The rain steadily fell in misty sheets, so that the landscape was partly obscured by a dewy veil. Our train chugged through damp German villages, swaying gently from side to side. The grey horizon showed no sign of a mood change.
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One of my friends sighed. “What luck. We’ve been planning our Bonn excursion for weeks, and we managed to schedule it on the most miserable day of the entire month.”
I grinned. “I guess we’ll get to see a lot of museums.”
Another friend rolled her eyes. “Yeah, Marta, we know you want to visit the Beethoven House.” It’s no secret that I love Beethoven, and I’d lobbied hard for the chance to visit his hometown.
The first sighed again. “I really wanted to walk the Rhine Promenade.”
We looked out the window, and all felt a twinge of disappointment. Museums it would be, or so it appeared, and we emerged subdued into the drizzle outside the train station.
Automobiles never quite won the battle against Old Bonn’s narrow and cobbled inner streets. Instead, the twisting avenues were pleasantly crowded with umbrellas and rain-boots. The sound of feet plashing over the wet stones mingled with the smell of rain, and the misty sky dampened the distant sound of traffic.
As if it were a dewy paint, the rain seemed to bring out the colors of the city rather than dull them. The cobblestones glowed with yellow tint and the bright old houses that leaned over the pedestrians made the day seem less dark. One had only to close one’s eyes for a moment to imagine oneself two hundred years in the past, in Beethoven’s Bonn.
“Wow,” one girl sighed, “I think this beats the Rhine!”
Our wanderings led us down Poststraße from the train station, across Beethoven Denkmal (where we stopped for pictures with Beethoven’s memorial), into a music shop on Acherstraße, through a farmer’s market in front of the old town hall, and down the small but promising Bonnegasse where we came suddenly upon it: the Beethoven-Haus.
We wrung the German weather out of our clothes as we stopped before an information sign. Admission: Five Euro Fifty.
I looked at my watch. “We’ve got just thirty minutes before our train leaves.”
One of my friends checked her wallet and looked apologetic. “Do you mind if we skip the Beethoven House?”
I smiled. “Not at all. I’ve always got his music in here.” I crossed my hands over my heart dramatically and we all laughed. But my spirits were as dampened as my socks as we again traversed the wet streets. Suddenly, a sign outside a church caught my eye:
Namen-Jesu-Kirche. Beethoven’s music played every Thursday from 3 to 5 pm.
My watch read exactly 3 o’clock.
“Wait, guys!” I called after my friends. “Can we stop for a moment?”
The music met us with a transcendental echo as we stepped inside. The clear voice of a violin climbed high into the gilded rafters of the church, and the church’s baroque ornamentation shimmered with the strains of the orchestra. My heart pounded as I felt the music and the beauty of the church surround me. I felt closer to Beethoven than ever before. Had I insisted on going to the museum, this feeling would never have been mine.
It seemed only a moment before one of my friends pointed to her watch and gestured toward the exit. A moment that was never part of the travel plan, a moment that was completely spontaneous, but a moment that made the whole day worth it.
Because I met Beethoven in Bonn.
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