James Jackman / July 17, 2016

An Interrail Adventure - Blog 11: Bonn

Arriving in Bonn, I faced the disaster that the modern day interrailer hopes never to have to endure – my phone maps had broken! With my large rucksack, there I was, wandering around a foreign city without a clue. However, I had the directions for the train station to the hostel on my phone – it was time to go somewhat old school and religiously follow these directions rather than carve my own route. Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that after going wrong, retracing my steps and starting over a few times, I finally made it!


After cooking, cleaning and generally sorting myself out, what was I left to do? Oh, I know, to roam around the city! Walking into the city centre, I quickly realised that Bonn was the birthplace of Ludwig Van Beethoven, a pretty impressive claim to fame. It was the capital of West Germany for a period as well, another interesting feat. On the democracy theme, Bonn also had a UN headquarters and campus, which could be reached by a walk down the Rhine. I decided to do this walk, however it turns out this was one heck of a way. But, I got there eventually and promptly turned around and headed back down the Rhine. A quiet UN campus in the evening isn’t too exciting as it turns out – but they did have a scaled version of the Solar System along the river which was pretty neat.


My hostel itself was in the old town (altstadt) part of the city, so arriving back to the area, I decided to go somewhere, get a quiet drink and then head back to the hostel. Wandering around, I settled on a pub on a corner – it turned out that it wasn’t quiet. I’d somehow found a weekly latin dance meet, in the event space of the pub. Now, I’m no good at that type of dancing – dancing at the silent disco I can do – so I was pretty content to sit, watch and enjoy the music. I eventually got chatting to a local chap, who explained how long the meets had been going on for and why they happened. My perhaps favourite moment of the night was just after I came back from the bathroom and a fellow Englishman had arrived, a regular of the dance meet. He was chatting to someone in English. Now, my voice gives away my nationality pretty quickly, so I stayed quiet initially. When I did speak, his face was brilliant – a true double take of a facial expression, as he realised I wasn’t German, but English. We chatted for a bit about travelling and Bonn, then eventually the night came to an end. With a few Weissbiers in me, I found my way back to the hostel, only getting lost the once!


After a somewhat slow wake up and breakfast, I left the hostel the next day ready to see more of the city. The Englishman from the dance meet had recommended the Deutsche museum and the castle, so those were on my list. Other than that, the day was completely open. Through wandering, I ticked off the university, botanical gardens, Beethoven’s house and the city centre. I saw the castle, or at least what was left of it. Not to sound like a castle snob, but I wasn’t too impressed.


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Bonn’s botanical gardens


That afternoon came the Deutsche museum – for a science graduate like myself, it was amazing! The museum had brought together a series of items which showed off German contributions to science and technology throughout the years. It also highlighted some of the political effects on science from over the years in Germany. I realised later that this museum was not the one I’d been told about, there was a different Deutsche museum elsewhere in the city, but I didn’t care. This one was just so good! On the walk back into the city, I came across an art gallery, with a photographic exhibition called “Enjoy your life”. Thinking this was going to be a series of nice, life affirming shots, I bought a ticket and headed on in. Well, the photos were life affirming in a way, there was just a lot more nudity than I was expecting. It was interesting and worth going to, but I won’t forget that initial shock when I realised what this exhibition was really showing. Oh, and there were plates in piles all across the exhibition hall – it was related to the photos, but I spent the whole time terrified I’d knock them over!


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The market square in Bonn


After quite an exhausting day, I spent the evening just chilling in the city centre. I had an ice cream and slowly walked around, it was lovely and relaxed. Sleep came very easily to me that night! This morning, I had pretty free rein over when I’d grab my train to Cologne as there was one every hour. So, I grabbed a coffee from a cafe in the city centre and watched the world (and the rain) go by. I didn’t realise that Bonn would be quite so eventful! Hopefully Cologne can offer more of the same!


James Jackman will be sharing stories from his Interrail trip every few days throughout June and July - follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch his updates as soon as they’re posted!