The Mole Diaries: Bonn
Located next to the River Rhine in the Nordrhein-Westfalen region, Bonn is known for being the former capital of West Germany as well as the birthplace of composer Ludwig van Beethoven. It’s a fairly small city in comparison to others nearby like Cologne and Dusseldorf, but it has plenty of character which sets it apart from some of the area’s more industrial-looking cities. The historical centre is particularly atmospheric and has even led Bonn to be described as “Italy’s most northern city” because of the many outdoor cafés and ice cream parlours there.
The SB60 bus frequently travels between the city centre and Cologne/Bonn airport. The journey takes around half an hour and costs approx 7 euros. Another option is Düsseldorf International, a slightly bigger airport which takes about an hour to reach by train from the centre of Bonn.
Bonn has a network of buses, trams and trains which are generally reliable and on time. It is currently impossible for Bonn language assistants to get Nordrhein-Westfalen travel cards (believe me, I tried!), since Bonn University only offers them to full-time students and Cologne University does not accept applications from assistants who live in Bonn. For this reason, the best way to save money as a language assistant is to buy weekly or monthly tickets for public transport within the city and a Bahncard 25 or 50 for discounts when travelling by train outside of the city.
I live in an independent student hall in a quiet, residential area of the city called Bonn-Ippendorf. I found this accommodation by contacting a former language assistant who recommended it to me. If you decide that you would like to live in a WG (a shared flat), try to find somewhere before Bonn University’s winter semester begins, as the application process becomes a lot more competitive once thousands of students have flocked to the city. If you’re a language assistant looking for accommodation in Bonn, I would advise you to think about where your school is and for how long you would be willing to commute to get there. For example, my accommodation is in a different district of the city from my school, so my journey to work involves getting two buses and a train and it can often take up to an hour.
My top ten things to do in Bonn
1. See the majestic pink town hall in Marktplatz and the Romanesque church in Münsterplatz.
2. Look out for all things Beethoven-related! You can see a statue of him in Münsterplatz, visit the house where he was born, listen to classical music all over the city at ‘Beethovenfest’ in autumn … Basically, Bonn can’t get enough of Beethoven. He’s unavoidable, and you can’t walk around the city without seeing his face on the side of a bus or a T-shirt proclaiming that ‘Ludwig lives’.
3. Go to the Haribo Factory Store in the Bad Godesberg district. Haribo was founded in Bonn and you can stock up on sweets here for an unbelievably cheap price.
4. Attend ‘Klangwelle’, a colourful display of music, lasers and fireworks in Münsterplatz that happens every evening for a week in late September/early October. Don’t stand near the front unless you want to get drenched in water from the fountains!
5. Go to the Haus der Geschichte, an interesting museum of German history since 1945. Admission is free!
6. Visit the Christmas markets where you can go iceskating, ride on a ferris wheel, try some traditional Glühwein and eat a ridiculous amount of gingerbread.
7. Watch ‘Rhein in Flammen’, a huge fireworks display over the River Rhine that happens in May.
8. Eat at Currywurst Forever near Marktplatz, which I’ve found is the best place in Bonn to get good Currywurst with chunky chips for a decent price.
9. Visit the Poppelsdorfer Schloss and Botanical Gardens, which are beautiful in the Summer and an ideal place for a picnic.
10. Do some travelling! Bonn is in a great location where it’s possible to go on day trips to cities like Cologne, Düsseldorf, Koblenz, Aachen and Frankfurt. And if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, cities such as Brussels and Amsterdam are only a few hours away.
When I applied to be a language assistant, I was quite worried by the possibility of being placed at a school either in the middle of nowhere or in an enormous city where I would feel intimidated. I’m very glad that I ended up in Bonn, as it’s definitely somewhere between the two. The city centre has everything you could possibly need and there is always some sort of event to look forward to, from the Christmas markets in December to ‘Rhein in Flammen’ in May.
I’ve also enjoyed being in an area where I can easily travel to other cities. It feels very cosmopolitan to be able to say “I’m going to do some shopping in Düsseldorf” or “I’m going to Brussels for the weekend”!