Bonn

On The Road Travel Essays

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Bonn

The capital of West Germany. Population: 150,000. Before the end of World War II, Bonn was a sleepy provincial city, with a long history but of little political importance.

Origins  The town was settled by Romans who called it Castra Bonnensia. It was an important stronghold in the Roman defenses along the Rhine. If it fell to the barbarians, Cologne would be cut off from river transport. Hence, it was stoutly fortified.

Beethoven  He was born in Bonn in 1770. His house still stands. Beethoven died and was buried in Vienna.

The modern capital  Why did Adenauer choose the city as the post-war capital? Two reasons: the city's historical associations gave it the necessary dignity. Secondly, Adenauer wanted a small city, unsuited to be a national capital, thus forcing the Germans to continue pressing for the return of the capital to Berlin. The city's development bore out the Chancellor's intentions: it bulged suddenly and awkwardly, creating traffic nightmares. Quaint marketplaces are juxtaposed with foreign embassies in a crazy-quilt of crowded streets. The local people call it the Bundesdorf (Federal Village). It's almost a relief to depart.

(COURIER: Look east at the big intersection where all the construction is going on. You'll see the German "White House." The following paragraphs assume you're traveling south; if not, reverse the order.)

Germany's White House  This is the residence of the West Germany Chancellor. We can't see much of the house since it's surrounded by a beautiful park. But we can see the high wall running around it, as well as the guard house.

The new high-rise buildings around here are mainly Ministries.

At the same intersection, look left. The low white building on the banks of the Rhine is the German Parliament (the Bundestag).

Continuing along B9, we pass offices, foreign embassies, insurance buildings, the headquarters (on the left) of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union — Adenauer's party), and an automobile sales company (to the right) with the bargain of the week exhibited in front of the entrance. Just after this, note the signs for the U. S. Embassy, which we can't see, but which is to our left on the banks of the Rhine.

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