Bonn · It's Halloween on Sunday and Bonn City Tours has been offering a “spooky” city tour since 2017, in English as well as in German. Stories of old witch tribunals and the life-threatening plague are waiting to be told.
Sunday is October 31, Reformation Day, the end of summertime and also Halloween. Besides the usual Halloween parties, there will also be “spooky” city tours of Bonn led by historian and founder of Bonn City Tours, Daniel Friesen, along with two staff. The tours are called: ”Why make up scary stories when Bonn already has enough to tell?” The tours start at Münsterplatz at 4 and 6 pm, take around 90 minutes and end at the old cemetery after around 700 meters of walking.
Most tours will be held in German, but at 4 p.m. there will also be one in English. “Besides hearing chilling stories about old criminal trials and witch tribunals, tour-goers can expect scary stories about the life-threatening plague, Bonn martyrs, old cemeteries and other legends hidden behind Bonn's 2000-year-old city walls," explains Daniel Friesen. For example, he says, they will look at the Bonn pillory (where people were punished) at the cathedral and talk about the old punishments for criminal offenses. Friesen will answer questions such as why hangmen had so much trouble finding a spouse or why doctors often asked hangmen for medical advice. Witch tribunals will also be a topic as the Bonn area was heavily impacted by these.
Bonn's lengthy history is a bit scary
Friesen explains why he thinks Bonn in particular is suitable for a Halloween tour: "Bonn is one of the oldest cities in Germany. A great many terrible and at the same time interesting things have happened in this enormous period of time.” The witch hunts of 300 years ago were especially prevalent, he says. "Many of these stories are barely recognizable in the cityscape today, and that's what we're trying to bring back to life on the tour." Halloween is also becoming increasingly popular in Germany, he added. "Especially here in the Rhineland, where people love to dress up, this fest which originated with the Celtics seems to be finding more and more followers," observes the 30-year-old historian.
Friesen now has a master’s degree in history and founded the tourism company in 2017 when he was a history student. He and his two staff members offer city tours in Bonn in several languages, as well as ‘Free Walking Tours’ (which are free of charge but a tip is customary). Private tours or special tours for individuals or companies are also available at fixed prices.
These include VW bus tours, pub crawls, Beethoven tours and team building events. Friesen had the idea to start his tour company during his semester abroad in Ireland. "I was simply taken by the Irish way of showing visitors their own country. You were pulled in with warmth, with lots of anecdotes, professionalism and given the feeling that you were visiting a good friend who was showing you their homeland,” says Friesen.
Recovering well from the lockdowns
So he set up his own business while studying at university. In 2018, he completed his master's degree and from then on put all his energy into the start-up. "Since 2019, I have been able to make a living from this work.” But he goes on to explain that the pandemic caused havoc with the business. Still, he hopes he will be able to make a living with it again within a couple years. He relied on some government assistance and also gave virtual tours during the pandemic but now the business is recovering and even expanding.
The number of visitors varies greatly, he says. Often there are around ten people but in recent weeks, that number has even more than doubled. They add tour guides then so that people can have an optimal experience.
It is a variety of people who take advantage of the tours. For the public tours, it's usually a mix of national and international tourists. "But there are also a lot of locals who come when they have visitors. In addition, there are people who will soon be moving to Bonn for work or for their studies," says Friesen. It's the locals who often get the most from the tours, "and that increases the quality of life in your own city when you're more aware of the historical context," the 30-year-old believes.
Orig. text: Marco Rauch