A-Z A guide to life, culture and fun in Bonn
Germans take their recycling very serious and love to wash their car, as most people know. But to understand german culture especially in Bonn and the Rhein-Region it takes more than that. We provide orientation with a guide from A like Auto to Z like Zebrastreifen.
My car is my castle: The car is to many Germans what fine dining is to the French or weather to the British. Among typical German car care rituals are a Saturday morning visit to the carwash, a trip to the auto repair center before Easter to have summer tires put on and another trip in October to have the winter tires put on. Of course, there is also a special fondness for autobahns with no speed limits.
Glancing inside a German bakery can be overwhelming: On the shelves are dozens of different types of breads, buns and rolls. Just like the breweries and sausage makers of Germany, German bakers have a long and rich tradition. In 2014, UNESCO proclaimed the German bread culture to be worthy of protection under World Cultural Heritage. A little orientation for your bakery visit: Weizenbrot = bread made from wheat, Weizenmischbrot = bread made from a mixture of wheat and other flours, Roggenbrot = bread made from Rye, Vollkornbrot = bread made from whole grains, Brötchen = rolls that come with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nuts, onions, raisins or plain (just to mention a few).
C-Minor represents the heroic side of composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who uses this key at the beginning of his 5th symphony to signify fate pounding at the door. The world renown composer was born in Bonn and lived here for more than 20 years. Bonn honors its most famous son by preserving the home of his birth, which is open to the public as a museum, and by hosting an annual Beethoven festival every Autumn.
Villa, castle or chateau? The sprawling property on Berg Drachenfels is all of these. Dating back to the 19th century, the magnificent construction has recently undergone a complete renovation, and invites you to take a trip back in time with its murals on the ceilings, period furniture and a handsome park-like setting. In winter, there is a Charles Dickens Christmas Market, and in summer you can have breakfast there or order a picnic basket filled with sparkling wine and Frikadellen (meatballs). Just pick up your basket and look for a place to settle down with the best view of the Rhine.
Forest, water and wilderness: It takes only a short time to get from the center of Bonn to the Eifel. Already the Neanderthals felt at home amidst the volcanic landscape with mountains, rivers and crystal clear lakes. Today, it’s a perfect place to spend a lazy summer day. Whoever needs more adventure can set off on a 4-day trek on the Eifel National Park wilderness trail, keeping an eye open for rare and timid wildcats. Bike paths, riding trails, geocaching, buggy rides and cross country ski paths can be found there as well as all that nature has to offer.
Feiertag (Public Holiday)
In Germany, sometimes it can seem that it’s all about work, work, work. But even the champions of efficiency take pleasure in their extra portion of leisure time. In NRW, there are 11 Feiertage (public holidays) where schools, public facilities and shops are closed. Those who want to make optimal use of the public holidays take off days of work referred to as “bridge days”, to bridge the gap between weekdays and Saturday/Sunday for an extended XXL weekend.
In Bonn, it can often be a little sunnier and warmer than other places, which perhaps explains why Bonners tend to their gardens and yards with great enthusiasm. Once a year, many dedicated gardeners with a green thumb will open up their garden gates to show visitors their personal green kingdoms (Tag der Offenen Gartenpforte or Day of Open Garden Gates). The Japanese Garden in Bonn is also well worth a visit.
Bonn – which was probably named differently by the Stone Age dwellers who lived in this corner of the earth – was always a cherished place. Scientific researchers in the Bad Godesberg area of Muffendorf unearthed a dozen prehistoric hand axes from the year 55,000 B.C. Since then, the history of this town has been in a whirlwind. The Bonn Münsterkirche, built between the 11th and 13th centuries, is one of the oldest churches in Germany. The beautiful University of Bonn buildings were once a palatial residence, and the new World Congress Center was where the German parliament met until reunification. History is scattered throughout all of Bonn, but there are also sure signs of recent development and a booming business center. One example is the Post Tower (corporate headquarters of Deutsche Post). At a height of 162.5 meters, it is the tallest building in NRW.
Innenarchitektur (Interior Architecture)
Perhaps no other Bonn interior architecture embodies the beginning of the Federal Republic of Germany like the Kanzlerbungalow (chancellor’s bungalow). You could even say it is typical German. Once the home and sometimes official workplace of former Chancellors Ludwig Erhard, Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl, this historical home is open Tuesday through Friday for group tours and on Sundays for individuals. Inside you will see a very simple and pragmatic style. Is it lacking creativity? Or is it self-assured and modern in its modest design? Is it visionary because of its understated look? The chancellor’s bungalow might be a part of history, but its interior design continues to make for discussion even today.
We hope that you all have the ability to be a little bit silly, because no one can live through the fifth season of the Rhineland--Carnival--without a sense of humor. Everyone can be a Jeck (carnivalist), you just need a costume and a good mood. Tradition calls for cheering on the sidelines of the carnival parades, and this doesn’t mean in Cologne or Düsseldorf but in Bonn! Don’t be startled if a stranger comes up to kiss you or if wine corks are popping at midday: this is all part of the tradition. A good carnivalist needs two important words in their vocabulary: “Bonn Alaaf” and “Prost”.
Kirschblüten (Cherry Blossoms)
Bonn is beautiful, that’s why you moved here. It reaches the peak of beauty and romance in spring when the southern part of the city is full of Kirschblüten (cherry blossoms). A sea of pink blossoms brings out enthusiasm in even the most unemotional of Germans.
In his lifetime, he was a famous landscape artist and worked for Prussian royalty: Peter Joseph Lenné, born in 1789 in Bonn, created wonderful landscapes in the Rhineland. The spacious park at the Augustusburg castle in Brühl is considered a monument to landscape art at an international level. A walk through this beautiful scenery is free of charge.
Museumsmeile (Museum Mile)
One mile, five museums: On the B9 is Bonn’s museum mile with museums of natural science, technology, art, history and culture all within walking distance of one another. In ‘Haus der Geschichte’, the history museum, the 1960’s and 1970’s come to life with seven thousand original objects from this period. Included are seats from the former German parliament in Bonn, a replica of an ice cream stand, and the train compartment where Chancellor Konrad Adenauer rode in 1955 to Moscow to negotiate with the Soviets for the release of the last German war prisoners. On the rooftop of the art museum, there are live jazz concerts in summer.
The romantic Rhine: Nonnenwerth Island is south of Bonn, midstream in the Rhine, and is part of our beautiful scenery. If you sit on the terrace of the restaurant at the old Rolandseck train depot, you have a great view of the little island and a ferry which transports people, bicycles and cars across the Rhine, the longest river in Germany. The Benedictines have lived on the island since 1100 and today run a private secondary school. Visitors can go to the St. Clemens cloister on Saturdays for a day of stillness and silence. Tip: There are concerts held in the chapel there.
The Bonn Opera lies directly on the banks of the Rhine and has its own ensemble. In addition to operas, it also hosts musicals, international dance performances, concerts, comedy and cabaret. The opera also offers a look behind the scenes on a regular basis, so that one can become familiar with the work surrounding a musical or theater production.
From Petersberg, you have an incredible view of Bonn and the Rhine valley. It’s also a place where history has been made for well over one hundred years: Queen Elizabeth, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and other heads of state and dignitaries have all been overnight guests at the former official guesthouse of the German government. The magnificent mansion was used as a luxury hotel in 1912. In both world wars, it was consequently used as a field hospital, and after World War II, it became the headquarters of the Allied High Commissioners for Germany. Today it is the Grandhotel Petersberg and it is open to the public.
Quartalszahlen (Quarterly Figures)
As the home to several companies listed on the stock market; Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Post and Solarworld, Bonn attracts the spotlight of the national financial press four times a year when they release their quarterly results (Quartalszahlen).
Garbage separation in Germany is taken very seriously. For paper, glass, plastic, organic waste and other items, there are separate garbage containers – in yellow, brown, blue, green and gray colors. Each town decides which garbage goes in which color of bin and residents are given a book with those rules. If you are not sure how it works, be sure to ask your neighbor!
Südstadt (southern city area of Bonn)
The Südstadt is the heart of the city: The area between the Rhine and the university campus is one of the largest Gründerzeit Viertel in Germany (living area or quarters with buildings from the early 19th century). It’s a great place to go out to eat with many restaurants and bars.
Waiters and waitresses in Germany receive the minimum wage so they do not earn their living from tips alone. If you want to tip in a restaurant, it is customary to just round up your bill – instead of 47.50 Euros, you can round up to 50 Euros. Of course, if you want to give more you can do that too.
Bonn is an important United Nations location with about 20 organizations (UN Bonn). The UN has had offices in Bonn since 1951. The number of UN employees in Bonn has risen from several dozen in the mid-1990s to an international staff of almost 1,000 colleagues today. The Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has by far the largest number of staff among UN organizations in Germany.
Vorfahrt (Right of Way)
Caution, important information for drivers: At intersections where there is no traffic light or stop sign, or other sign indicating right of way, the rule of “right before left” applies. This means, you must let the driver on your right have right of way (Vorfahrt). To be sure, this requires you to creep slowly to the intersection so you can see if there is a car coming from your right before you proceed.
Over 35,000 students attend the Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-University in Bonn, keeping the city center young and alive. Besides the university, there are many other scientific institutions for higher learning in the region. They include six higher learning institutions for applied science, five Fraunhofer Institutes (application-oriented research), three Max-Planck Institutes (scientific research), and the German Aerospace Center.
X-Mas Markt (Christmas Markets)
Glowing lights, warm spiced wine and hot waffles: Advent is a very special time in Bonn. On the 20th of November, cozy and delightful Christmas markets open up in the city with around 200 different stalls where one can buy Christmas gifts, especially handmade items, and taste delicious German foods. They remain open until the day before Christmas Eve.
License plates that begin with the letter “Y” are seen often around Bonn. A “Y” means the vehicle belongs to the Bundeswehr (German military). Headquarters are located in the Hardthöhe area of Bonn, and employ around 10,000 military and civil workers. Because many of the soldiers drive back and forth between their home towns and the Bundeswehr, as well as travelling to deployments and exercises, the journeys are jokingly referred to as “Y-Tours”.
Crosswalks in Germany are adhered to more strictly than in many other countries: Pedestrians who stand at the curb waiting to cross, have the right of way. Cars must stop and let the pedestrian cross safely on the crosswalk. In heavy traffic, vehicles are not allowed to block the crosswalks. A car which does not give right of way to a pedestrian receives a fine of minimum 80 Euro and a point in the Flensburg point index. Drivers who receive a total of 8 points in Flensburg for traffic violations will have their driver’s license taken away.