Probably the most difficult aspects of our journey through Germany was our issues with the train services and our Hire Car Company. After completing our time in Cologne, we wandered across to our hire car office in the train station only to find the office wasn’t ‘manned’. We waited around for half an hour and no one arrived to provide us with a car. We were told that the office worker whose role was to provide us with said car may be at the company garage with the cars. We found the garage and the person but we then had to suffer complex charges over our being late to the office. The thing with Hire Car companies is that they are a gift that keeps wanting more gifts, long after the car has been returned.
Despite all the ‘stuffing around’, we were able to hit the road, pleased to have escaped the ministrations of the car-hire company. Our destination for the next two days was Heidelberg but we decided to stop at Koblenz on the way for a quick look and some lunch. Turning off the freeway into Koblenz, we passed the huge church of the Sacred Heart which looked very impressive, built in 1900. It only lasted forty years before it was destroyed by bombing and had to be rebuilt after the war.
We found our way to the old centre of town (Altstadt) and were lucky to find the last space in the car-park next to the Florinskirche. This church building was built around 1100 and is an early medieval building in the Romanesque style. Like so many churches that suffered invasion from Napoleonic troops in 1802, this one rather than being used to stable horses, was used as a military magazine.
The above photo on the right of a sculpture dedicated to a 15th century local saint in front of Florinskirche) was quite a mystery to me as to its function and purpose. When I checked online for background, I found this rather emphatic condemnation of the sculpture.
“A very modern monument with no artistic value, made by a company for tombstones, donated for whatever reason by the Catholic Reading Society, for a money-hungry opportunist of the Catholic church history of the 15th century, of which there are so many. …He is revered by some as a humanist, as a polymath. Nevertheless, he is largely forgotten, and rightly so”
The actual square in front of the church (Florinsmarkt) was surrounded by very attractive buildings; the one on the left being the old town library.
Koblenz is a city of around 112,000 citizens that sits on the banks of two major rivers, the Rhine and the Moselle. It was founded by the Roman General Drusus in 8 BCE and celebrated its 2000 year anniversary in 1992. Being so close to the border with France, it’s history has been linked to whatever upheavals have been affecting France, particularly during the period of the French Revolution when many emigres came to live in Koblenz.
The photo above looking down over Koblenz towards the Moselle River shows three of the main churches in the old town area. On the left is Florinskirche and closer to the foreground is Liebfrauenkirche; the direction of our path up the hill to this second church can be traced in the photo.
On the way up the narrow streets of Koblenz looking for a café, we passed two curious statues of local identities but unusually, not ones of famous or significant citizens. The male figure was a ‘hawker’ called Peter Scneider who walked the town streets selling braces, laces and newspapers. He suffered a disease that affected his legs so the locals called him ‘Rubber’. The statue of the woman is of Annemarie Stein who toured the bars of the city collecting money in the 1930s to feed unwanted dogs and cats. She was well-known throughout the town.
We arrived at our second church of our Koblenz stroll, Liebfrauenkirche, which is located at the highest point of the town. It is a Catholic Church and was built sometime in the fifth century CE. It was built near the remains of a Roman Tower. Like Koblenz itself, the church has a long and complex history. For example, its two Gothic towers were destroyed by canon fire in 1688 by invading French troops; they were replaced at the end of the 17th century. The Church was again heavily damaged by the aerial bombing in 1944, particularly its roof.
Not far down the street from Liebfrauenkirche we found a cheese-cake café that was just what we needed to break our fast in the middle of the day. From this point in town we turned around and headed straight down towards the Moselle River, our street running parallel to the Rhine. The point at where the the rivers meet is called the German Corner (Deutsches Eck). Due to lack of time at Koblenz, we weren’t able to see a lot of the significant places in this ancient town such as the German Corner and the parklands and buildings along the Rhine. However the route we took back to our car-park was a lucky choice as we found ourselves outside the very significant town square called the Jesuitplatzen. There was an archway in the row of buildings that blocked off the square and curiosity took us through this passage and we found ourselves in front of the Jesuit Church. The Jesuits came to Koblenz in 1580 as part of the development of the Counter-Reformation and the original church was built in the early 17th century. The site has a long and complex history, for example it was mostly destroyed by fire in 1883. In 1944 the church was largely destroyed and the ruins were cleared and a new church arose on the site by 1959.
The other interesting feature of Jesuitenplatz is that on the other side of the square is an old Jesuit building that since 1895 has been the town’s Rathaus. In the centre of the square is a statue raised in memory of Johannes Muller (1801-1858), a distinguished German physiologist and zoologist whose contributions in many fields of science were very significant in his day.
There was just enough time to head down to the Moselle River and check out the views down river to the Balduinbrucke (Baldwin Bridge). This stone arch bridge is the oldest surviving bridge in Koblenz having been built in the 14th century. We didn’t linger long and headed back to the car to finish our journey to Heidelberg.
APPENDIX 1: Ehrenbreitstein Fortress
One of the important historical sites of Koblenz that we had no time to visit was the fortress we could see on a hill on the other side of the Moselle River. Due to Koblenz’s position on the two rivers, the hill overlooks the rivers at the corner where the two rivers meet and has been a very significant site in the defence history of Germany, given the rivers have been invasion pathways in previous centuries. For example, the previous fort built on this spot was destroyed by Napoleon’s troops in 1801. After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Rhineland became a Prussian province and a series of forts were set up for the future defence of the country. The Ehrenbreitstein Fortress was built opposite the German corner and was said to have been the largest fortress in Europe except for Gibraltar. During its years of service, this fortress was never attacked.
Above is an aerial photo of the fortress on the other side of the Moselle River from Koblenz. Below is the view from the fortress towards the German Corner.
Above 2 photos, courtesy Wikipedia.