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My Home City: Bonn – Lioness at Large

My Home City: Bonn

Video credit: Tim Kuetzler
Source of top image here

Bonn (Latin: Bonna or Castra Bonnensia) is a city of roughly 330,000 inhabitants on the banks of the Rhine in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is known as the 1770 birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven and was the capital city of West Germany from 1949 to 1990.

One of Germany’s 20 largest cities, Bonn is located within the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia, on the border with its southern neighbor, the State of Rhineland-Palatinate; about 24 km (15 miles) south-southeast of Cologne and in the southernmost part of the Rhine-Ruhr region, which, with a population of over 11 million, is Germany’s largest metropolitan area.  The urban area of Bonn spans more than 141.2 km2 (55 square miles) on both sides of the river Rhine, almost three quarters of which are on the river’s left (western) bank.  The largest extension of the city from north to south is 15 km (9 miles), and 12.5 km (8 miles) from west to east.

(Image source)

Bonn is one of Germany’s oldest cities.  The presence of Stone Age humans on the territory of what is Bonn today is documented by the discovery of 50,000 year old hand axes in a neighborhood south of today’s city center and of the “Oberkassel humans” (homo obercasseliensis): an Upper Paleolithic (ca. 12,000 – 14,000 B.C.) burial site containing the remains of a couple (a ca. 50 year-old man and a 20-25 year-old woman). as well as their pet dog (!), in an abandoned quarry near the suburb of Oberkassel in 1914.


View from the abandoned quarry where the burial site was found (source: Wikipedia) / view towards the quarry and replicas of the “Oberkasel Humans”‘ skulls (photos mine) / the skeletons als laid out for an exhibition at the state-run museum dedicated to this area’s history and archeology.where the original skeletons are kept), and a facial reconstruction (image source) / memorial statue (source: Wikipedia)

The earliest settlement known by the name of Bonn was a (formerly Celtic) river crossing discovered by Roman legionnaires in the 1st century B.C.  That settlement itself probably disappeared soon afterward, but its name was continued in Castra Bonnensia, a fortress built by the Romans in the 1st century A.D.  Castra Bonnensia survived the breakup of the Roman Empire as a civilian settlement, and in the 9th century it became the Frankish town of Bonnburg.  The city grew in importance from the 13th century, becoming, in 1597, the capital of the Electorate and Archbishopric of Cologne, which was then one of the three ecclesiastical Electorates of the Holy Roman Empire.  (The other two were the Archbishoprics of Mainz and Trier: In all, there were seven Electorates, with the remaining four being held by secular princes.)  The Archbishop-Electors’ palace today forms the main building of Bonn University.  Their reign ended in 1794, when the French Revolutionary forces occupied the city.  In 1815 Bonn was awarded to Prussia by the Congress of Vienna.  There was little development until the second half of the 19th century, when the city became a fashionable residential town.  It was severely damaged during World War II.  Development was accelerated after 1949, when Bonn was chosen as the capital of West Germany, reportedly on the initiative of West Germany’s first Chancellor(-to-be), Konrad Adenauer, who lived in nearby Bad Honnef.  Germany’s post-WWII Constitution, the Grundgesetz (“Basic Law”), was drafted and passed into law in Bonn that same year (1949).  In 1969, Bonn was amalgamated with the neighboring towns of Bad Godesberg and Beuel, which remain two of the city’s major administrative districts, as well as with several smaller parishes.  Bonn remained West Germany’s capital until the 1990 reunification of the two post-WWII German states; the era from 1949 to 1990 is also known as the Bonn Republic.

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The reliquaries of the city patrons, Saints Cassius and Florentius, 3d century A.D. Egyptian-born Roman soldiers who had converted to Christianity and, having been sent to the Rhine province to help quell a rebellion, were executed for refusing to kill their fellow Christians.  Bonn Cathedral stands in the place of the original church that is believed to have been erected over their burial place.


The former archiepiscopal-electorate palace, now the main building of Bonn University
(sources of images in top row here and here; photos in bottom row mine)

The erstwhile government buildings: the Parliament buildings (left image, foreground center and left),
residence and office of the Chancellor (center photo, foreground) and residence of the President (right)

(sources of left and center images here and here; right photo mine)

Due to a political compromise, following the reunification of East and West Germany and the ascension of Berlin into the role of Germany’s political capital in 1991, the German federal government maintains a substantial presence in Bonn. Roughly a third of all ministerial jobs remain in Bonn to this day. Bonn also remains the secondary seat of the President, the Chancellor and the Bundesrat (States’ Assembly, Germany’s second Chamber of Parliament), as well as the primary seat of a number of Federal Ministries and top-level administrative agencies. The title of Federal City (German: Bundesstadt) reflects its special political status within the German state.

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Bonn is home to the headquarters of Deutsche Post DHL (Germany’s main, formerly state-run postal service) and Deutsche Telekom, both now stock exchange-listed corporations; as well as a university — Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms-Universität — founded in 1820 as a successor to the first Bonn university (in turn founded in 1786), which had been dissolved while the city was occupied by French Revolutionary troops. Bonn’s international status is highlighted by the fact that a total of 20 United Nations institutions (the highest number of U.N. institutions in any German location) are headquartered there, including the Secretariat of the U.N. Framework Convention Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Secretariat of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the U.N. Volunteers Program.

(photo mine)
The high rise formerly housing the member of parliaments’ offices, now the U.N. secretariats headquartered in Bonn; behind it, the tower housing the headquarters of Deutsche Post DHL

As the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven, Bonn is devoted to the promotion of the musical arts. It maintains a municipal orchestra — the Beethoven-Orchester — and arranges numerous national and international concerts; chief among these, the Beethoven Festival, which takes place annually in September. The Beethovenhalle, a modern concert hall, and the spacious municipal theatre (drama, opera, operetta, musicals, and ballet) are the joint centres of Bonn’s musical life, with the city’s municipal orchestra routinely appearing in both venues. Apart from the municipal theatre, Bonn has several other public and private theatres, which likewise form a key part of the city’s cultural life. Other important cultural institutions are the Rhine Provincial Museum (Rheinisches Landesmuseum — archeology), the Alexander Koenig Zoological Research Museum (Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig), the Federal Art Exhibition Hall (Bundeskunsthalle — revolving art exhibitions), the House of  History (Haus der Geschichte), the Arp Museum south of Bonn (revolving arts exhibitions; designed by Richard Meier, the architect chiefly known as the designer of the Getty Center near Los Angeles, CA), and the Botanical Gardens in the grounds and buildings of Poppelsdorf Palace, another 18th century palace built during the reign of the archiepiscopal Prince-Electors which ended in 1794. The city’s beautiful avenues and parks are yet further reminders of the erstwhile electoral and archiepiscopal capital.

Beethoven’s birth place and monument in Bonn’s city centre
(source of left image here; center and right photos mine)

Beethovenhalle (prior to the currently ongoing renovation program)
(source of images)

Beethoven Orchestra
(image source)

Bonn municipal theatre and opera
(photos mine)

Alexander Koenig Zoological Research Museum
(image sources here and here)

Bundeskunsthalle (Federal Art Exhibition Hall)
(source of left image here; center and right photos mine)

Haus der Geschichte (House of History)
(image sources here and here)

Arp Museum
(left photo mine; source of right photo here)

Poppelsdorf Palace and Botanical Gardens
(image sources here and here)

Prominent historic buildings include the cathedral, a Romanesque basilica (11th–13th century) surmounted by five towers, of which the central one (315 feet / 96 metres high) is a landmark in the Rhine River valley, the 18th century Rokoko town hall building (now chiefly used for ceremonial purposes), the Godesburg (ruin of a medieval fortress on a hillside overlooking the borough of Godesberg), the Sterntor (literally: “Star Gate” — the replica of one of the gates of the demolished medieval city walls), the baroque Kreuzbergkirche overlooking Bonn from atop the Kreuzberg hillside, with its Holy Stairs by Balthasar Neumann in an adjacent building, as well as the old village churches of Muffendorf (10th century) and, on the right bank of the Rhine, Vilich (11th century) and Schwarz-Rheindorf (12th century).


Bonn Cathedral
(sources of top row and bottom left images herehere,and here; bottom right photo mine)

The 18th century city hall
(source left image here; right image mine)

(image source)

Godesburg and dusk view from its terrace (Godesberg and the Siebengebirge range)
(source of left image here; right photo mine)

Kreuzbergkirche and Holy Stairs by Balthasar Neumann
(source of left image here; center and right photos mine)

Vilich village church
(photos mine)

Schwarz-Rheindorf village church
(photos mine)

To the north of Bonn, vast lowlands extend past Cologne all along the Rhine towards the Dutch border. Recreational areas in the city’s vicinity include the wooded Venusberg, Kreuzberg and Kottenforst hillsides on its southern and western fringes, which in turn give way to the Eifel hill country, the latter including the Rhineland Nature Park. To the east of the city — on the right bank of the Rhine — those left-bank hills and forests are matched by the wooded Ennert hillside to the east, as well as the meadowlands and pastures on the banks of the Sieg, a tributary of the Rhine to the north-east of Bonn, and the Siebengebirge (“Seven Hills” or, literally, “Seven Mountains”) range to the south-east.  The vineyards on the hillsides of Königswinter and Oberdollendorf south of Bonn, bordering on the northern edges of the Siebengebirge, are the northernmost vineyards of all of West Germany.  The Siebengebirge, in turn, further to the south-east borders on the Westerwald hill country, yet another major recreational area within easy reach of Bonn.

View of Bonn at dusk from the Ennert hillside on the right Bank of the Rhine
(photo mine)

In the Oberdollendorf vineyards, south of Bonn (right bank of the Rhine)
(photos mine)

The Seven Mountains (Siebengebirge), seen from the north (left) and from the south (right)
(photos mine)


Blog Posts Related to Bonn


The City and the River Rhine

Annual Events

Bonn Opera and Beethoven


  • Holiday Splurge 2015 … including Bonn Opera’s productions of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, Astor Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires, Hector Berlioz’s Cellini, as well as Antonín Dvorák’s Rusalka
  • E.T.A. Hoffmann: Der Sandmann (The Sandman) … and Bonn Opera’s 2015 production of  Jacques Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffman (The Tales of Hoffman)
  • Halloween: Incidental Opera — Bonn Opera’s 2016 production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor
  • Well, well, go figure … Bonn Opera (then-)cast member Sumi Hwang performing the Olympic Anthem at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyong Chang Winter Olympics
  • Birthday Gifts — including tickets for Bonn Opera’s 2018 production of Händel’s opera Xerxes

Weather and Seasons

My Neighborhood


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