By the river Rhine

Having been the palace, the yellow university buildings stretch to the point on the banks of the river Rhine where the customs used to be collected. Now that taxes are no longer collected from passing ships, memorials have been erected for two famous university alumni.

Heinrich Heine was a student at the university at the same time as Ernst Moritz Arndt worked there as a professor. It is said that Heine attended some of Arndt’s lectures on language and the history of poetry although he had enrolled as a law student. Poetry suited him far better and he is now remembered as a poet of the Romantic period. The use of everyday language in his poetry means his poems are easily understood and he is one of the most quoted German poets.

Ernst Moritz Arndt is remembered for his strong nationalism. Some historians suggest his writings may have inspired the national socialist movement. Having died in 1860 he had no direct involvement with politics in the early 20th century though. During his lifetime he was perceived as a freedom fighter against Napoleon. The text quoted on his statue “The Rhine, Germany’s river, not Germany’s border” called for a return of lands occupied by France to Germany.

Turning my head to the right having read this text, I could see the river being referred to. Here, both sides of the Rhine are German, it is no longer the country’s border. The canon will have been part of the customs enforcement action rather than the border patrol.

The lookout on which I was standing, next to the canon is very high above the river level. A road and beautiful gardens are now between the viewpoint and where the ships pass.

The gardens commemorate Peter Joseph Lenné. Born into the family of royal gardeners in Bonn, his father encouraged his education. Peter Joseph Lenné studied botany and made a number of educational journeys to gardens around Europe. He settled in Potsdamm and became the Director General of the Royal Prussian Palace Gardens and Parks.


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