This past weekend, I made a trip to the west to visit my friend Greg, who's doing his PhD in Islamic Archeology at the University of Bonn. In addition to seeing him and the city, it was a great opportunity to network with Bonn's Islamic studies department and visit the Annemarie Schimmel Mamluk Kolleg.
Bonn is a city of just over 300,000 in western Germany along the Rhine. Originally a Roman settlement, Bonn played an important role in the Medieval Period as the seat for the Archdiocese of Cologne, which is just to the north. Bonn's main church, the Bonn Minster, was the seat of the Archbishopric of Cologne itself and is one of the oldest extant churches in Germany having been built between the 11th and 13th centuries - this makes it slightly older than our church in Marburg. Later, during in 1770, Bonn also witnessed the birth of one of Europe's greatest composers: Ludwig van Beethoven. While Beethoven was born in Bonn, he spent most of his life and all of his professional career in Vienna.
In the modern history of Germany, Bonn played a major role by serving as the capital of West Germany during the post-war period from 1949-1990. It was during these years that Bonn's Old City Hall hosted some of the most important political figures of the later 20th century - with many famous images being taken on the Town Hall's beautiful staircase. Even with Germany's capital moving to Berlin following unification, Bonn remains the nation's second capital and is accordingly called a Bundesstadt or federal city. As a result, many international organizations and several ministries of the federal government retain offices in the city.
Finally, one evening, Greg and I took the train to the south of Bonn to the suburb of Bad Godesberg. Historically a spa town, Bad Godesberg is now home to fairly large Arab population. As such, we were very happy to find a great Syrian restaurant. Afterwards we found a cafe for Turkish coffee that had plastic chairs out on the sidewalk. Needless to say, we were both nostalgic for Cairo.