Celebrating Germany’s Rhineland
From December 2019 through 2020, Germany celebrates the 250th birthday of
Ludwig van Beethoven, the world’s most-played classical composer. Festivities will center on western Bonn, former German capital and Beethoven birthplace.
On a two-week circuit through the Rhineland, visit Bonn as well as Koblenz, Trier, Aachen and Wiesbaden. With lush vineyards and hot springs, these riverside cities attracted legendary leaders Constantine the Great and Charlemagne.
After an eight-hour Lufthansa flight from Boston to Frankfurt, ride the rails 1 1/2 hours west to Koblenz (www.koblenz-tourism.com) and check into four-star Mercure Hotel (www.accorhotels.com).
A Roman military post, Koblenz is now a peaceful enclave of fountains and gardens at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers.
Rising boldly from the Zentralplatz like a ship, the new silvery-white Forum Confluentes (www.forum-confluentes.de) houses the Tourist Information Center. For discounted attractions, buy the Koblenz Card (www.koblenz-tourism.com/koblenz-card.html). Then enjoy splendid landscapes at the Mittelrhein-Museum Koblenz (www.mittelrhein-museum.de).
In Germany’s most pedestrian-friendly city, don’t miss 12th-century Liebfrauenkirche (www.liebfrauen-koblenz.de). On the Münzplatz, with Chinese, Indian and Mexican restaurants, see Metternich House, birthplace of 18th-century diplomat Prince Metternich.
The Schängelbrunnen on Willi-Hörter-Platz features a naughty boy spitting water. Near Jesuitenplatz, visit half-timbered Mutter-Beethoven-Haus (www.mittelrhein-museum.de/mutter-beethoven-haus), birthplace of the composer’s mother.
A splendid Rhine River promenade begins at the Kurfürstliches Schloss, built in 1786 by Prince-Elector Clemens Wenzeslaus and surrounded by gardens graced by a sensual sculpture of “Mother Moselle” and “Father Rhine.”
The Rhine and Moselle meet at Deutsches Eck, the German Corner. Pose beneath Kaiser William I’s towering equestrian statue. Then enjoy bratwurst at a riverside beer garden, or creative cuisine at Gerhard’s (www.gerhards-genussgesellschaft.de) beside garden-bedecked Basilika St. Kastor.
Cable Cars (www.seilbahn-koblenz.de) cross the Rhine to hilltop Ehrenbreitstein Fortress (www.tor-zum-welterbe.de) with museums, restaurants, beer garden and concert stage.
From there, it’s a five-minute drive to family-owned Weingut Göhlen (www.weingut-goehlen.de) to taste Rieslings and other exquisite wines on an Eden-like terrace.
It’s another 1 1/2-hour train ride southwest to Trier (www.trier-info.de), near the Luxembourg border, where three-star Casa Chiara (www.casa-chiara.de) offers 20 cozy rooms and a Winter Garden greenhouse for breakfast.
Germany’s oldest city, Trier was built by the Romans in the 1st century. The Porta Nigra, its massive sandstone blocks blackened with age, is the stunning gateway to the Old City.
At the Trier Information Office, sign up for tours and purchase the Trier Card, offering various discounts, or ANTIKENCARD (www.zentrum-der-antike.de) for free admission to Roman monuments.
The centerpiece of the Old Town is medieval Hauptmarkt square dominated by 16th-century St. Peter’s Fountain. A popular pilgrimage site, 4th-century Trier Cathedral houses Christ’s Robe from St. Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. A cloistered garden connects the cathedral with 13th-century Liebfrauenkirche, Church of Our Lady.
Ancient Trier is a short walk southeast. Massive red-brick Konstantin Basilika once housed Constantine’s 4th-century throne room. Steps away are the Kaiserthermen, the Imperial Roman Baths, with their underground tunnels, and the Amphitheater where Roman gladiators once fought.
Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier (www.landesmuseum-trier.de) displays striking archeological finds, including the largest collection of mosaics north of the Alps. Children and adults alike rave about the museum’s sound-and-light show, “In the Realm of the Shadows,” shown twice daily.
Just south lay the Barbarathermen, Old Jewish Cemetery, and Karl-Marx-Haus (www.fes.de/museum-karl-marx-haus), birthplace of the activist author of Das Kapital.
Skirting the Belgian and Dutch borders, Aachen (www.aachen-tourist.de), Germany’s westernmost city, is a 3 1/2-hour train ride northwest of Trier.
Steps from the Old City, four-star Aquis Grana CityHotel (www.hotel-aquis-grana.de) has sleek contemporary rooms and a spacious dining room.
Since Roman times, Aachen has been revered for its healing hot springs. In 792, the city became the capital of Emperor Charlemagne’s vast Carolingian Empire stretching from the North Sea, across the Pyrénées and Italy, to eastern Germany’s River Elbe.
Site of an upcoming 2021 pilgrimage, Aachen Cathedral (www.aachendom.de) is where Germany’s kings were crowned for nearly 600 years. The octagonal cathedral features colorful marble columns, a massive gold-and-bejeweled chandelier given by 12th-century Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and a stunning mosaic ceiling reminiscent of Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia.
Behind the main altar, the ornate gold Shrines of Charlemagne and the Virgin Mary shelter the saints’ relics. The upper gallery houses Charlemagne’s great white-marble throne.
In the Cathedral Treasury, dazzling finds include the gold-and-silver bust of Charlemagne, complete with a crown, beard, and gold-and-lapis cape emblazoned with fleurs-de-lis and eagles.
Across the street, the high-tech Charlemagne Center (www.centre-charlemagne.eu) chronicles Aachen from Roman days through Carolingian times and up to World War II.
Every February, Aachen hosts a riotous medieval-style Karneval, or Fasching, but good times can be enjoyed year-round.
Around RWTH Aachen University, in the Old City’s lively Student Quarter, outdoor cafés serve inexpensive Turkish, Chinese, Japanese and German food with wine, beer, and radler, alcohol-free beer with lemonade.
BONN & BEETHOVEN
A 1 1/2-hour train ride brings you, at long last, to Bonn (www.bonn.de), birthplace of composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
With the Bonn Regio WelcomeCard (www.bonn-region.de), enjoy discounts on countless visitor attractions in Germany’s unofficial second capital.
A five-minute walk from the station, four-star Hotel Collegium Leoninum (www.leoninum-bonn.de) combines a stylish four-star hotel, offering a pool, sauna, fitness room and restaurant, with an upscale senior residence. Garden-level rooms have terraces facing a flower-filled courtyard. The former red-brick seminary overlooks Bonn’s Alter Friedhof (www.wo-sie-ruhen.de) housing the flower-festooned grave of Beethoven’s mother, Maria-Magdalena Keverich, and the elaborate white-marble tomb of composer Robert Schumann. For Beethoven’s 250th birthday, the hotel will stage concerts in its former seminary church with soaring ceiling and high arched windows.
Bonn offers countless ways to celebrate Beethoven. The tourist office’s “Beethoven Walking Tour” brochure lists various sites, including the Münsterplatz Beethoven Statue and St. Remigius’ bronze baptismal font.
Most important of all is Beethoven-Haus (www.beethoven.de), the pink house with green shutters where the composer was born in December 1770. Featuring the world’s largest Beethoven collection, it reopens after extensive reconstruction by Zurich’s Holzer Kobler Architekturen.
Completely reimagined, the permanent exhibit now uses themes like “Bonn in Beethoven’s Time.” In a new listening room with headphones, visitors sample five works Beethoven composed in Bonn.
In December, a new 40-seat Concert Room and Special Exhibition Hall join the Beethoven-Haus’ Chamber Music Hall.
The event-packed “Beethoven Year of Discovery,” December 16, 2019 through December 17, 2020, begins with an Opening Concert by Beethoven Orchester Bonn (www.beethoven-orchester.de) and the major exhibit, “BEETHOVEN. World. Citizen. Music,” at Bonn’s Bundeskunsthalle (www.bundeskunsthalle.de).
Expanded annual events include BHVN Week (www.beethoven.de/woche) and the International Beethoven Fest (www.beethovenfest.de) with spring and fall editions.
If Bonn gets too frenetic, cross the Rhine to Siebengebirge (www.siebengebirge.com), or Seven Hills. After a 25-minute train ride to Königswinter, take the little green Drachenfels Bahn (www.drachenfelsbahn.de) up its namesake crag. Visit historic Grand Hotel & Spa Petersberg (www.steigenberger.com), enjoy farm-fresh cuisine at Heisterbach Abbey’s Klosterstube (www.klosterstube-heisterbach.de) and stroll lush trails. Beethoven got inspiration from nature and so will you.
It’s a two-hour train ride southeast to Wiesbaden (www.wiesbaden.de) where four-star Hotel Oranien (www.hotel-oranien.de), with its long flower-filled garden, offers contemporary conveniences and old-world charm.
Popular since Roman times when legionnaires’ horses bathed in its hot springs, the 19th-century “Nice of the North” attracted Kaiser Wilhelm II along with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms.
Brooklyn Bridge engineer Washington Roebling came, hoping to cure “the bends.” Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who lost all his money in the casino, recalled it in The Gambler.
Near elegant Wilhelmstrasse, Wiesbaden’s domed 19th-century Kurhaus rises on a manicured lawn anchored by two majestic fountains. The marble-and-mosaic spa is now a casino, concert hall and restaurant.
A recent bequest of 700 exquisite Art Nouveau objects to Museum Wiesbaden (www.museum-wiesbaden.de) kicked off Jugendstiljahr Wiesbaden (www.jugendstiljahr.de).
Enjoy coffee and chocolates at 19th-century Viennese coffeehouse Café Maldaner (http://maldaner1859.de). Dine at outdoor cafés like Weinhaus Kögler (www.weinhaus-koegler.de), serving regional dishes like flammkuchen with créme fraiche, or Italian Ristorante Comeback (https://ristorante-comeback.de) on Goldgasse.
Ride the little blue-and-yellow tourist train up Neroberg to the gold-domed Russian Church (www.wiesbaden.de/sehenswertes.de), tomb of Czar Nicholas I’s niece built by husband Count Adolf of Nassau.
Lunch on the Opelbad Restaurant’s (www.wagner-gastronomie.de) panoramic terrace, then ride the Neroberg Mountain Railway (www.eswe.verkehr.de/nerobergbahn), Germany’s oldest water ballast-driven cog-and-rack railroad, downhill.
Before your 24-minute train trip to Frankfurt Airport, tour Henkell-Freixenet (www.henkell-freixenet.com), world’s largest sparkling-wine producer, and toast all the Rhineland’s famous sons and daughters.
For More Information
For transportation, visit Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com) and Deutsche Bahn (www.bahn.com). For tourist attractions, visit www.koblenz-tourism.com, www.trier-info.de, www.aachen-tourist.de, www. bonn.de, www.siebengebirge.com, www.wiesbaden.de and www.germany.travel. For Beethoven events, visit www.bthvn2020.de