Archive for the ‘Bielefeld’ Category

Two Days Off in Bielefeld, Germany

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

We had two days off in Bielefeld, Germany. Bielefeld is the largest city of the Ostwestfalen-Lippe Region. Between 1904 and 1930, Bielefeld saw immense growth, including the opening of a railway station, a municipal theatre, and the Rudolf-Oetker-Halle concert hall which is famous for its excellent acoustics. Is “The Ultimate Thriller” performing here, you ask? Nope:) Bielefeld was one of several towns during the 1923 inflation in the Weimar Republic, that printed emergency money (Notgeld); attractive banknotes with designs of silk, leather, linen, wood, and velvet, to name a few.

Random fact: During World War II, the Bielefeld railway viaduct was the first target to be attacked with Barnes WallisGrand Slam bomb (the largest-10 ton- conventional bomb of World War II, dropped by the No. 617 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force), shortly before Germany surrendered. The viaduct has since been rebuilt with a different design.

So normally, I stay inside and sleep during the first day of a multi-day off stint, then do my walkabout on the 2nd day. I usually hear back on the 1st day from Narada about all the interesting things I should see in town, but this time, lots of people came back with interesting stories, mostly about dragging themselves over mountains and hills: “It was like an aerobic workout!”/”I almost slid down the slope twice!”/”It’s easy walking into town, but hard getting back up that last hill!”/”We were climbing through people’s back yards!” So on the 2nd day, I saw it was snowing pretty heavily, therefore I made sure I had all my thermal underwear, thick socks, warmest hat AND my earmuffs to go out in the falling snow that morning. And let me just say, this was the most romantic snowfall I’ve ever seen…it was like slow-mo snow! All the world’s Christmas movies should have been shot in the backyard of our hotel:) However, it’s a different perspective when you IN this romantic snow for 2 hours…

Below is the beginning of the stairway down the big hill behind our hotel. Like all the snowflakes captured in the pic? I turned on my flash just so I could document this extra snowy day.

In the middle of my trek down the hill, I met an indifferent…snow sheep?…shneep? I talked really cute to it…but it didn’t move. Maybe it chewed a bit…


The hill does take you through the back yards of some homes, but I just followed the previous footprints in the snow, the “Winter Sidewalk”, if you will, and they took me to the bridge where you can see the Bielefeld skyline…


In the distance, you can see the two structures I was most interested in seeing…the double-towered church to the left, and the castle tower to the right. I wasn’t sure if I’d get to both of them, because they seemed so far apart, but here I go a-tryin’! On a side note, I chose to wear a hat today because of the snow fall…I didn’t want my head to be wet for 2+ hours outside, because I’m pretty sure that would have gotten me sick. So I’m walking along the bridge, and I notice this little sound happening over and over again…I realize the snowflakes are thick enough that they are actually TAPPING on my hat! Say “plunk…plunk” in a light whispery voice, and that’s what I was hearing as I walked into downtown. I must have been crazy to walk in all that snow…but my newsletter compels me!!!

I don’t really ever use maps as I walk around towns, since landmarks register in my brain better anyway. I usually focus on the main sight I wanna see, which is usually higher than everything around it, and weave my way through the streets which point in its direction until I get to it. Today, conveniently, on my way to the castle tower, I ran into the double-towered church! Yes! That was easy:)

Bielefeld’s largest church is the Neustädter Marienkirche. Sometimes called “Ravensberger Dom”, it is a Gothic hall church dating back to 1293, and after various phases of construction, completed in 1512. It stands 78 m (256 ft) tall and has a length of 52 m (161 ft). Historically speaking, this building is considered to be the most precious. It was the starting point of the Protestant Reformation in Bielefeld in 1553.


The big air raid on Bielefeld (September 30, 1944) destroyed the roof (replaced 1947) and the baroque spires (replaced in 1966 by two unusually-shaped “Gothic” clocktowers, each 78m). The vault, however, remained intact. The church has since been used as the parish church of the Evangelical Marie community, which was already the owner of the church since 1672.

I crossed the street and wandered through a few side streets, seeing the castle tower in the close distance, yet not finding a way up the side of the hill to get there…Narada’s “I almost slid down the slope twice!” echoed in my mind as I was contemplating just climbing up the hill on all fours, but I decided instead to try one road that looked like it could lead around the back of the property. I was right! I found stairs and everything!

The stairs led me to the left of this bridge, which I crossed to finally reach the castle!


The Sparrenburg (real name: the castle and fortress Sparrenberg) is a restored fortress and the most famous landmark of Bielefeld, built in the middle of the medieval town. It was built as a fortress, between 1240 and 1250, by Count Ludwig von Ravensberg. The tower is 121 ft high. It is located on a high mountain in the Teutoburg Forest and overlooks the nearby city center. The Sparrenburg is the northernmost preserved castle in Germany. Its original purpose was to guard the Bielefeld pass through the Teutoburg Forest and to protect the town well. Sparrenburg remained impregnable through the Middle Ages.


After the invention of gunpowder, and the use of guns and other firearms became popular, the old castle was reworked into an early modern fortress that could withstand cannon fire and use its own guns. In 1535 the expansion plans began, on behalf of John III. of Jülich-Cleves-Berg.

Below is a memorial to honor the fallen soldiers of this fortress…


By the end of the 17th Century, the Sparrenburg fortress was not needed by the military any more. At that point it was sometimes used as a prison, though a partly dilapidated one! In the 1770s, at the instigation of King Frederick II, today’s existing barracks were built. Needless to say, the castle no longer looks as it did in the medieval period: it decayed during the 18th and 19th centuries and was last restored in 1879. After lengthy discussions about the design of the structure, architect E. Hillebrand started the restoration project in 1886. On April 24, 1888 revealed the new Gothic style building, complete with ballroom, restaurant, and museum. In 1900 the courtyard was established, including a statue of Emperor Wilhelm II, created by Fritz Schaper


I talked about a statue of his grandfather (Wilhelm I) in the Nurnberg newsletter. While his grandfather was called “Wilhelm the Great”, Wilhelm II gets a more specific “The Great Elector” label. Wilhelm II was the last German Emperor and King of Prussia, ruling both the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from June 15, 1888 to November 9, 1918. The German Emperor Wilhelm I died in Berlin on March 9, 1888, and Prince Wilhelm’s father was proclaimed Emperor as Frederick III. He was already suffering from an incurable throat cancer and spent all 99 days of his reign fighting the disease before dying. On June 15th of that same year, his 29-year-old son succeeded him as German Emperor and King of Prussia. In 1918, the outbreak of the German Revolution forced him to give up his crown to both Germany and Prussia, and to be exiled to the Netherlands. To sum up a huge chunk of history here, Wilhelm II was eventually accused of starting the Great War (WWI), contributing heavily to Nazi Germany’s defeat, and of having foreign policies which brought mostly chaos to the empire (“a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties”). He was never brought back to Germany to face any charges.

During WW II, the Bombing of Bielefeld on September 30, 1944 severely damaged Sparrenburg…only the tower remained intact. From 1948 to 1987 was even MORE clean-up and restoration work.


In 2008 the ruins of a previous version of the main castle area were unearthed by archaeologists, in the shape of a large rectangular building. The architectural clues such as “Sockelschrägen” (door jambs, probably from 1500), tell us the building was divided into five rooms.

Here is one of the views from the fortress wall…


I see another church steeple in the distance…will I make it there?…you’ll find out!

I decided to walk down the opposite side of the castle, so I can explore more of the fortress’ lower walls…


I know it looks like another blue screen scene, but I’m actually standing right there by the wall! I used the camera’s flash, so that’s why my coloring looks so much more vibrant than the scene behind me. Yeah…and maybe my hair furthers the contrast!


Check out my hat and my bangs…loads of snowflakes still intact! As well as wet hair, and I’ve probably been out less than an hour!

After I got to the base of the mountain, I circled around, back towards the church and downtown, hoping to see more sights since I had more time to spare. The next big building I saw, according to the sign over the entrance, is a gymnasium, believe it or not!


Across the street is a statue of Otto von Bismarck-Schönhausen, Duke of Lauenburg…


Bismarck was a prominent European aristocrat and statesmen of the nineteenth century. As Prime Minister of Prussia from 1862 to 1890, he engineered the unification of Germany. Thereafter, he served as the first Chancellor of the German Empire from 1871 to 1890. To say the least, he and Wilhelm II had a very strained business relationship, which ended in Wilhelm forcing him to retire!

I walked down a few more streets, following that 2nd tall church steeple I’d seen from the fortress, and shortly arrived at Jodokus Church. This former Franciscan monastery church was built by the monks in 1511. It was originally on the Jostberg city outskirts, but was relocated into Bielefeld due to the lack of water supply and the need for closeness to the Bielefeld citizens. The monastery eventually dissolved in 1829. Also called the Holy Jodokus (Jodokus Church), the church was dedicated to St. Francis.


Then I found ANOTHER church!…


The Old Town Nicolai Church is the oldest church of Bielefeld (Altstädter Nicolaikirche). It is a Gothic hall church with a height of 81.5 m (267 ft). It was founded (when it was only a chapel) in 1236 by the Bishop of Paderborn, and enlarged at the beginning of the 14th century. The church destroyed from top to bottom during the WW II bomb attack, and later rebuilt. The construction of the original full church was approximately 1308. It is not documented why St. Nicholas was given the patronage over the church. The fact that Nicholas is the patron saint of merchantsm, and the old town of Bielefeld was a city of merchants and trade, is one popular reason.

During the Reformation, the Church played an important role for Bielefeld, as it became the first Lutheran church in the city in 1542.

In 1706 the medieval church tower collapsed, partly due to decay, and went through reconstruction twice until 1739. WWII caused its destruction (yet another one bites the dust!), and 10 years later the church was rebuilt. It reopened with a church service on September 30, 1954. Three times a day, a carillon can be heard. A small museum housed within illustrates the history of the church up to WW II.

In the park next to the Nicolai Church stands the Linen Weaver Fountain (Leineweber-Brunnen). This bronze figure, created by the sculptor Hans Perathoner in 1909, commemorates the importance of linen manufacturing for the economic development of the town.

It was so wet and cold that, for the first time on my walkabouts, my camera lens accumulated enough moisture that the outside temperature prevented me from wiping it all off! Below you can see some of my camera struggles…


But I finally worked off most of the moisture from the lens…yay!


The statue was modelled after the linen weaver Heinrich Heienbrok from Jöllenbeck. With his pipe, gnarled stick and tool bag, the linen weaver is a symbol of the area’s industriousness and, after Sparrenburg Castle, Bielefeld’s best known landmark. The Linen Weaver Statue celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009.

Next stop, Old City Hall…


The Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus) was built in 1904 and still serves the same function. Its facade features elements of various architectural styles, including Gothic and Renaissance. Though the mayor still holds office in the Old City Hall, most of the city’s administration is housed in the adjacent New City Hall (Neues Rathaus), a modern extension completed in the 1980s.

Next door to the Old City Hall is the City Theatre…


The City Theater (Stadttheater), also built in 1904, is part of the same architectural ensemble as the Old City Hall – an interesting mix of Baroque and Art Nouveau styles. It has a notable Jugendstil facade, is Bielefeld’s largest theater (and one of the largest theaters in the region), and is home of the Bielefeld Opera. Stadttheater opened in 1904 with a performance of Schiller’s Joan of Arc. To fulfill the requirements of a modern opera and theatre venue, the original building was extensively restored, re-opening in summer 2006.

Seeing all I could see in the time alloted, I began the “most abhorred” uphill journey, to-date, of the tour. Back up and over the bridge…


…across the hill, through the back yards, up the hotel stairs…


…and – wow – I’m soaking wet from sweating on the inside and being constantly snowed on on my outside! I was a drowned kitten! I walked back into the hotel lobby, trying to slow my breath down and “look cool” as I walked to the elevators, with only my hairdryer on my mind…got to my door and my key didn’t work! I caught Rodney heading out of his room and asked if I could borrow his hair dryer before going back downstairs to get a new key from the front desk…how’s that for vain?! But I looked tow-up, people!!!

After drying my hair, replacing my key, drinking lots of water, and stretching after the impromptu uphill aerobic half hour trek, I zipped up my suitcases and headed to the bus.

We drove to a neighboring city called Lemgo. Our venue, below, is normally used for sports events, so they had to set up chairs on the floor level for the show…


And here’s Jesse, looking attentively, yet aloofly, at my camera during mic check and blocking…


And finally…yet another small space in which I will be dancing tonight. The free time us backup singers get during the day is balanced by the lack of space we get on stage at night!


I hope you’re nice and warm, having snuggled up with your computer and whatever loved ones are around as you’ve read this newsletter, since I am doing none of that! Somebody email me some sunshine and lovin’!!!

Have a great day and I’ll be emailing you again soon:)