A look around Bonn

Michael Rodemer is spending much of the Summer of 2011 doing a collaborative art project in Berlin with Berlin artist (and former A&D Witt Resident) Franz John as part of Über-Lebenskunst, a symposium devoted to exploring sustainability, sponsored by the House of World Cultures and the Federal Cultural Foundation.

The sun shone gloriously today, inviting one to go outside despite the never-ending cold.

The structure below juts up in the center of Bonn-Dottendorf, where we live. As mentioned in an earlier post, Dottendorf ("Dotten Village") got swallowed up as Bonn expanded. 

So, is it a castle?

No, it's a bunker! In many German cities these things were hastily erected as places of refuge after Allied bombs began to hail down with regularity. This is one of the less troglodytic-looking ones, since they tried to make it look like something else. I'll try to get some photos of other bunkers; there's at least one more in Bonn that I've seen. Most are too massive to dynamite, so have been made into various useful things, like places for heavy metal bands to rehearse. (Well, useful in a way....)

Some of the bunkers, usually in railyards, look like rocket nose cones, pointed up. Their builders must have been hoping the bombs would bounce off the cone and blow up some meters further away. As it happened, many bombs didn't blow up at all, and even now regularly make the news here as they are discovered at construction sites. Often, whole quarters of cities are evacuated as the bomb squads try to defuse the bombs. Rarely, they have to be exploded in situ, which is very risky.

OK, let's look around Dottendorf a little more.

This little structure is "Burg Dottendorf," though a Burg was traditionally a defensive structure of military value. Maybe this one used to be; now it's a hotel. The tower room at top is also for rent!

Look closely! Is it a real cat?

The cat is off to the left in this photo. I thought this must be a day-care center, but it's not.

Note that the building is low -- it was probably part of a farm at one time, as many of the older buildings in Dottendorf are. One can easily identify buildings from the time when Dottendorf really was a village: they're lower, often half-timbered ("Fachwerk" in German), and are clustered near the church.

This church is across from the bunker, and most of the old houses are within 200-300 meters of it. Several times a day, they rrrrrring the bells, LOUD!   REALLY LOUD!!


With ringing ears, we seek out our link with the rest of the world:

The streetcar service is very good: about every 8 minutes roughly, from 5 a.m. to midnight, they roll from the endstation in front of the bunker through the city of Bonn and out the other side to northerly parts of town.

One of the first stops near downtown offers a view of the tree-lined boulevard leading to the Poppelsdorfer Schloss, not a defensive structure like a Burg, but a palace for some of the class of people who managed to hoodwink most of the rest into believing they were divinely appointed to live high on the hog while the rest of the folk suffered and starved. Today the Schloss is used to house some University of Bonn institutes, and the grounds offer a botanical garden to the populace.

A really nice feature of the Poppelsdorfer Allee is the book box, where people can take a book or leave one -- often people sit reading on a bench nearby. Seems like this would be a good thing to have in Ann Arbor.

Another example of aristocratic decadence turned to a good purpose is the main University building, with the palace grounds to the South. (Sorry for the video being jerky. It was cold and windy.)


The University of Bonn is quite large and offers many subjects for study, but -- ach! -- not studio art. In general, studio art in Germany is taught mainly at academies, with some art courses also being attached to art education programs and architecture.

In the heart of the city is the Münster, built over hundreds of years (mostly the 11th to 13th centuries).

The two giant heads you see at lower left are granite representations of the severed heads of two Christian martyrs, Cassius and Florentius, who in AD 300 or so were beheaded for their religion. Today they are the patron saints of Bonn.

Not far away is my favorite cafe for coffee (as opposed to favorite cafe for cake; German cake is worth a picture story all its own):

No severed heads here! The Einstein Kaffee is, alas, one of the few that provides free WiFi to its customers. In general, the idea of open networks and free access has not caught on here.

Bonn has its few intact Fachwerk houses, too; the city wasn't bombed heavily in WWII. This house is in the pedestrian zone, which covers most of the inner city.

And of course, there is the city's favorite son, towering over the Muenster Platz:

or, alternately, as seen this morning in front of a hippy-dippy music store:

Beethoven's birthplace is, of course, a museum.

The plaque, closeup:

Not far from this house is the Rhine River, where the Kennedy Bridge has been under repair since time immemorial.

The quay invites one to take trip on the river, which is really pretty nice: sit on the deck, wind in your face, sipping some of the best beer on the planet, watching the mountains, villages, cities go by....

Also at the Rhine are the opera house and theatre, with what looks like an abstracted, steel Federal Eagle out front. But no!

It's Icarus! No regal bird of prey, not for this modest republic!

But wait -- there's more to this. Somebody started coloring the artist's name in a sort of, um, Gummi Bear purple... Why?

Check out the last line:

Hans Riegel Bonn >>>>>

Yes!!! Bonn is home to the Gummi Bear factory! And it's 4 blocks from our house! With its smokestack, and corporate headquarters, and jets!

(Gummi bears need a smokestack?!)

As I mentioned, this isn't far from our house:

Well, actually, this is not our house. But we're only two blocks away!

That's all for this time. Next time I'll post a few pix of Ann Arbor's sister city, Tübingen.


You live near the Gummi Bear factory!? That last shot is enough to make a pregnant woman swoon. (And, okay, who's going to start the Book Box here in Ann Arbor. Cool idea!) Thanks for the tour and the sunshine!

Posted by Kath Weider-Roos on March 10, 2010

Yes, we live near the Haribo factory -- giant trucks roll by sometimes with the company name on it, spreading joy to children and dentists! MR

Posted by Michael Rodemer on March 10, 2010

Bonn looks amazing. Haribo raspberries and blackberries are my favorite, it must smell delicious there! I also enjoyed punk rock beethoven. The book box is a great idea, and could definitely work here...

Posted by Andre Grewe on March 12, 2010

THis descrition of Bon and photos are just amazing. I enjoyed reading it. And Haribo... MMMMMMmm. :)

Posted by Mike Roberts on June 16, 2010

Not sure if you are still in the area. My family and I are in Koln until the end of December for my husband's job. We were planning to visit Bonn this weekend. Can you tour the Gummi Bear Factory? Our blog is mostly of Koln and Berlin so far. Love your blog. My sister-in-law graduated from U of M. We lived in Holland, MI for a while and my inlaws still live in West Bloomfield. Thanks for the info. Happy travels. Alison

Posted by Alison on September 13, 2010





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