60 Years Ago Today

Thursday, 14 August 1952:

After I indulged in a continental breakfast at the hotel, all of us brought our bags down before we left to see Frankfurt. Then I waited at a street side café next to the hotel for Alice and Dot. Karen and Leland came along with them and they took us on a conducted tour of the zoo, the second oldest zoo in Germany.

The zoo was started in 1858. On March 18, 1944 the zoo was bombed and many animals had to be shot. Since the war, the zoo had been rebuilt with animals like flamingos, tigers, leopards and laughing hyena. Metro & Goldwyn Studios had donated some lions to the zoo. Approximately one million people visit the zoo every year.

They had American Prairie dogs and Steinmarder weasels. Boy! How the rodents room smelled. Some remains of the zoo ruins had not yet been restored from the war. Also there was a ruined castle and an old aquarium which had once been one of the finest in the world. There was a children’s playground near the Shetland ponies, monkeys, and little baby goats. I snapped a quick picture.

A Nestle Kinder zoo was still in the process of being built. Next animals were the donkeys, dogs, cats, roosters, hippopotami, mom and baby elephants, rhinoceros, and seals. Then there was a bear castle and thatched roofed houses for the bison and zebras. Only one building had not been damaged during the war.

After the zoo we caught a trolley. Soon after we met the bus as we walked towards Aachen, which included the Kaiser Karl’s Gymnasium, town hall and cathedral. There was a famous statuary before the cathedral which was 13th or 14th Century Gothic architecture. Holy Roman Emperors had been crowned here. At that time seven electors would meet at the cathedral to elect the new emperor. The badly ruined cathedral was being repaired. I observed the coat of arms and the Carolingian building that was replaced in 1200-1250 a.d. It was the sole relic of what was known as the short knave inside the cathedral. The golden bull and art treasures survived the bombings of World War II in 1944.

Next on the tour was the tower, which took 100 years to build. It was started shortly after the cities of Ulm and Strasbourg were built. The interior was still under repair. There were ugly 9th century murals in the process of being replaced. An altar piece carving reminds me of the work of Donatello, an early Renaissance Italian artist and sculptor from Florence. I observed red Gothic pillars and that everything was in bad condition.

Then we went around to the tower entrance where kids were playing in the court yard. For 30 pfennigs we hiked a long dizzy climb. At the top there was a beautiful view of the devastation from the war. We observed a famous old bombed out bridge, an American hospital on the horizon, and the Main river.

We met a couple from Argentina on the top. He was born in Frankfurt and had come back for a visit. He asked us about Mormons, so I gave him a tract. Afterwards, we walked along the river over to Romerberg square. Some men and boys were sitting on the door steps of the former town hall or rathaus which was being repaired. There were three Gothic steps and the gables which were emblems of Frankfurt and statues of the four Holy Roman Emperors that were crowned here in Aachen: Friedrich I, Ludwig I, Karl II, Maximilian II. It was reconverted to a town hall in 1405 a.d. Next was Paulskirche which was a church with important political symbolism.

We circled around it till we found the Goethe haus where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived until 1765. There were paintings with children that represented different months of the year. I found a place where rain water ran down and was saved for washing clothes. On March 22, 1944 the house was damaged during a bombing raid. The original furniture was taken out to the country to 12 different places with samples of wallpapers so it could be reconstructed. It was restored for the 200th anniversary of Goethe.

I noticed a 1700’s hand carved wood framed mirrors, clay and cast-iron stoves, walnut cabinet, inlaid furniture, 1800’s paintings of hunting scenes and original dishes from the famous pottery plant nearby. In the kitchen there was an open hearth stove, running water in the house, and cookie forms which were wooden carved. Coffee grinder, copper bread box, shopping basket, waffle iron, tea warmer, cake and pudding forms were in the kitchen as well. Other interesting finds included a little pack with a box to take food on a trip and a chair and ladder combination.

As we progressed through the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s house I discovered a linen cupboard in the hall. We were told the stairs and railings were original. Sketches of the Vatican, St. Angelo, and Coliseum were in the house. A Venetian glass chandelier hung in the dining room upstairs. The porcelain stove was made in one of finest factories and there was a portrait of Goethe’s grandfather on his mother’s side, who was mayor of Frankfurt at one time.

In the music room the guide played a few notes on the spinet, a keyboard instrument. There was a game table and clavichord where Goethe had had his first piano lessons. A family portrait hung with five little angels in background to represent the children in the family who had died.
In the house, there was an astronomical clock which was made in 1749. It told the time, day, month, year, and zodiac sign. It ran for eight days and five hours then when it was time to rewind the bear would lay down. Soon after in the library of the father, who had been a lawyer, there were books, sheepskin bound and handwritten. There was a calendar showing Goethe’s birthday. In the father’s waiting room there were paintings collected by him, mirrors brought from Venice, and porcelain pipe lighters. In his mother’s writing room there were paintings of Goethe at 27. He lived here until he was 26 years old.

In other rooms in the house I saw a sewing chest, card table, stove fired from outside, lantern to light the way in the streets, (wealthy people had two candles), and portraits of Goethe’s father and mother. We walked in the room where Goethe was born and there was a bust of Goethe at age 30. And a symbol of his poetry and star which had come from his death room in Wiemar, Germany, where he died in 1832. There was a newspaper with a notice of his birth on Friday August 29, 1749 and some relics of Cornelia, his sister.

Goethe’s work room was next with the desk where he wrote Faust and other works. Then we got to see the library and a puppet theater that was given by Goethe’s grandmother when he was five years of age. He wrote little plays for it. I glimpsed at originals of many books and a picture of the square with the crowning of Leopold II. Also, included were scenes from Goethe’s original production of Faust, a plan of Frankfurt in 1760, and other drawings. Some were done by Goethe himself, as well. In the hallway there was a standing writing desk, spinet, and a linen press with 12 dozen sheets. Washed linens were done twice a year. Two servicemen listened to Dot translate what the guide said in German.

After Goethe’s house we caught another trolley and traveled past the shell of the opera house. Written on the front of the opera house was Dem Wahran Schoenen Guten. We also saw the US Court of Appeals and the Rothschild Estate.

We jumped off the trolley at Palmen Garten, a botanical garden near the Service Club and snack bar. And on the lake were swans and boats. At the botanical gardens there were hot houses with all types of cactus, coxcomb, begonias, and all kinds of beautiful tropical flowers and plants. Among the park landscape I caught sight of a pond with gold fish.

Karen and Leland were telling us jokes as we walked through the gardens. Then there was a palm house with Bavarian and tropical palms, and a room with all sizes, shapes, and hues of orchids. In the water lily room I tried to take a picture. One really hot and damp room had parasitic plants that were tropical. Finally, we ended with a stunning rose garden.

Afterwards, our trolley was waiting at the gate. As we got on a serviceman gave me his seat. We got off at the Central-Bahnhof Frankfurt Station at 4 p.m. Ben and Cherie were talking with the missionaries and servicemen. The crowd gathered and we crossed the street to get on our trusty bus and head off to Wiesbaden. Ben and Cherie stayed behind to get a camera. Then we discovered Pat and Betty were missing too! Betty had gone to meet her boyfriend.

We traveled through the Rhine Valley and stopped at Wiesbaden for 45 minutes or so. Boys were playing near our bus by a huge red Protestant Church. I talked to one and he showed me the main street of Wiesbaden. There was a passageway through a building just like in Salzburg. Also there was a beautiful park, concert building and statue of Kaiser Friedrich, a German Emperor and King of Prussia nearby. I snapped a picture of my friend in front of the big concert hall and exposition building. He called it the Kurhaus.

At 6 p.m. I heard the church bells ringing. So we headed for our bus. When I got there the gang argued about whether I was late or not. Everybody had a different time though, so I think I dodged the fine for now. However, all of us had to wait longer for Bonnie and Kay.
After we found everyone, we followed the Rhine River to the Rudesheim Hotel Germania, which was right on the banks of the river. I was in room 25 which was on the top floor. It wasn’t luxurious but comfortable with a straw tick. There were no towels and the WC was on the first floor.

At the hotel the weiner schnitzel was 3.50 marks. Too much! I looked around for something cheaper, but ended up coming back to eat in the little cellar below the hotel. It was the same kitchen for both places. The atmosphere was interesting with accordion players and singers plus the food was delicious. Upstairs we found the waiter we had talked to and he had decided that he would give us the rate of 2.50 marks for dinner. But I guess it was then too late for us to get that rate.

Betty Lou and I walked down a little narrow street on the other side of the hotel. It was really buzzing and full of people. I observed cabarets, bars, and cafes. There was even dancing in one place. It started to rain so we stopped in the doorway to watch the dancing. We came “home” when the rain subsided and fell into bed exhausted.


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