Exploring Germany’s oldest administrative town

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine,” the famous German composer and pianist Ludwig Van Beethoven said. And indeed, saying that Beethoven enjoyed great acclaim across the world would be an understatement.

The truth is that you cannot talk about Bonn without talking about Beethoven to whom Bonn was a motherland. Beethoven was spectacularly important in Bonn, his home town Bonn.

Some people in this small town of more than 300,000 residents still say of him that “his virtuosity was worthy of the gods” referring to the fact that his life was a reflection of great art of music.

Bonn also has a number of spots that offer options of enjoying your favourite selection, be it ice cream, on an open environment. / Julius Bizimungu

For many who are no stranger to the greatest classic music of all time, Beethoven arguably makes it to the list even until today.

In fact, on my flight back home, I wasn’t so surprised that Ethiopian Airline had a whole album of his classics on their in-flight entertainment screens. I couldn’t help but get engrossed by his Symphonies.

The transcendent collections I was listening to were performed by Michael Sanderling and Grigory Solokov.

Beethoven is generally known as the father of the Romantic era. However, during the first period most of his compositions were classical in nature.

Downtown Bonn. / Julius Bizimungu

In 1800, Beethoven is reported to have turned his friend Krumpholz and said, “I am not very well satisfied with the work I have thus far done.

From this day on I shall take a new way.” And basically, he did. He abandoned the classical forms of the previous century and set out for a more expressive (Romantic) musical voice.

His musical imagination began to grow beyond that of the piano. This period saw the creations of such masterpieces as the Tempest Sonata, the 3rd Symphony, Op. 55, his only opera, Fidelio, Op. 72, and the 5th Piano Concerto, Op. 73.

Last week I had a chance to spend some time in Bonn where the life of this great composer is still treasured. I had attended the Global Media Conference organised by Deutsche Welle.

Plastic statues of the late famous German composer Beethoven are on display in his home town. / Julius Bizimungu

This year is the year to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven. In Bonn where his legacy is still predominantly commemorated, 700 smiling plastic statues of Beethoven were earlier this month installed in front of the original Beethoven monument.

Many of them have already been bought by citizens.

But Bonn is also known for other incredible things despite being a small town. One of the icons of the city is the Rhine River. During our stay we were able to take a more than five-hour cruise on this river where we were treated to a more than four-hour live performance.

From the top of the boat while cruising, one is able to get a grand view of the city, the village areas of Bonn as you move away from the main city and some of the magnificent old castles tucked in the tinny hills and stunning hotel views on the shores of the river.

The city is also home to some of the ancient buildings that were previously offices of Germany administration before it was moved to Berlin, which is currently the capital city.

It is also home to Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s public international broadcaster.

A view of McDonald’s, one of the popular fastfood restaurants in Bonn. / Julius Bizimungu

Bonn also offers some of the affordable shopping options. This is because global and multinational retail companies already have operations in the city: from H&M and C&A to Mac Cosmetics and DM, there is wide range of inexpensive products to choose from at these stores.

However, the night life in this city is not as big as other cities. If you are a party animal, I would recommend going to Cologne, which is about 30 minutes away if you take a train.

But what is travelling?

People always ask me what the most rewarding thing about travelling is. To be honest, the ultimate reward about travelling is making the best of every moment you get to have with the people you meet at that business meeting, at a conference, on a tour or even a family holiday.

It is about making every experience count so that when you are on that window seat of the plane returning back you get to say: Oh yes, that was the best trip I had.

The author poses in front of one of admnistrative offices in Bonn.

When you take time and travel to places you get to see the world in a different lens. It is not only spending countless hours in that meeting room listening to smart panelists presenting theories and other concepts.

Take a friend I met on a boat cruise who extended an early invitation to another gathering or another friend I met for the first time, got connected and helped me learn how to navigate and leverage the opportunities in his town – the same friend that helped me when my debit card acted up.

That is what travelling is about.