Bonn · Is it easy to find your way around Bonn? Are people able to give directions in English? GA reporter Nicolas Ottersbach tested Bonn to see how tourist-friendly it was in advance of the COP 23.
Arriving from Cologne, the train door opens in front of a stack of white-red warning beacons. On the left, a man accidentally bumps into a beer bottle. On the right, someone is typing on their smartphone. The train pulls away, leaving a view of a residential area under construction. That’s how it is for visitors arriving at the main railway station in Bonn. Thousands of guests will find their way into the city at the World Climate Conference next week.
The start is quite sobering. No getting away from the fact that the main train station is a huge construction site, with hammering and sawing echoing over the platform. Anybody’s guess what the word “Reisezentrum” on the blue signpost may mean but the word “City” is clear to understand.
Down the escalator, past a street musician with a guitar, a woman with a dachshund, and a man with a folding bicycle. The most international thing here is the smoking ban. Signs in English and French make clear that smoking is only allowed in designated areas.
Not an inviting view to the city
Arriving at the information area, the railway employee has his mouth full. He murmurs “just a second.” After his mouth is empty, he asks in a friendly manner how he can help. “Ah, English, yes,” says the man. “To COP please.” “You go out and right to the bus station, Line 610, UN campus.” He doesn’t recommend a taxi, with public transport one arrives at the same time anyhow and besides, it’s cheaper.
Through the large glass doors with red wooden trim, the world looks a bit foggy out there. When they open, a burst of construction dust blows. Two cranes turn, and behind the fence are mountains of debris and power shovels. The remains of this torn down business area do not really make you want to go into the city.
No sign for sightseeing
This trip should lead into the city, not the bus station, but there is no sign. Where is the city center? One doesn’t need a sign when Ahmed Awad is near by. Wearing his bright orange Bonnorange (sanitation services) vest and about to empty a trash bin, he helpfully explains to someone, "You can find the tourist information in the Bonngasse", and he even shows the way. How does he know this so well? "We are asked daily where certain sights are," explains his colleague Matthias Brandt. The Beethoven monument, the Münster Cathedral and the Rhine are the most popular destinations.
On the way there are some red signs in German and in English which indicate the direction to the Beethovenhaus or Tourist Information. With a free city map, it’s on to Münsterplatz where the old cathedral is being renovated.
“Bonn is so friendly”
The next red sign reads “Old Town Hall”, that sounds good. Walking past the many stores on Remigiusstraße, at the end of the square is the light pink-colored Rathaus (Old Town Hall). A sellers at the market hollers out the prices of his produce. The smell of bratwurst is in the air. The woman at the counter explains that it contains pork, a piece of information she finds important for Muslims.
Mr. Sreenath and Ms. Kusum from India are trying to orient themselves by consulting a city map from the Tourist Information. "Bonn is so friendly", they say and praise the good museums. They like the university and the grassy area called the “Hofgarten” the best. Because it is so quiet. They point to the yellow baroque building. Suddenly there are cyclists and youngsters, making themselves comfortable on the grass and the park benches.
Three groups play frisbee, others sit together and play guitar. Those who are alone are usually engrossed in a book. Time to finally take bus line 610 towards the COP23. On an information board at the bus stop, there is an orange-blue poster of the Climate Conference. “Bula”, it says. “Hello” in Fiji.
Orig. text: Nicolas Ottersbach