This gray and damp Sunday will be our last in Bonn. We’ll be on a bus Wednesday to a city that we’ve been planning to move to for over three years, Berlin. But Bonn has its charms, and so a brief review of what we’ve gotten up to in the last three months is in order.
German. German. German. German. Man we’ve studied a lot of German. 4.5 hours a day plus homework. It has been wonderful, and without the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s support it would be years before we are where we are. Unfortunately, there are far more rules than anyone tells you about in this language. Just when you think you’ve got them all down (first verb in second position!) some new awfulness is sprung upon you. From what we’ve been told, we know them all now. So we’re being let loose on the German speaking world, which is fortunately on the whole quite merciful and impressed that you demonstrate some knowledge of the rules, irrespective of whether you actually can keep track of them all in conversation. (Which you can’t.)
Bonn has also allowed us some quite nice side trips. Strasbourg and Amsterdam can speak for themselves, as can our recent train adventure to Copenhagen. More off the beaten path were the bridge at Remagen and Schloss Brühl, which I’d like to highlight briefly.
At the bridge at Remagen the Americans “crossed the Rhine with dry feet” piercing the Nazi’s last natural line of defense. The Americans had previously bombed the bridge and taking it was unexpected by both sides and attributable to the quick movement of Americans in the Rhineland and failed German demolitions. Hitler was so incensed that the Americans had taken the bridge that he had four officers executed for treason. The museum in one of the towers of the ruins of the bridge covered the history from when it was first built to assist in invading France, to the action it saw in WWII, to its eventual collapse from bomb damage and the massive prisoner of war camp that sprung up next to it as the Americans captured hundreds of thousands of Germans late in the war. We were there in memory of my Grandpa Felder who passed away at 100 this Summer and who had served in WWII.
Schloss Brühl was the Summer palace of the powerful Kürfurst (prince who voted for the emperor) who held all the titles in this region. It was built to impress, which means it was gaudy as all hell. Of particular note were the staircase, the viewing area for the middle class to watch the nobility dine and dance, the baroque garden, and, of course, that there was a mini-palace a few kilometers away for the hunting expeditions.
Beyond our German and our expeditions we’ve spent most of our time bonding with the other fellows in the beer gardens of Bonn or in our dormitory style accommodations in Tannenbusch Mitte.
Last Monday I delivered a presentation on my research topic “The Water Infrastructure Gap: How Can U.S. Utilities and Regulators Learn from Germany’s Success?” in German. My mentor at Ecologic Institute, Ulf Stein, was kind enough to come up to watch this very special performance. The rest of the week we headed out for our introductory tour which included Bayer’s massive chemical park at Leverkusen, the Ministry of Defense, a federal transportation innovation center, and, best of all, a while tasting in the Ahr valley. Germany can make a decent red, though sadly it’ll cost you.
The study tour continues until almost the end of September, and with said tour we’ll be on a bus to Berlin on Wednesday. And it’s been great, Bonn, but we can’t wait.