The birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven and one of German’s oldest cities, Bonn dates back to 12 BCE.
Following World War II Bonn was named the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) while Berlin served as the capital of East Germany. When Germany reunited in 1990, Berlin was named the capital of Germany.
Bonn boasts some significant museums, most notably the Museumsmeile, a group of five institutions dedicated to art, history, science and technology. We were able to visit two during our short stay.
The Art and Exhibition Hall on the Bonn Museum Mile opened in 1992. The center does not have its own collection but instead hosts temporary exhibitions relating to art, culture, history, science, technology and the environment. There are generally 2-4 exhibitions running at any one time. One show we enjoyed was called Color as Program which focused on the impact of color, not only aesthetically but also politically and economically. These two poignant signs by Isaac Chaong Wai (1990-) could apply to the past, present and future.
The header photo with the distinctive illuminated trio of blue towers, we discovered on the museum’s rooftop viewing deck. Like church steeples, the 3 towers made great markers helping orient us as we discovered the city.
Directly across the square from the Art and Exhibition Hall is the Kunstmuseum or Art Museum, also part of Bonn’s “museum mile”. The Kunstmuseum exhibits art from 1945 to the present day and we were excited to enter. We first heard about the German Expressionism movement in Cologne and this museum advertised having a fantastic collection of our new favorite German artists – August Macke, Heinrich Campendonk, Carlo Mense and Hans Thuar.
August Robert Ludwig Macke (1887-1914) was one of the early members of the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). When he was 13 his family moved to Bonn and in 1904, at the age of 17 he enrolled in an art academy in Dusseldorf. In 1905 and 1906 he traveled to Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Britain then returned to settle in Bonn where he created most of his paintings. He took short inspirational trips to Paris, Switzerland and Tunisia and those cities inspired his creative direction. He met and was influenced by Vassily Kandinsky and he traveled to Tunisia with Paul Klee where he produced a series of works that are now considered masterpieces.
Unfortunately for the art world Macke was one of the young German artists who died in the First World War. He died early in the 2nd month of World War I at the front in Champagne, France in 1914 at the age of 27. He was only able to produce 128 paintings in his short life.
This small photo-collage of paintings are a few of his works we saw and they show that he clearly liked to experiment with different styles.
Top left is Woman Embroidering on Balcony-1910, top right is Garden at Thuner Lake-1914, bottom left is Self Portrait with Hat-1909 and bottom right is his Kandinsky-inspired painting called Color Circle-1910.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Considered the most admired and one of the most outstanding composers in music history, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was born in Bonn, Germany. Over a period of 45 years he wrote 722 compositions for symphonies, piano and violin sonatas, concertos, one opera and much more including his beloved, Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata.
Beethoven was almost completely deaf by 1814. He gave up performing and appearing in public yet he continued to write – the first ever choral symphony, Symphony No. 9 as well as a handful of string quartets up until his death in 1827.
After Beethoven’s death the residents of Bonn formed an association to collect funds for a Beethoven Monument. The composer, Robert Schumann, reached out to all of Europe for funds and any shortage of funds required was contributed by Hungarian composer, Franz Liszt.
This beautiful black and white drawing depicts the unveiling of the statue to honor Ludwig van Beethoven. Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV were among the attending guests.
One of the more interesting and enjoyable visits we made while in Bonn was to Arithmeum. The Arithmeum is a challenge to describe. It is a blending of art and science. It is part museum, part architectural design of the history of mechanical calculating machines, part early computers and large-scale integrated logic chips and part art created by the various machines. The three levels are decorated with beautifully crisp, clean and colorblocked lines and the walls are covered in linear art.
This piano-look-alike arithmometer was built in 1855 by Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar (1785-1870) for the 1855 Paris Exposition.
The whole mechanism, which consisted of 15 keys for input and allowed for 30 places for output, was mounted in the black cabinet and decorated with gilded filigree. In spite of its size, the machine was said to be easily movable, was able to rapidly calculate and had a ‘good clearing action’. If you scroll in you will be able to see numbers along the top right. The mechanism of the “piano” arithmometer won a medal at the Exposition.
Bonn Minster, a Catholic Church, was constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries making it one of the oldest churches in Germany.
Sometimes referred to as a cathedral because the church was used in that capacity by the Archbishopric of Cologne until 1824, but the church is a Basilica. It has 5 beautiful spires and once again, during our visit the largest spire was partially wrapped and being restored. The interior has been recently restored. The mosaic floor details are beautiful and we thought the painted figures along the walls were exceptional. The entire basilica has a light, bright and fresh sense of joy within.
In 235 CE two Christian Roman soldiers, Cassius and Florentius, stationed in Bonn were martyred for their faith. Excavations discovered beneath the current Basilica found evidence of a Roman temple and necropolis. In 1643 Cassius and Florentius were declared patron saints of the city of Bonn.
One final discovery in Bonn that we learned was that everyone’s favorite gummy bears originated in Bonn. The brand HARIBO is short for Hans Riegel, Bonn, the founder of the jelly candy bears. Hans Riegel founded the company in 1920 and in 1922 he created the ‘dancing bear’ – a fruit gummy bear and in 1925 licorice sticks, licorice wheels and a black bear were added. By 1930 there were 400 employees, a teddy bear was added to the line-up and a catchy advertising line was added. (Haribo makes children happy). Following WWII the company had shrunk to 30 employees and Hans had died. In 1946 his two sons, Hans and Paul, took over the business and by 1950 they had rebuilt the business with 1000 employees working with them. Today HARIBO is sold in more than 100 countries and employs more than 7,000 people. The 3rd generation family business celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2020.
A sweet end note to this blog. Happy and safe travels.
Prost from these Bonner,
Ted + Julia