I never really think about Bonn except as Beethoven’s hometown, and then occasionally I go “Oh yeah–and it used to be the capital.” According to my hostess, Aundrea, though, that’s sort of by design. She’s British but has lived in Bonn for almost 30 years, and she says that when it was the capital it was very hard to start businesses or do anything to develop the city, almost like the officials didn’t want it to buzz with activity, and that none of its residents really saw it as a capital (probably because they so resented the Separation)–Bonn was very low-key, and everyone still thought of Berlin as the Real Capital Which Was Going through a Tough Time.

I’m staying in Aundrea’s second apartment (her family lives far outside of town, and she teaches at an international school here, so she has a second apartment for the workweek), which is up in Bad Godesberg, technically a part of Bonn but really more of its own small city. Back in the day many of the embassies were here, and so all the development in the area was for diplomats and embassy bureaucrats. Most of the embassies, of course, moved to Berlin after the fall of the Wall, but a few have stayed (she pointed out UAE as an example). In addition, there are phenomenal medical facilities that were founded for the embassy folks, so now Bonn is the place to go for medical tourism, especially (according to Aundrea) among Middle Easterners. There is a lot of Arabic around.

I got a late start owing to wallet issues (PUBLIC THANK YOU FOR MOM AND NATHAN, ONLY ONE OF WHOM WILL EVER READ THIS), so rather than spending yesterday in Bonn as planned, I went straight to Aundrea’s house. Being American and therefore slightly prejudiced against the British, I was expecting her to be formal and polite but not overly friendly. But no, she’s pretty much Cary Beth. A Cary Beth that likes to talk about politics.

She’s relatively new to AirBnB but has been pretty much booked solid since she joined in August. She’s got this thing down to an art. She’s used chalkboard paint to make little chalkboards all over the apartment (you can tell she’s a teacher), and she left me a little welcome message on one in my room, and she leaves a basket on the bed with essentials (including Milka chocolate and Haribo gummy bears) and a tourist magazine that tells you everything you could ever want to know about the city. You’d think she’d been doing this for years.

We wound up hanging out for a long time last night, which was fun (and also exactly why AirBnB is awesome). She’s totally in love with Bonn, and she’s full of advice about the best places to go. I was planning to see Bonn and Cologne on this trip, but I think I’ll come back to Cologne later and do it separately. There’s too much here.

Strangely, I realized on the train ride down that I’d never been to the Rhein area. The train from Mainz to Bonn was totally worth a trip just for the views. The entire hour-ish long ride looked like this:

Aundrea’s daughter studies in Trier, which is the oldest city in Germany (2009 marked its 2025th birthday–yes, you read that right) and is full of Roman things. Might have to make a trek down there some day, but probably not this trip.

Today is Beethoven day, especially since it’s stupid and raining. I am going to the Beethoven House Museum, possibly the museum of the Federal Republic of Germany (because it’s free and I should), and then back to the Beethoven House for a “historically accurate” concert and lecture (the lecture, one hopes, will be historically accurate but in a different way than the concert).