blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Going to see Beethoven in Bonn

Köln dock, from the ship
The KD (Köln-Duesseldorf) fleet of ships has a 180 year history; they belong to the oldest continuously traded stock company in Germany. I learned that when sitting on the Rhein Fantasie, this morning, waiting to set sail from the Pegel dock in Koeln for Bonn, 37 km upstream.

Bows of my ship, in Bonn
I was on my own this time, the other people on board being mostly seniors (mine was a Senioren-Ticket too) on a joy ride up the famous Rhine valley. At one point a table of 8 started singing Zum Geburtstag viel Glueck! to the Happy Birthday tune, supplementing their late breakfast with glasses of champagne. I ordered the cheaper, Zweites Fruehstueck, myself, having already had a first, hasty one at the Novotel. We sailed under the bridges and out of the city, past willows and poplars on sandy shores, past swans and rowing parties and barges, some of which could be ranked with ocean going freight ships, so big they were, from Holland and Switzerland (Maastricht, Vierwaldstaettersee) as well as from Germany, flying their flags, some of them loaded with Hapag Lloyd containers.

TÜV, east of the river, where Chris was working that day
We stopped at Porz, the Köln suburb where you'd find the airport and the TÜV headquarters, and at Wesseling, which was the big petrol port with cranes, docks and oil refineries. We'd got this far the night before, about half way between Koeln and Bonn, on the dinner cruise that I've not yet mentioned in this blog. The Wesseling quayside was being beautified, under the large romanesque church that stands there, with newly planted rows of pollarded trees. This morning the sun came out between heavy showers at this point and I caught a first glimpse of the Sieben Gebirge, the 7 hills across the river from Bonn, as we went around a bend.

Heavy industry at Wesseling

Siebengebirge ahead
Vendor in Bonn, advertising her asparagus in a loud voice
On deck they had wicker basket deck-chairs such as you'd see on the beaches of the Baltic Sea, but not enough for more than a few people to sit in. They shelter you from the wind. I sat in one for a short while, but soon had to get up to disembark by the Opera House in Bonn. It's a very attractive city to walk around, the central squares full of market stalls selling flowers and stalks of asparagus: "Spargel, frische Spargel, deutsche Spargel!" chanted the vendors. For lunch I had a bowl of potato soup with strips of smoked salmon in it, one of the Traditionsrezepte at the Müller-Langhardt Kaffeehaus that has been a Treffpunkt since 1913; this is the place where Adenauer used to sit, apparently, over his postwar coffees. Genscher and Kohl frequented it too.

In the Müller-Langhardt Kaffeehaus, Bonn, on a quiet day

Beethoven outside the post office in Bonn
My goal was Beethoven's birthplace, the Beethoven-Haus, although I think it's misnamed because he only ever lived there for a few days. Most of his childhood and youth was spent at a house in the Rheingasse. I'd already been in that part of town on my way up the hill from the boat, but went back to look. Needless to say it had all been flattened by 1940s bombs so Beethoven's parents' house no longer exists, not even as a reconstruction. All the same, my Beethoven pilgrimage touched me. I saw the tiny Christening cap he had worn; I saw the viola he had played. In the room displaying his hearing aids was the last grand piano he'd owned (after he went deaf). Its keys were like worn-down teeth. Imagine! A letter written by the composer to his doctor in 1801 was on display. It read:
...meine Ohren, die sausen und Brausen tag und Nacht fort; ich kann sagen, ich bringe mein Leben elend zu, seit zwei Jahren fast meide ich alle gesellschaften, weils mir nun nicht moeglich ist, den Leuten zu sagen, ich bin Taub, haette ich irgend ein anderes Fach, so giengs noch eher, aber in meinem Fach ist das ein schrecklicher Zustand ...
Roughly translated, that means: "my ears hum and roar away day and night. I can tell you, I'm living a miserable kind of life. For the last two years I've been avoiding all society because it's not possible for me now to tell people I'm deaf. If only I had another job it would not be so bad, but with my job this is a terrible state of affairs."

Beethoven died at the age of 57 but a sketch of him on his deathbed makes him look far older. He must have lived with his teeth permanently clenched because the life mask shows the tight muscles round his jaw, his mouth and his chin. His death mask made him seem like a different man, younger, those muscles finally having relaxed.

I returned to Koeln in 20 minutes, by train.

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