Tarzan would climb the tallest tree in sight to get a bird’s eye view of the entire forest. But in the city, he’d likely have to scale a castle to do the same.
We went to Bad Godesberg, an erstwhile spa town, on a whim. The day was still young (the sun sets at around 9:30 PM on summer days in Bonn) and our exploits in Kottenforst hadn’t tired us completely.
We walked without a purpose or destination in mind – sauntering into Turkish and Asian stores that deigned to be open on a Sunday, strolling around a beautiful park with a large pond and a pair of ducks and admiring the distinctive architecture that stood out from the structures in other neighbourhoods of Bonn.
We were immediately struck by the diverse ethnicity of Bad Godesberg’s denizens. Friesdorf for instance, is almost purely German – one might encounter an Indian or Asian once or twice a day at most. But Bad Godesberg was colourful. We saw numerous Turks and citizens and migrants of Arab, African and Indian descent.
Several cafes and shop names were written in Arabic and at some points, we felt like we were back in Old Dubai. Olive-skinned patrons sat at leisure outside many of these cafes and shops were fully stocked with falafel supplies, gram flour and other hard-to-find ingredients in German supermarkets.
Presently, we came to a quiet cobble-stoned square in the Innenstadt (downtown Bad Godesberg). The air was deathly quiet – since Sundays in Germany are true holidays, with nothing save restaurants being open, and most choosing to relax at home. And that’s why the laughter of two little girls came as such a surprise.
We traced the cheerful sound to a long, wide staircase that led to a bridge and settlements on either side. The girls played on the right side. From the bridge, we had a good view of the traffic below. But what interested us more was a tower standing tall amidst thick foliage beyond the bridge.
A yellow flag fluttered atop the tower and we realised it was a castle or fortress. A signboard at the start of a steep, curvy path confirmed the name – Godesberg Castle. Why hadn’t this name come up in our numerous Google searches on places to see in Bonn? An old man walked up the path, encouraging us to follow.
A dark and silent path led us up the hill. On the way, we passed a serene cemetery. An ancient stillness hung in the air, pregnant with untold stories. We’d learn later that the castle is rumoured to be built on the site of an ancient cult that worshipped Wotan, an old name for the Germanic/Norse deity Odin. In fact, this legend is responsible for the town’s name ‘Godesberg’ (originally Gottesberg) or city of God.
The 13th century castle seemed to be in surprisingly sound condition when we made it to the top after a short walk. A large part of it was destroyed in 1583 at the beginning of the Cologne War. But in 1959, architect Gottfried Böhm drew up plans to rebuild the castle. The new plan accommodated a hotel and restaurant.
Surprise surprise, the settlements we’d passed earlier were actually the erstwhile hotel. However, a stone’s throw away from the castle, an elegant restaurant was still in operation. A look at the menu as well as the clientele told us that this was no casual eatery.
Next to the restaurant, we observed a view that took our breath away. The wind blew gently, and in the impending glow of the sunset (though still an hour away), the landscape assumed a warm allure. Bonn and beyond lay spread out before us, with forests below and undulating mountains in the background (see featured image). We took a seat in front of the panorama and basked in its calming beauty.
It was late that day and we decided to leave the climbing of the castle tower for another day. A narrow staircase led upwards and an unmanned basket downstairs asked for 1 euro to be paid as entry. We took a look around and then returned outside, where a stone table invited us to sit and enjoy a light repast.
Here, we enjoyed yet another view of the city from a different vantage point. In the west, the clouds were already streaked with the colours of dusk. Sitting there on that lovely Sunday evening, we felt so fortunate to have stumbled upon Godesberg Castle during our wanderings. Those were precious moments in that little paradise.
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