Cities / Towns Visited: 14
Countries Visited: 6
Steps Taken Today: 12,859
Steps Taken Around the World: 702,481
The end goal of today was to reach Frankfurt, but we had much to do before then. So after another hostel breakfast to give us the energy to be on our way, we checked out, stowed our bags in luggage storage, and went to catch a train; we would be spending the day sightseeing in Bonn first, a small town half an hour south of Cologne.
After alighting the train, we meandered through the picturesque town, stopping briefly at an old town gate we spied down a side street. It just sat there, all unassuming, in the middle of the tiny road, as the townsfolk moved around it, like its perfectly normal to have old, historic stone structures smack bang in the middle of modern life. We allowed ourselves a brief moment to chortle at its strange religious statue, which seemed to unnecessarily have multiple swords impaling it (I would love to know the story behind that one). Moving along we found ourselves in the market square, which, funnily enough, had a market set up in it. After snagging some cheap strawberries we promptly inhaled them in their sweet juicy splendour, sighing sadly to ourselves at the tragedy that is the hydroponic water filled monstrosities that are the strawberries we’re used to.
Finally it was time to carry on to our actual destination for the day. Beethovenhaus, a museum dedicated to Beethoven and his works, set up in the very house he was born in. After passing through the front reception you are spat out into a back courtyard which fronts his birthplace, as his family had lived in a small house attached to the property that fronts the street. We grabbed our audio guides and jumped straight in. The museum was fascinating, running you through Beethoven’s life, from his father pushing him as a child prodigy at just seven years old (although his father insisted he was six); to him having a paid roll in the towns orchestra by age eleven; to those who mentored, tutored, and encouraged him to build and expand his creative talents until he became famous across Europe. The audioguide was great, and allowed you to hear snippets of his music, and in doing so showed you how we progressed as a composer from following strict traditional styles, to developing his own niche sound. From his birth to his death it covered everything, from his tumultuous relationship to his father, to his own hardships in trying to raise his nephew after his brother passed away; it explained how he never had a serious relationship as he was too dedicated to his composing; and, saddest of all, the guide let you hear snippets of how his own music would have sounded to him as his hearing degraded nearing the end of his life, causing him to fall into a deep depression and become quite reclusive. A man who had given the world such a beautiful and everlasting gift, had his most precious sense stolen from him; thus it was with grateful but heavy hearts that we stepped back into the courtyard.
We briefly wandered the garden, appreciating the quiet sanctuary of its secluded nature, before heading downstairs, beneath the building next door, to see an interesting presentation. A 3D interpretive film to the symphony of one of Beethoven’s operas, which used abstract shapes on the screen to depict the characters, and could be controlled by the audience during the show using different podiums to move them around the scene. It was a bit too abstract for me but it was hard not no fall in love with the music as the sound of the orchestra and the voices of the singers washed over you.
From here we returned upstairs, to a room laid out with computers and headsets, each of which was filled with the entire catalogue of Beethoven’s music; every symphony, every sonata, every tiny piano piece; it even had catalogues of every letter the museum and its sister museums across Germany and Austria have from and to him. You could spend months in there and still not hear and read each and every one. As you listened you are also given information about each piece, including when he wrote it and for what occasion or purpose he did so. As we reluctantly left, having spent a little time losing ourselves in the soothing embrace of classical music, we couldn’t help but buy a tiny music box of Beethoven’s ‘Song of Joy’ on our way out; for joyous we were for having spent a day dedicated to one of the greatest composers of all time.
We decided to head back to the market to russle up some lunch before heading back to Cologne. After a few authentic German sausages and fries, and a quick stop to buy a Berliner doughnut (jam doughnut for those who don’t know), and some other sweet treat which was essentially a large doughnut like pastry filled with custard and topped with streusel, we headed back to the train. Bonn had been better than we’d expected, and we both agreed that perhaps we should have forgone Cologne and simple stayed in this quaint little town instead. Ahh hindsight, you wonderful thing.
We rescued our bags from storage in Cologne and hopped a train one last time, until we arrived in Frankfurt. Exhausted from the constant moving, we settled for dinner at the hotel bar, which was passable, as you would expect from a hotel. To be honest, the most exciting part was that we were now sitting in the heart of apfelwein (read slightly flat cider) country, and after having struggled to find any cider since France, it was with great pleasure we unwound on the couches, bottle in hand.
As I thought back to Beethoven, I couldn’t take my mind off the audio of his progressing deafness. I can’t imagine losing the sense that gives you the most pleasure and purpose in life. I personally cannot imagine losing my sense of taste, and, being a chef, I already become irritated and frustrated when I have a cold and lose some of the finer points of my palate, even temporarily. I am short sighted, but I live my life unhindered because of modern optometry. It is hard to comprehend that if Beethoven had been alive in this day and age he would probably have never lost his hearing, which was mainly due to complications from tinnitus, and its infection; or even if he had, he would most likely have simply been fitted with a hearing aid. My heart goes out to anyone who lives with restrictions to or loss of any of their senses, especially those who continue to make beautiful things and live beautiful lives despite this. You are an inspiration to us all, much like the great composer himself.