who built this castle – see below…

 

Recapitulation: The map of the city centre of Delémont

This is the map of the medieval city centre of Delémont with some of its main sights.

Source: SwissMobile with my own additions

 

The château (castle) of Delémont was the summer residence of the Prince-Bishops; it is now a school

Delémont was the summer residence of the Prince-Bishops, and they lived in their castle here.

Prince-Bishop Johann Konrad II von Reinach-Hirtzbach (1705-1737) reconstructed the castle of Delémont in Baroque style (1716-1721). 

His coat of arms confirms that above the entry gate…

… and also inside the castle.

The Prince-Bishop tells us: “I am Johann Konrad von Reinach-Hirtzbach, and I have constructed this castle.”

His lions appear on some border stones marking the Prince-Bishopric of Basel.

I have come across this border stone above Ettingen (Prince-Bishopric of Basel) at the border to Hofstetten (canton of Solothurn).

Interesting to see this plastered Turk inside – the orient was a dream destination at that time, even for the catholic Prince-Bishop.

The castle is now a school. The inventive caretaker has craft skills. This is how he avoids that scooters lie around in the corridors.

In addition, he installed a self-service “lost-property office” for “objets trouvés” meaning “items found”, such as keys, caps, shoes or T-shirts. 

From the castle terrace, there is a gorgeous view of the mini Versailles garden (now very sober) and of the Jura hills surrounding Delémont.

The coat of arms of Delémont shows the hills of the Jura, just below the white bishop’s crook.

 

The church Saint Marcel – neoclassical

The church Saint Marcel was built in Neoclassical style (1762-67), under Prince-Bishop Simon-Nicolas de Monjoie-Hirsingue.

I will have to return to find his coat of arms in the church. Like other prince-bishops, Monjoie has marked his borders, for example, in the forest on the Bruderholz, between Bottmingen (then city of Basel) and Oberwil (Prince-Bishopric of Basel). 

Look for this coat of arms in the church Saint Marcel; it shows two keys and two bishop’s crooks.

The belfry, added later (1850) is slightly slanting and is called “Delémont’s leaning tower of Pisa”. 

Or should we rather say “Pisa’s leaning tower of Delémont”?

Just across the church, some tomb slabs have been reused for the sidewalk. 

Very sustainable construction.

 

The hospital that has never been a hospital

Prince-Bishop Wilhelm Jakob Rinck von Baldenstein (1693-1705) built this hospital. 

According to his opinion, it resulted to luxurious to be just a hospital. The city of Delémont gave the building to the Ursuline nuns to open a school for girls.

The hospital has never been a hospital, though the address is “Rue de l’Hôpital”.  

It is here, where the fountain with Saint Henry stands (emperor Henry II) (see the former blog about the fountains).

 

Chapelle Saint Michel in the cemetery of Delémont

Just above the Place de l’Étang, I find the chapel of Saint Michel, built in 1614, in late Gothic style mixed with Renaissance. 

It has been constructed under Prince-Bishop Wilhelm Rinck von Baldenstein (1608-1628, perhaps we can find his coat of arms here…).

Inside, the atmosphere is sober, the main decoration being the baroque altar of 1618.

 

The Musée Jurassien d’Art et d’Histoire – it is well worth a visit

The Burgenfreunde organised a short guided visit to the Musée Jurassien d’Art et d’Histoire. 

The museum has been curated with a twinkle in the eye. When the managers renovated their museum, they hired a historian, a cartoonist and a photographer and carefully rearranged the exhibits around the seven main clichés that the Jura is known for, such as “au bout du monde” (at the “end of the world”),…

Source: Claude Hauser, p. 38

… “La Tête de Moine” (the cheese from the monastery of Bellelay; alluding to the history of the catholic church and the prince-bishops),…

… “Jurassique: identités sous-sol” (Jurassic: identities under the ground referring to the geological era called “Jura”)…

… or l’heure de la décolleteuse” (hinting at the turning machines and the industrialization in the Jura canton; watches, knives “Wenger”, and even my favourite chocolate bars Ragusa are from the Jura).

Not to forget the fight of the Jura to become a canton of its own, symbolized with this new “number plate” replacing the old ones from Bern.

“79 BE” (for a bicycle) and “0000” (somewhat for a car)- two more twinkles! 

Now the Jura is a canton of its own. Until about 1800, the Jura belonged to the Prince-Bishopric of Basel. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna added it to the canton of Bern. In 1978, the Swiss citizens voted and approved the new canton Jura, making the “BE79” number plates for bicycles obsolete. 

The museum displays pieces of identity of the youngest canton of Switzerland, one of them being the fruit brandy Damassine. 

Did you know that Damasson rouge is a plum that only grows in the Jura (and adjacent France)? It makes an excellent fruit brandy! Last December, I tasted it at Saignelégier (also part of the canton Jura) after a long and chilly day of cross country skiing in the Franches Montagnes. It did warm me up and helped digest the excellent dinner we had at our hotel. 

 

I will surely visit Delémont and the museum again

The Musée Jurassien d’Art et d’Histoire is worth a visit. I intend to explore it in more detail. Furthermore, I would like to look for more coats of arms that the prince-bishops left and for more wild men holding the coats of arms of Delémont. 

And, furthermore, just enjoy the welcoming atmosphere of the charming city of Delémont. I was here for the first time, but surely not for the last time. 

 

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Delémont – wild men and Renaissance fountains

In April 2022, I discovered charming Delémont:

  • the welcoming atmosphere with enticing shops, a small market, traditional restaurants, all mirrored in Renaissance fountains,
  • the medieval city centre with reminiscences of the prince-bishopric of Basel, 
  • the jurassic museum (Musée Jurassien d’Art et d’Histoire), curated with a twinkle in the eye. 

After having presented my first impressions of the welcoming atmosphere of Delémont, I will now tell you about wild men and the Renaissance fountains at Delémont.

Have you noticed the coat of arms of Prince-Bishop Jakob Christoph Blarer von Wartensee (1575-1608) on the Renaissance fountains?

Let us explore, why the coat of arms appears here. 

 

Orientation first: The medieval city centre

The medieval city centre of Delémont is located on a hill above the Sorne, within the red rectangle on the map below. I have marked some of the main sights such as the Museum, the Town Hall or the Castle (Château). 

Source: SchweizMobil (online), my own additions of some sights

Let us look for wild men and Renaissance fountains in the medieval city centre.

 

Wild men hold the coat of arms of Delémont showing the bishop’s crook above the hills around Delémont

In medieval times, the city was surrounded by a wall with four towers, only two of which are left.

The first gate is the Porte au Loup that we have already seen, when entering the city. Named after Monsieur Loup who lived here 700 years ago.

The second gate is the Porte de Porrentruy, also called Porte Monsieur. “Monsieur” Prince-Bishop used to enter the city here to get to his summer castle.

On both gates, two wild men are holding the coat of arms of Delémont. 

This is the coat of arms above the entry of the Porte au Loup.

The coat of arms shows the bishop’s crook above the Jura hills around Delémont, white on red background. Actually the name “Delémont” alludes to mountains (“mont”). 

I came across more wild men holding the coat of arms of the city. One pair of them is above the entry to the town hall.

Another wild man decorates the Renaissance fountain in front of the Musée Jurassien d’Art et d’Histoire. Also this wild man holds the coat of arms of Delémont. 

It was Prince-Bishop Jakob Christoph Blarer von Wartensee who had the wild man crafted in 1576, one year after his election. 

There must be more wild men (“sauvages”) at Delémont: The treasure hunting app Drallo motivates children to find all of them and to redeem the premium at the Croisée des Loisirs (near the train station). 

Googling, I learn that “wild people” (Wildleute, either men or women) were popular supporters for coats of arms (see for instance Roger Rebmann’s altbasel.ch).

 

Prince-Bishop Jakob Christoph Blarer von Wartensee was the “reconquistador”

Prince-Bishop Jakob Christoph Blarer von Wartensee (1575-1608) marked a turning point for the Prince-Bishopric of Basel.

The Prince-Bishopric was on the decline after 1529, when Basel had become a protestant city, and the bishop had to leave Basel. Then, the Prince-Bishopric had lost some villages to Basel; they had become protestant. Blarer von Wartensee successfully recovered lost ground regaining some of the protestant villages, such as Therwil or Oberwil. 

For the Prince-Bishopric, he was an excellent leader, he was somewhat the “reconquistador”. In the Musée Jurassien d’Art et d’Histoire, Pitch Comment summarizes his achievements as “Reconquista”. 

Source: My photo taken at the museum

“Reconquista” refers to the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula by the catholic church, completed by the royal couple Isabella and Ferdinand a hundred years earlier.

Delémont was the summer residence of the Prince-Bishops, and Blarer von Wartensee decorated it with a series of Renaissance fountains, one of them being the fountain of the “wild man” mentioned above. Let us look at more of his fountains.

 

The fountain of Maria

The fountain of Maria decorates the town hall. 

Difficult to take a photo of Maria between  the tree and the town hall (town hall built in 1740). 

Maria was sculptured by Hans Michel in 1583. Maria replaced the wild man of 1576 that stood here before. The wild man was relocated to the Porte de Porrentruy, where we have seen it.

I have come across the sculptor, Hans Michel, before: Another of his works is the statue of Munatius Plancus that he created for the city of Basel (see below). 

Prince-Bishop Blarer von Wartensee could not do without leaving his marks; his coat of arms decorates the fountain of Maria. 

I know his cock from the castle of Porrentruy (where the Prince-Bishops settled, after having been chased from Basel, the cock is to the right of the bishop’s crook; see the photo on the site of Jura Toursime).

Furthermore, when hiking, I encountered the border stones of Blarer von Wartensee between Oberwil and Biel-Benken – this is one of them.

It also shows the cock, along with the bishop’s crook.

 

The fountain of the lion

Another Renaissance fountain presents the lion (1579). The lion holds the bishop’s crook. The cock of Prince-Bishop Blarer von Wartensee decorates also this shaft. 

Lions are another common supporter of coats of arms.

 

The fountain of Saint Maurice

The fountain of Saint Maurice was erected in 1577, also by Prince-Bishop Blarer von Wartensee.  

Have I not seen a very similar statue before? This Mauritius somewhat reminds me of Lucius Munatius Plancus in the courtyard of the Basel town hall… Pretty similar are the boots, the skirt and the coat. 

Yes, the tourism website of Delémont confirms my suspicions… Also Saint Maurice has been created by Hans Michel, like Munatius Plancus.

Mauritius and Munatius Plancus were Roman warriors. Munatius Plancus is said to have founded Augusta Raurica in 44 B.C. (not exactly true, but close, see my earlier blog), and Mauritius belonged to the legendary Theban Legion of the Romans, in the 3rd century A.D.. Though three centuries apart, they look about the same, except for the helmet: Munatius Plancus wears a solid helmet with a basilisk, and Mauritius wears a hat the shape of which reminds me of the pilgrimage hat of Saint James. It also seems to be that Mauritius does not wear leggings, whereby Munatius Plancus has pink leggings with golden laces.

Anyway: Roman warriors looked quite a bit different from these Renaissance incarnations created by Hans Michel. Nevertheless, I like both Renaissance statues. 

 

Fountain of Saint Henry

 Saint Henry decorates this fountain from the 19th century in front of the old hospital. The statue of Saint Henry is from 1596 (see “Chronologie jurassienne”).

Saint Henry is the emperor Henry II of the Roman Holy Empire of German Nation around 1000 A.D. Saint Henry or Henry II was canonized by the pope in 1146. He had the Cathedral of Basel constructed. At Delémont, Henry seems to present the model of the Basel Cathedral, though, in 1596, it belonged to the protestants, no longer to the catholic Prince-Bishopric. 

I have come across Henry II again and again: He and his wife Kunigunde decorate the façade of Cathedral of Basel (sculpture from 1290)…  

… and the altar of the dome of Arlesheim (painted by Appiani in 1759-61). In Arlesheim, Henry holds the “little sister” of the Cathedral of Basel, the beautiful Rococo dome of Arlesheim (built in 1679-81 and rebuilt in 1759-61, see my earlier blog about the dome).

Henry is the patron of the Prince-Bishopric of Basel and of the city of Basel; another Henry decorates the clock of the Basel town hall

In the next blog, I will continue with more reminiscences of the prince-bishopric of Basel and with the jurassic museum (Musée Jurassien d’Art et d’Histoire). 

 

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Delémont/Delsberg, the charming capital of the Jura

Delémont/Delsberg is the capital of the canton Jura. Founded in 1979, the Jura is the youngest canton of Switzerland. At Delémont, the friends of the castles of both Basel held their general assembly in April 2022. I decided to attend the assembly and benefit from the opportunity to visit Delémont..

So far I had never visited Delémont, except the train station (a terminal station, Sackbahnhof) and the ring road (to get to the Franches Montagnes for hiking or for cross country skiing).  Now, I discovered the charm of Delémont:

  • the welcoming atmosphere with enticing shops, a small market, traditional restaurants, all mirrored in Renaissance fountains,
  • the medieval city centre with reminiscences of the prince-bishopric of Basel, 
  • the jurassic museum (Musée Jurassien d’Art et d’Histoire), curated with a twinkle in the eye. 

I will start with my first impressions of the welcoming atmosphere of Delémont.

 

Delémont belongs to the French speaking part of Switzerland – more easy-going – parking is free of cost…

It is only a good half hour’s car trip from Basel to Delémont.

Along the town wall, I find lots of parking spaces and a parking meter. I enter four francs. The meter accepts the first three francs and rejects my fourth franc. The meter does not accept more coins nor does it return the coins already entered. Why? – Ah, three francs is the maximum I can pay, which allows me to stay here for four hours (or was it three hours?); not enough to attend the assembly and the visits planned by the Burgenfreunde.

I take my car and drive to Place de l’Étang nearby that has a large parking space. The gate is open and the parking meter is out of service. I leave my car here; now I am in the French speaking part of Switzerland, where life is somewhat more easy-going, where parking meters may work or not, where parking may cost some coins or not… today it is free, unexpectedly. I am happy to have contributed three francs to the city before.

 

Delémont remembers Mr. Loup from the 14th century

I enter the city centre from the north, through the “Wolf’s Gate” or Porte au Loup

No, this was not the gate “for” the wolfs. It is named after Monsieur Loup:  Rouelin Loup owned the neighbouring house in 1392. Enough reason, to call the city gate “Porte au Loup”, still today, some 700 years later.

Above the gate, two wild men are holding the coat of arms of Delémont. It shows the bishop’s crook above the mountains of the Jura (see heraldry of the world). 

We will see more of these wild men later; they are called “sauvages” in French.

 

A charming small market in the Rue de l’Hôpital

A small market is going on. A Tibetan stand sells a choice of steamed dumplings. Enticing, but I cannot buy dumplings now. The assembly might not like the smell. 

Another stand sells food from Tunisia, praised by the owner with enthusiasm. Delémont seems to be an international place.

The market stretches along the Rue de l’Hôpital. 

I stand in front of the Fontaine de la Boule, the “ball fountain”, a Renaissance fountain from 1596. “Boule” (ball or globe) describes it well. 

The houses reflect in the water of this fountain.

 

Spring flowers bring colour to the streets

I stroll through the streets and enjoy the flowers decorating them, such as these tulips in la Rue de la Grange (Barn Street)…

… and these daffodils in the Rue du Fer (Iron Street).

 

Inviting places for shopping and reading

Nathalie sells wool behind her nicely decorated window. I believe, all the charming shops selling just wool have disappeared in Basel, unfortunately.

I come across the Bibliothèque des Jeunes (library for the young). Inside, children are reading books.

I frown a bit at the “Pharmacie du Tilleul”. “Tilleul” means “lime blossom”. This pharmacy seems to sell a choice of rather “soft” medicine.

Well, may be, they make a careful selection of medicine, considering traditional knowledge about plants as well.

 

Delémont – multilingual

This restaurant is multilingual mixing German, French and English. 

As a matter of fact, in 1880 the percentage of German speaking inhabitants was about 45%, and now it is down to 3% (see Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz). The once bilingual town still announces its “Weinhandlung”, which is a coffee bar today, the “Café d’Espagne”. 

We have dinner at the Restaurant de la Croix Blanche. The atmosphere is cosy, the walls are painted. 

This painting with the coat of arms of the young canton Jura has been made after 1979. The restaurant owner tells me that they have enlarged the restaurant; the paintings in the front part are older than the ones at the  back. We enjoy a lovely meal; the portions of the menu are enormously large – and good.

Yes, Delémont has a welcoming atmosphere with enticing shops, a small market, traditional restaurants, all mirrored in Renaissance fountains. 

Let us discover details of the medieval city centre with the traces of the Prince-Bishops in the following blog.  

 

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Limburg with the colourful cathedral and Bonn – the former German capital

In November 2021, I make two stop overs. The first one was at Frankfurt. Now I visit Bonn, the former German capital and, on the way, I have lunch at Limburg with the beautiful cathedral. 

 

Lunch break at Limburg with the Limburg Cathedral

On the way from Frankfurt to Bonn, I have my lunch break at Limburg to see the cathedral. I am surprised to find such a colourful façade. 

I was here in summer 1965, at the age of 14 years, with my mother. I remember the cathedral to be grey, as on this postcard that I bought at that time.  

57 years ago, I pasted this postcard into my photo album adding the description “Limburger Dom”. 

I am puzzled. Now, in 2021, I do not recognize the cathedral at all. It was grey, and now it is colourful. From the wikipedia entry about the Limburg Cathedral, I learn why: “Between 1968 and 1972, the polychrome exterior was restored, using remains of the colour from the period before 1872 in order to reconstruct the old patterns”. Now I understand: In 1872, the medieval colours of the cathedral had been removed. The cathedral became grey, as I saw it in 1965. Three years later, in 1968, the medieval colours were restored to what they were before 1872. And this is why, I now find such a colourful cathedral.

From outside, the cathedral with its seven towers has a Romanesque appearance. Inside, I recognize early Gothic elements.  

The cross above the altar is the copy of the “Crucifix of Walsdorf” from the 13th century. The original is in the museum of Wiesbaden. The former rood screen (Lettner) separates the ambulatory from the choir (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.13). The modern windows that we see in the choir have been made by Hubert Spierling (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p. 18). 

Building the present cathedral started at the end of the 12th century, in Romanesque style. While progressing with the construction of the cathedral, more  and more early Gothic elements were used. The Gothic appearance is reflected by elements such as the triforiums…

… or the vaults. 

I look up into the cupolas. There is the fresco of the archangels Gabriel and Michael – if I understand correctly they are of Gothic origin.

Konrad Kurzbold died in 948. This is his tomb slab from the 13th century. He is venerated in the cathedral, because he is considered to be the founder of the original church built here and devoted to Saint George.

Around his tomb slab are guards such as this figure reading… 

… or the dog (I am pretty sure, this is a dog).

Behind Konrad’s tomb slab is the fresco with the roots of Jesus. It is from the year 1638 (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.15).

Also from the 17th century are the Hortus Deliciarum,…

… Christophoros (repainted in 1935),…

… and Samsung, pulling out a tree (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.12).

There are some frescoes from the early 13th and some from the 15th century. As an example, I take Christ at the tree of life from the 13th century (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.20). 

I like the play of light of this modern window with the plain and solemn altar, perfectly adorned with flowers that match the colours of the window. I cannot find out who the artists were.

I leave the cathedral and look back at it once more admiring the colourful façade.

The cathedral is located on a rock above the Lahn river. I take the steep streets of Limburg to get down…

… taking with me some impressions of the medieval timbered houses.

I pick up my car, return to the highway and continue north to Bonn.

 

Arriving at Bonn to meet my cousin and his wife

My cousin Peter and his wife live near Bonn. I settle in my hotel and visit them in their house. I am invited for an excellent dinner.

We study our family trees. On my mother’s side, my grand-mother and his grand-father were cousins, as I understand. Furthermore one great-grand-aunt of my mother married the great-grand-father of my father. Hence we are “distant” cousins and we are cousins “twice”. It was in the unfortunate 1930’s that our grand-aunt Helene studied our family tree back to the year 1300. She took much care of her relatives – among them my cousin and me. We met at a family event and stayed in loose contact thereafter.

The next day, my cousin and I take the suburban train to Bonn. Without my cousin, I would have never had the idea to visit Bonn.

 

Bonn – the former seat of the elector and the former capital of the German Republic

We start our visit on the left shore of the Rhine, at the “Alter Zoll” or bastion, the only part that remains of the former ramparts of Bonn. In the background we can see the Siebengebirge, a great recreation area for the citizens of Bonn.

In the 13th century, the electors of Cologne (Köln) chose Bonn to be one of their seats. They built this magnificent electoral palace of Bonn; it is now part of Bonn’s university. 

Currently it is under renovation. The white tents and the construction barriers create an uncomfortable atmosphere, especially, when it is raining as it does today. I will have to return to see the palace, when the renovation has been completed.

The palace garden (Hofgarten) is a green meadow. The Academic Art Museum (Akademisches Kunstmuseum) presents Roman and Greek statues. It has been constructed by the Neoclassical Berlin architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel; I have come across more of Schinkel’s works at Berlin. 

 

There are many world-class museums at Bonn; there is even a “Museumsmeile”. However, today, I want to explore the city. 

The Old Town Hall was built in Rococo style in the 18th century. It shines in pink and is decorated with gold. The last renovation took place between 2010 and 2011.

Various important persons stood on the gilded stairs, among them Charles de Gaulle, John F. Kennedy, and Mikhail Gorbachev.

 

The Minster of Bonn (Bonner Münster)

The Minster of Bonn (Bonner Münster) is nearby. The original church was devoted to the legendary Roman legionnaires Cassius and Florentius (both martyrs of the Theban Legion – like Mauritius who is famous in Switzerland). Building the minster started in the eleventh  century, in Romanesque style. Construction lasted until the middle of the 13th century, in early Gothic style. In 2017, the church was closed for total renovation. While the renovation is still going on, the church has just been reopened in October 2021.

In the nave, the lower arches are still Romanesque, the upper arches and the vaults are Gothic.

The representatives have ventured to combine modern art with the traditional Romanesque-Gothic architecture: Five modern artists present their works to underline the idea of “light and transparency” (see “Weiter Raum: Bonner Münster wagt Begegnung mit moderner Kunst“). 

I like the atmosphere created by the combination of modern and traditional art – a pity that the exhibition of the modern works will end in January 2022. 

I recognize him, this is Nepomuk (1345-1393), the priest that denied to tell king Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia  about the confessions of his wife, the queen, and that was sentenced and thrown into the Vltava (Moldau). He is present on so many bridges in Europe.

At the charming Romanesque cloister, we take a break from busy Bonn.

It is interesting to note that Emperor William II of Germany had his Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin modelled after the Minster of Bonn.

This photo of the Memorial Church at Berlin has been taken by me in 2019; I found it on a panel in the church museum. Today, the ruins of this church are a memorial and a modern church has been built around it.

 

Behind the train station, we say hello to the Neanderthal man who lived 40’000 years ago

My cousin looks forward to showing me one gem of the museums of Bonn, the Rheinische Landesmuseum. Here, we say hello to our ancestor, the Neanderthal man (Neandertaler) who, 40’000 years ago, lived in the Neandertal and has resided in this museum since 1877.

The Neandertal was a beautiful canyon between Düsseldorf and Wuppertal (north of Bonn) that became a quarry in the 19th century. Workers detected some bones and threw them away. The owners of the quarry rescued 16 larger bones and handed them over to researchers who identified them as belonging to a stone-age hominid. Later, more bones were found in the area and three fragments complemented the bones found earlier by the workers – they complemented them exactly. The bones are in the glass case and a reconstruction of the Neanderthal man stands behind the bones. 

The Neanderthal man is being examined in a multidisciplinary project. DNA analysis shows that he has contributed about one to four percent to our genes, I read on the site of the Landesmuseum. 

The exhibition explains, how the Neanderthal man lived. One example is his ingenious way of gluing wood and flint to produce tools. He used birch pitch, as this sample demonstrates. 

We walk through the other departments that explain the history of the area, and we admire a lady teacher with her young pupils that listen with attention.

I want to come back to Bonn to explore more of its museums. Basel praises itself of being “the city of museums”, and now I have discovered a second such city, namely Bonn, with the Museumsmeile and many more museums. Beethoven was born at Bonn  in 1770, and also his house is a museum. 

We have lunch at the friendly Vietnamese restaurant Cay Tre in the city centre at Friedrichstrasse. In the evening, we share an excellent dinner at the Golf Club restaurant of Sankt Augustin.  Bonn is a somewhat hidden gem in Germany. 

 

Good-bye Bonn 

In the morning I enjoy the well prepared breakfast at my hotel, laughing with the napkin under my plate. 

In the right hand lower corner I find the announcement “¿Quiere Usted crecer ocho centimetros? – … con el grandioso  CRECEDOR RACIONAL… quedará convencido del maravilloso invento, última palabra de la ciencia.” (Do you want to grow by eight centimetres? … with the great RATIONAL GROWER… you will remain convinced of the wonderful invention, the last word of science). The product is sold in Buenos Aires, Entre Rios 130. Or it WAS sold there, may be, it no longer is. Anyway, I am not sure, whether this “CRECEDOR” would work for me… and then – eight centimetres is not really the full size of a head, is it? I love to study my napkin during breakfast.

Good-bye Bonn and good-bye Peter, I thank you and your wife for your hospitality.

 

On the way to Berlin with a short stop near Helmstedt

I leave the hotel and, on the highway, I reach the former inner German border near Helmstedt (ehemalige innerdeutsche Grenze 1945-1990). 

Then, in November 2021, I thought, such borders have disappeared completely, and I could not imagine that they have ever existed.

Now, it is March 2022, and, while writing my blog, I look at this photo with deep concern. Let us hope that these times do not return!

 

Sources:

Frankfurt – an old family friend is my guide

A long-year family friend at Frankfurt and a cousin at Bonn are both in their eighties. I want to visit them on my way to Berlin, mid-November 2021.

My first stop is at Frankfurt, the business capital of Germany on the Main river.

At Frankfurt, I have been invited by Dietrich and his wife. Our grand-parents were friends, after that our mothers were very close friends and now we, the grand-children, are friends. We are long-year family friends.

A hundred years ago, Dietrich’s grand-father had acquired some paintings of my grand-father-artist Hermann Radzig-Radzyk, for instance the Kirchberg at Schreiberhau, now Szklarska Poręba, in Silesia…

… and the valley at the county of Klatsko (Glätzisches Land), also in Silesia.

Immediately, I feel at home in the house of Dietrich and his wife. I am surrounded by my memories of my family, and the welcome is hearty.

 

Charming small Italian restaurant run by two sisters from Naples

We have dinner at the charming small Pizzeria La Paesana, run by two sisters from Naples. Their nephew made the pretty felt pizzaiolo that now decorates the pizzeria of his aunts. Well, the pizzaiolo has lost one eye – that makes him look even friendlier – he seems to twinkle at me.

The small restaurant is an excellent welcome to Frankfurt. I have tasty wild boar noodles with a slightly sparkling Lambrusco, my friends have pasta Carlo Magno with Gorgonzola – it is said that Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse or Carlo Magno) loved Gorgonzola, the sisters tell us. That was around the year 800 AD – what a cheese tradition! 
(According to the wiki entry about Gorgonzola, it is said that Gorgonzola was first produced in 879; but this could well have happened a little earlier, when Charlemagne lived, and if not, it is a nice legend).

We will meet Charlemagne later again in the city centre of Frankfurt. 

 

My first impression of the city – Hauptwache (main guardroom) and skyscrapers touching the morning clouds

Dietrich takes me to the S-Bahn. We leave the underground station at the Hauptwache (main guardroom). Saint Catherine’s Church appears behind the stairs. 

The baroque guardroom, built in 1730, was the headquarter of the city’s soldiers. It was also a prison. It was destroyed in the Second World War and reconstructed thereafter. 

The Hauptwache is surrounded by modern buildings, with the Commerzbank building fading in the mist of the late morning. 

 

The lifeline of Frankfurt am Main – the river Main

The lifeline of Frankfurt is the Main river. We approach it near the pedestrian bridge “Eiserner Steg” with the inscription in Greek saying “the sea has the colour of wine and, on this sea, we are sailing to meet other people” (auf weinfarbenem Meer segelnd zu anderen Menschen).

From here we can see the Commerzbank building again, now under blue sky in the sun, surrounded by many more modern buildings reflecting in the Main river . 

This is the Cathedral Saint Bartholomew, also reflecting in the Main river.

Across the Eiserner Steg we reach the urban district Sachsenhausen. We stroll along the waterside promenade and meet these two ducks, also citizens of Frankfurt, sleeping comfortably on one leg. 

The skyline, again with the Commerzbank tower, appears behind the island (Maininsel) that shines in golden autumn colours. 

Returning to the city centre using the Old Bridge (Alte Brücke), I make a photo of both the modern business skyline and the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Barthomolew. 

Frankfurt has charm, definitively, when seen from their lifeline, the Main river. 

 

Timbered houses at the Römerberg and the Old St Nicholas Church (Alte Nikolaikirche)

Away from the Main river, the old city centre is located on the Römerberg. It is bordered by timbered houses and the Old St Nicholas Church. 

We enter the Römerberg under the banner that plays with German words: “Vieles geht besser, wenn die Maske jetzt sitzt” (translated literally: “much will “go” better, when the mask “sits” meaning”, when the mask fits).  

On the Römerberg, the first fairs took place in the 11th century. Frederic the Second of Hohenstaufen granted the right to run fairs to Frankfurt in 1240. 

It is mid November, time to set up the Christmas tree in front of the old town hall. 

This is not the Standesamt (civil registry office), but the Standesämtchen. The ending “chen” combined with “ä” indicates that it is the “small” registry office which, in Southern Germany, adds a friendly and welcoming touch to it. Actually it is not a small civil registry office, but a restaurant that carries the name “Standesämtchen”. 

Modernity and tradition are joining. The Old St Nicholas Church reflects in the glass wall of the Evangelische Akademie (education institution and conference house). 

As a matter of fact, Frankfurt has been in ruins after the Second World War. The houses around the Römerberg, originally from the 15/16th century, have been reconstructed in  the 80-ies, except the Wertheim building nearby that survived the air raids. 

The late Gothic Old Saint Nicholas Church from the 15th century only suffered minor damage by the bombs of the Second World War.  

 

The Cathedral St Barthomolew behind the Römer

From the Römerberg, we can see the Cathedral of St Barthomolew.  

The cathedral can be seen from the Main river, too. 

The cathedral is also called “Kaiserdom” (Emperor Cathedral). Actually, it is a “Königsdom”, because the kings of the Holy Roman Empire were elected here since 1152 and crowned since 1562, until the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist. No “emperors” were crowned here, kings were crowned here. Furthermore, the cathedral has never been a bishop seat, though it is called “cathedral”.

The present Gothic cathedral is mainly from the 14th and 15th century, reconstructed in the 1950’s after having been severely damaged in 1944. 

The modern organ matches the gothic vaults. 

Reading about the cathedral at home, I would like to return to explore the collection of altars from all over Germany and the chapel, where the elections of the kings took place. 

 

New Old City (neue Altstadt), reconstructed based on the medieval ground plans

Between the Römerberg and the cathedral of St Bartholomew, the old city has been rebuilt along the medieval ground plans – this is now called “neue Altstadt” or “New Old City”.

The area is not without charm. However, to me, the houses look a bit, as if they had been cut out of cardboard. 

They are neither really old nor really modern. 

 

Kaiserpfalz – meeting Charlemagne again, the emperor who enjoyed the Gorgonzola cheese

Here, he is again, Charlemagne who is said to have loved the Gorgonzola cheese. In a way, he is the founder of Frankfurt. That is why, I assume, he stands on the old bridge crossing the Main river. He looks downstream, severely frowning.

In 794, it was Charlemagne who the first person to mention Frankfurt or “Franconofurd”. At that time, he held a synod of bishops and an imperial assembly here. 

Charlemagne was at Frankfurt in 794. However, later he probably never returned to Frankfurt. It is assumed that his grand-son, Louis the German, founded the first cathedral and made Frankfurt an important royal palatinate. The ruins of the palatinate are presented in the New Old City.

This is, what the royal palatinate (Königspfalz) might have looked like in the 9th century. 

The painting is on display in the museum.

 

Church St. Leonhard

The Church St Leonhard is bordering the Main river. The beginnings go back to the early 13th century, and the Romanesque structures have been largely preserved. In 1323, the church acquired a relic of Saint Leonhard which made it an important pilgrimage site. 

In the early 15th century, the choir was reconstructed in Gothic style while the Romanesque apses remained in place. Around 1500, the nave was enlarged.

The Gothic main altar was acquired around 1850. The middle part is from Swabian Bavaria. The predella is supposed to have been crafted at Memmingen in the late 15th century; it shows the martyrium of Ursula. The two candle holders are Baroque angels from 1614.

Late Gothic frescoes decorate the walls of the choir, to the left the Annunciation scene, to the right Christ carrying the cross. Some of the stain glass windows in the choir are from the 15th century. 

The altar of Marie comes from Antwerpen (about 1480). The centre part is dedicated to Marie (her death, her ascension, her coronation). The predella shows the Last Supper.

In 1944, the Church Saint Nicholas was only moderately damaged; sister Margarita prevented a devastating fire. Between 2011 and 2019 the church was completely renovated.

Reading the booklet acquired in the Church of St. Nicholas, I understand, there is more to see in this church, I would like to come back.

 

Goethe was born at Frankfurt

In this large, yellow house at the Grosser Hirschgraben, Goethe was born (1749-1832) . He lived in Frankfurt, until he left to study law at Leipzig in 1765.

Well, the yellow house was destroyed in 1944, and it was reconstructed after the war, exactly as it was before. 

Next door is the Frankfurter Goethehaus (House of Goethe) with the Deutsches Romantikmuseum (German museum of Romanticism). I liked the highly modern oriel interpretation. 

Again next door is the Volksbühne, a theatre, with two more modern oriels swinging along the façade.  

 

Town Hall and Local Court (Ortsgericht)

From the Goethe House we cross the busy Berlinerstrasse and reach the Local Court of Frankfurt (Ortsgericht), … 

… leaving it through the gate with the fresco showing the wine harvest. 

We now look at the rear side of the town hall, …

… with the town hall tower seen from under the Seufzerbrücke (Bridge of Sighs, a skywalk) at Bethmannstrasse. 

 

St Paul’s Church (Paulskirche)

Behind us, we can see the oval shaped classicist Saint Paul’s Church, completed in 1833. In 1848, the first German national assembly was held in Saint Paul’s Church. However, the attempt to found the German nation failed, as the Prussian king did not accept the emperor crown to reign over all German states. Nevertheless, the constitution elaborated by the assembly was accepted by most German states; it can be considered to be the roots of the German democracy (see Stadtführer, p. 38). 

The building was reconstructed after 1945 to become a national memorial. This is the new cupola seen from inside.

A monumental frieze makes the representatives of the 1848 assembly revive.

 

Sight seeing makes hungry – the Kleinmarkthalle (small market hall) is close

Around lunch time, I am usually hungry. We make a “pitch stop” at the Kleinmarkthalle (small market hall) near the city centre. 

We climb up the stairs to get an overview from the gallery.

We walk around and enjoy the stands with enticing pasta,…

… apple wine (called Ebbelwei here), …

… meat offered by a citizen of Frankfurt that is obviously from Turkish origin (I love to see the mixture of nations here),…

… beautifully arranged fish… and much more.

We join the waiting queue at Dietrich’s favourite sausage stand of Ilse Schreiber, where we buy two sausages from Hessen (the state that Frankfurt belongs to). We have to eat our sausages outside, because inside the building we have to wear masks, outside, we can take them off, which is much more convenient for eating sausages. 

 

Good-bye Dietrich, now I am heading north to Bonn, with a stop over on the Grosser Feldberg

Thank you, Dietrich, I have spent two wonderful days with you and your wife. I have learnt much about Frankfurt, and there is more to see in Frankfurt with its museums, with the modern business centres, with the carefully preserved or reconstructed medieval sights and with its lifeline, the Main river.

Now I am heading north to Bonn.

In the mist, I start driving to the Taunus mountains north of Frankfurt. My car climbs and climbs, and eventually, I am above the clouds. I stop on the local mountain of Frankfurt that is called Grosser Feldberg. I am on almost 900m. The view is superb. 

The Brunhildi’s rock (to the right of my shadow) is mentioned in a document of 1043. 

The rock is said to have been the “lectulus of Brunhilde” or “the little bed of Brunhilde”. Saint Hildegard of Bingen has spent one night here, and the rock has kept the imprint of her head, as legends tell. Around 1800, the rock was reinterpreted as the place, where Brunhilde was sleeping, until Siegfried liberated her. The rock became part of the German legend of Nibelungen. This is, what the panel near this peculiar rock says. 

I continue north – it is about two hours to drive to Bonn. On the way, I will have another stop at Limburg. 

 

Sources:

Berlin: The tour of seven lakes

In 2021, I visited my mother town Berlin four times. I very much enjoyed the tour of seven lakes starting at the Wannsee peer. It reawakened memories of sixty years ago. 

At the Wannsee peer we buy tickets from Reederei Werner Triebler. 

The captain will give us detailed information, while gliding along the lakes and channels. He asks for a tip in the “Quassel-Kasse” (palavering cash box).

Do not take the disinfectant bottle with you! Well, times are very special now, with Covid. 

With us travels this lovely butterfly – perhaps not the whole tour. 

This is the route of the “7 Seenrundfahrt” starting at the Grosser Wannsee, continuing to Jungfernsee, Glienicker Lake, Griebnitzsee, Stölpchensee, Pohlesee, kleiner Wannsee and at the end returning to the Grosser Wannsee.  

Source: Google maps and my additions

We start on the Grosser Wannsee, …

… looking back at the famous Strandbad (lido) Wannsee. In my heart I hear the 1951 song of Conny Froboess: “Pack die Badehose ein, nimm Dein kleines Schwesterlein und dann nüscht wie raus nach Wannsee” (pack your bathing trunk, take your little sister and after that it is time to go to the Wannsee).

Now, in September, the Wannsee beach is empty.

The villa of the Wannsee Conference “glides” by. 

Sailing boats in the sun. The Grunewald Tower, another bombastic oeuvre of Emperor William II, appears above the trees in the background. 

We pass by the Pfaueninsel with its small castle.

After that we see the protestant Heilandskirche (Church of the Redeemer) of Sacrow, built in Neo-Romanesque-Lombardian style in 1844.

Until 1989, Sacrow was part of the GDR; with my mother, I looked at Sacrow from the Pfaueninsel in 1966 and I remember the barbwire in the water that prevented us from getting there. My mother wrote in her 1966 diary: “(Across from the Pfaueninsel) is Sacrow on  the western shore (of the Havel) in the East Zone. I have often been at Sacrow.” The barbwires were a nightmare that, today, I cannot believe was once reality. 

The memories of the nightmare continue at the Glienickerbrücke (Glienicke bridge). The border between Brandenburg (formerly GDR) and Berlin (formerly West-Berlin) is in the middle of this bridge. Until 1989, the “west” ended east of this bridge. Still today, the Berlin part of the bridge is darker than the Brandenburg part. Across this bridge, agents were exchanged between the GDR and the BRD. 

In 1966, my grand uncle Ferdinand drove my mother and me to the Glienickebrücke, then closed and separating the GDR and West-Berlin.

My mother wrote in her diary: “Now I stand in front of this bridge that I had crossed so often. On this side of the Havel river, there is a policeman of West Berlin. He is allowed to go up to the middle of the bridge. On the other side of the Havel is the (eastern) Volkspolizei (member of the People’s Police). It is most distressing to look at the barricades on the other (eastern) waterfront of the Havel. Barbwire spirals reach into the water and cover the whole bank, up to the level of the bridgehead. In the water, there are buoys that mark the “border”. On the other (eastern) side, we cannot see one single person. All seems “icily calm”. On this (western) side of the Bridge of Unity (as they called it in the GDR), …, there is a considerable amount of people, even on this early afternoon of a weekday, that look at this scenery without understanding. Below the bridge West Berlin ends and here is the last station of the Stern- und Kreissschiffahrt: Glienickerbrücke…”

Today, we do not stop at Glienickebrücke. The impassable border has disappeared. Our boat passes under the bridge and into the former GDR waters; the gloomy scenery of 1966 seems unthinkable.

The Babelsberg palace appears on the right hand side. Babelsberg is now the centre of the German film industry.

We continue to the Griebnitzsee and turn north, where the Teltow channel starts . This channel was opened in 1906, is about 40 km long, borders Kleinmachnow and ends south of Köpenick.  

In the Griebnitzsee we watch these rowers move synchronously – beautiful.

In 1966, I was also here with my mother. We had taken a boat going south from the Wannsee to the Griebnitzsee, as far as West Berlin reached. My mother wrote in her diary that it was here, where for the first time, we saw the barbwire “mess” (“Gewirr”) at the southern bank of the Griebnitzsee, as half of this lake belonged to the GDR . 

We reach the Griebnitzkanal that connects the Griebnitzsee with the Stölpchensee. 

Now we have entered the Stölpchensee with the settlement Stolpe. 

The protestant church “am Stölpchensee” is from 1859, built in Neo-Romanesque style, whereby the tower has been adorned with four Neo-Gothic turrets which is a somewhat awkward decoration. 

“Stölpchen” is related to slawic “столб” or “stolb” which means pole. Perhaps it describes the shape of the small lake. 

The Alsenbrücke (Alsen bridge) with the Jugendstil handrail of 1906 crosses the Prinz Friedrich Leopold Kanal between Stölpchensee and Pohlesee. 

We enter the Kleiner Wannsee. On the eastern side, not far from this villa is the tomb of Kleist (Kleistgrab).  It was here that Kleist committed suicide in 1811, with his friend Henriette Vogel. It is only a short walk away from the S-Bahn station Wannsee. This is another place to visit, the next time that I will be in Berlin.

Still in the Kleiner Wannsee, we admire the former GDR state yacht Albin Köbis, in use until 1971, acquired and renovated in 2009 by a private person. 

This villa in the lush garden is hiding behind a weeping willow.

Our boat enters the Grosser Wannsee and soon thereafter, we leave it at the Wannsee peer. Thank you, Captain, it was a wonderful tour. You do deserve a tip for your “Quasselkasse”. 

Sources:

  • Diary of my mother, Dr. Marion Peters-Radzyk, Berlin, 1966
  • Various Websites linked in about the former GDR yacht, the Kleistgrab, the church am Stölpchensee and the Reederei Werner Triebler

Berlin: Liebermann Villa and House of Wannsee Conference

In 2021, I was in Berlin – four times. Once we visited the Villa Liebermann and the House of the Wannsee Conference in the Berlin area Heckesdorn bordering the Wannsee.

 

The Max Liebermann Villa – charming country house in a lush garden

Max Liebermann was a painter. He lived from 1847-1935. He belonged to the secessionists of Berlin taking their lead in 1898.

On the border of the Wannsee, in the settlement Alsen, Liebermann acquired land in 1909 to build his cosy villa as a summer residence. Here he spent his summers painting the garden and his family. 

The villa in the lush garden is open to the public. It is a museum that presents some of Lieberman’s paintings as a well as changing special exhibitions.

Behind the house, vegetables are cultivated. It is now a mid-September garden.

Bordering the Wannsee, there is a meadow with shady trees. It invites to have a rest. A flower garden behind the hedge allows for small promenades. 

Chairs in the meadow indicate that the visitors have accepted the invitation to have a rest. 

The weeping willow near the landing stage waves in the wind. 

The willow and the birch trees take up the shape of the empty sailboat masts.

This is how Liebermann painted his birch trees facing the Wannsee in his garden.

We return to the villa to visit the museum inside.

This is the scene in an open-air restaurant on the shore of the Havel presented in the permanent exhibition.  

The current special exhibition is devoted to portrait photos that Gerty Simon took from known personalities. One example is Käthe Kollwitz.

I am touched by the fate of Gerty Simon: From Germany, she emigrated to Great Britain, was arrested in the Second World War for being German and acquired the British citizenship after the Second World War.  

 

The Wannsee Conference of 1942 – impressive presentation of the extremely gloomy breakfast  

At the request of Göbbels, Heydrich invited various governmental leaders to the former Villa Marlier for a work meeting with breakfast. Their task was to coordinate the efforts between various governmental institutions to organize transferring the Jews to the east, primarily to Poland. The invitation letter makes me shiver: It reflects, how diligently the second layer of the ministers obeys the orders of their superiors, even such horrible orders. And how carelessly they combine this disaster with having breakfast together. 

What happened to the conference participants after 1942? Five members died before 1945 (whereby one of them disappeared; perhaps he escaped). Four members were sentenced or died before 1948.  They were prosecuted due to their entire role in the destruction process, not just due to the participation in the conference. Four more members were arrested and released later. Together with other proponents, they lived a “normal” life after that. 

Eichmann wrote the minutes. His case was spectacular. He escaped to Argentina, was found by the Mossad, transferred to Israel and sentenced here in 1962. 

On Thursday 20th of January, I find an article about the Wannsee Conference in “my” NZZ (Neue Zürcher Zeitung), as the conference had occurred exactly 80 years ago. Frank Bajohr, a German historian specializing in the Holocaust, describes the – also in my opinion – dystopic setup: Representatives of the government discuss how to kill millions of people and they do so in the relaxed atmosphere of a breakfast. However, Bajohr says, this conference was not a key event for the Holocaust; the second level ministers at this conference did not make decisions nor were they the primary drivers. But the minutes written by Eichmann are a major key document illustrating what was going on then. The House of the Wannsee Conference has a similar iconic quality, says Bajohr, as Auschwitz.

After our visit, I watch a group of young students discussing their impressions with the teacher; their faces  express grief. I hope and I do wish that all this grief prevents such horribleness in future. 

 

The Lion of Flensburg – the manifestation of victories and defeats in the 19th century

It is evening now. We have a drink at Bolle near the boat harbour – my brother-in-law checks, at what prices boats can be hired here.

The copy of the Lion of Flensburg watches over this Wannsee boat harbour. It tells the history of victories and defeats.

The Danes created the Lion of Flensburg, after having vanquished Schleswig-Holstein in 1850. In 1864, the German Federation vanquished the Danes and confiscated their lion. In 1865, a copy of the Lion was produced for the then new settlement Alsen, today part of the Wannsee district. Since 1938, the copy of the Lion of Flensburg has stood here watching over the Wannsee boat harbour. After 1945, the original Lion of Flensburg was returned to the Danes by the Americans.  

Good-bye, severe lion, may be one of us will return soon to rent a boat in “your” harbour. 

Sources:

Berlin: Excursion to Köpenick and the Müggelsee

In 2021, I was in Berlin four times. I love to return to my mother town to discover new corners and to rediscover known corners.

With a friend, I visited Köpenick. We parked conveniently at the Kirchstrasse 5-6 parking, just opposite of the famous townhall of Köpenick.

The townhall is famous for the Captain of Köpenick. He stands next to the main entrance.

 

The Captain of Köpenick – the imposter that arrested the mayor and confiscated the town coffer

We enter the town hall of Köpenick. The atmosphere inside must have an intimidating effect on their citizens. 

The townhall was inaugurated in October 1905 and enlarged in 1949. 

Dogs have to remain outside.

It was one year after the inauguration, that, in 1906, the cobbler Wilhelm Voigt made his coup as the “Captain of Köpenick”.

The life of Walter Voigt, born at Tilsit in Prussia, already went off rails during his apprenticeship as a cobbler in 1863. Between 1863 and 1891, he was sentenced seven times, in 1867 even for twelve years of jail. In 1906, he was expelled from Wismar and later from Rixdorf. He was jobless then.   

In 1906, he bought the uniform of a captain from a second-hand-dealer, investigated several town halls in Berlin and selected Köpenick, one reason being the good train connections. He collected a group of soldiers and with them, he took the suburban train to Köpenick. He performed his role as a captain with determination and was successful, because order and obedience were engrained in the German society at the times of Emperor Wilhelm II. The imposter Captain arrested the mayor and confiscated the money of the city. He even signed for having received the money. He escaped, was arrested ten days later and sentenced to four years of jail. However, Emperor William II amnestied him in 1908. 

After 1908, he earned money by telling about his imposter coup. He registered his voice on a disk and received 200 Mark for that. He made speeches, not only in Berlin, but in all Germany; the advertisements appeared in the newspapers of that time, as the exhibition panel explains. However, the outbreak of the First World War ended this “business” opportunity. Wilhelm Voigt died as a poor and ill man in Luxembourg in 1922.

Various films present the story of the Captain of Köpenick, one of them with Heinz Rühmann as the protagonist in 1956.

In addition, his imposter adventure entered literature; Carl Zuckmayer wrote the play “der Hauptmann von Köpenick” in 1930, and in 1931, it was performed for the first time in the German Theatre of Berlin.

 

Strolling through Köpenick

It is raining. There is a small market on the Schlossplatz. Geflügelotto presents his pieces of grilled chicken.

Even the Berliner Sparkasse, a bank, offers their services, making it all clear that this mobile bank branch office does not carry any money. It just provides advice.

Also Köpenick is getting ready for the German and Berlin September elections. The LKR are liberal conservative reformers that dislike the extensive gender equality used in the German language by adding “*innen” to include the female gender. They want it to be removed from schools and governmental activities. “Quatsch” means “nonsense”, and “Quatsch” includes the female gender here. 

 

The baroque castle of Köpenick with the exhibition of furniture and dishes

From the rain, we escape to the castle of Köpenick, located on the Schlossinsel or castle island surrounded by the river Dahme. 

A panel explains that the castle island has been inhabited since almost 5000 years. In 850, the Slavs built a fortification here. The baroque castle that we see today is from the end of the 17th century. The castle is now part of the Berlin State Museums. 

We are amazed by the beauty of the modern porcelain and ceramic works presented. This is the plate named “Unkraut” (weeds) by Grita Götze.

From Sonngard Marcks, I have selected three works, first the “Faltschale” (folded bowl),…

… second the “Scherbengericht” (this correctly translates to “ostracism”, but this translation loses the allusion to  “Scherben” = “broken pieces” and “Gericht” which means either “court” or “dish”)… 

… and third the Deckeldose Zori (Deckeldose = container with lid).

In addition, original porcelain is presented such as this rococo dinnerware made by KPM for Frederic the Great in 1767.

Furthermore, there is a permanent exhibition of furniture (Raumkunst) from renaissance, baroque and rococo. I select three highlights.

I am surprised to find this noble baroque buffet of the Basel guild of zaffron (Safranzunft), crafted by the carpenter Johann Heinrich Keller in 1666. The panel does not describe, how this buffet came to Berlin. 

This commode is from Würzburg, 1750. 

From the panel, I learn that commodes are called “commodes”, because they are “commode” (French for convenient, practical) with the drawers providing easy access to the content (I guess, as opposed to coffers in use until now; commodes were an innovation of the 18th century). 

This “Pultschreibeschrank” (desk and cupboard) is made from poplar and decorated with oil paintings showing mythological scenes (1730, probably from Rome).  

 

 

Köpenick – walking around the Kiez

The rain has stopped. We walk around the so called Kiez, which is the old village of Köpenick.

The houses have been renovated… 

… and decorated with care.

 

Müggelsee with lookout

My friend would feel like getting an overview of the area. We find it above the Müggelsee, where we climb the lookout that has been constructed in 1961.

The tower has the charm of a socialist building. The view is superb. Here we see the skyline of Berlin far behind the forest.

Now we have turned south and look at the river Dahme that joins the Spree at Köpenick. 

 

Müggelsee – boat harbour Rübezahl

We have a drink near the boat harbour “Rübezahl”. The name alludes to the giant that lives in the Riesengebirge (Giants mountains or Karkonosze) in Silesia, now part of Poland. 

The reeds are a protected biotope.

We walk along the lake. In the background we can see the outskirts of Köpenick. 

My mother had always told me, how much she loved to be here, when she was young. 

My friend wanted to take a boat ride – but now it is almost six p.m.

We leave Köpenick and accomplish the day with an excellent dinner in the Italian restaurant Il Giardino at Hackerstrasse. 

 

Sources:

Berlin – excursion to Lübbenau and the Spreewald

In 2021, I was in Berlin four times. Once, we made an excursion to Lübbenau with the beautiful Renaissance castle of the noble family Lynar, now a noble hotel. 

We find a boat that offers a comfortable two hour tour along the channels of the Spreewald to Lehde. 

We pass under the bridges that I remember as obstacles for bikers, when biking in the Spreewald in 2019. 

We fly along houses and are served refreshments on the way.

Paddling in your own canoe is common here.

The trees reflect in the water.

More wooden bridges on the way.

We arrive at Lehde.

Restaurants offer refreshments and meals.

We are not the only guests here.

Even dogs like to sit in the canoes…

… or in the comfortable passenger boats.

We leave Lehde,…

continue our way along lush gardens…

and channels…

back to Lübbenau. 

We take our car back to Berlin. I am happy to have given my brother-in-law an impression of the romantic Spreewald about 100km south east of Berlin.