Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Bentleys Abroad {part 7} Kassel

After dad flew back to SA, mum still stayed for another week. It was so good to have her here, and we certainly saw most of Marburg. For her last weekend, we decided to take a day trip to Kassel. My grandmother spent some time in Kassel, where she studied to be a Kindergarten teacher, and so it was meaningful to visit there.

We set off on the train with very little idea about what we were doing. Many people had commented that there isn't much to see or do there, so we assumed it was a little town, and easily navigable. That was a silly assumption. Fortunately, mum had the idea to buy a map (genius!) and we plotted a vague route that should allow us to see a fair amount of the tourist-spots.

Heading out of the Hauptbahnhof, it felt really grungy and with people hanging out in the graveyard of a church, it freaked me out a little. Nevertheless, after some walking we got into the older area and one of the first things was St Martins Kirche. It's really impressive, and so interesting to see the different periods in which the church was built; started in 1364 and renovated and added onto a few times since.

Inside the church there's this giant monument; an epitaph to the Landgraf Philip and his wife, and the location where many in the family were buried. Standing at 12m tall, it is quite a memorial. It was damaged over the centuries, and eventually during WW2 it was walled up to protect it. Since then, it's been moved and restored.

From the church we wandered onward to the old city wall built in 1330. The water tower, intended to put out fires, is now a ruin, after it was damaged by a fire. The irony was not lost on us.

Continuing the walk, we got to the Garnisonskirche. Again, the ruins of it. And then another city wall. And then the Elizabeth Hospital. 

Maybe it was the grey weather. Maybe it was the first impression as we walked out the station. But I was already slightly disappointed with Kassel. Maybe not just disappointed, but saddened.

We'd come to see the town where my grandmother studied pre-World-War-Two. What we were confronted with, though, were the remains of what she had seen. I felt kind of haunted by the thought that she would have walked these streets when there weren't plaques on old buildings explaining what is was before it got bombed. Her life-time suddenly seemed so very, very far from mine, and yet it also made the war seem much closer. Kassel's downtown area was 90% destroyed, and I can only imagine how horrible it was to live in a city that burned for 7 days. The devastation of the war is just so evident.

It made me wander what my grandchildren will see one day, when they walk the streets that I do now - what events will have transpired and in what ways will the city bare testimony to them?

Anyway, we sat overlooking a dusty square and considered what to do. Mum had spotted a sign saying something about Wilhelmshohe, and after we looked it up online and realising how easy it would be to get there, we decided to consider going. It looked like it was going to rain, and even though we hadn't even reached the river yet, I was ready to move on.

Which means, we hopped on a tram and headed there. Such a good decision, and I'll share our experience there soon!


  1. Wow that does make the 2WW feel so much closer. I can understand why it would have been a bit of a heavy day trip. It is fun to imagine what your grandkids might see one day... Maybe even this blog, wow, hi Erica's grandkids.

  2. "It made me wander what my grandchildren will see one day, when they walk the streets that I do now - what events will have transpired and in what ways will the city bare testimony to them?" - such an interesting thought -- i've never really thought about it, but mainly because i imagine that things will change too much for me to project that far into the future -- or maybe it will the opposite? relatively little change? who knows :) lovely photos the church :)

  3. That's so crazy to think of how much the town has been changed in such a relatively short period of time--from when your grandma was young till now--that's really not long at all, when you think about it!

  4. sooo great to have that girl time with your mom! that church is beautiful!

  5. Absolutely, it was great! The church inside is really one of the prettiest I've seen, if there hadn't been a choir practicing I would have taken a photo of the front of it too.

  6. Not at all! I mean, the war ended 70ish years ago now... there are plenty of people who are still eye-witnesses!

  7. I imagine a lot will change, but I think that's largely the pessimist in me talking and imagining horrible things happening. But, who knows, Malcolm might win his nobel prize and then Marburg will have yet another claim to fame as the place where he studied! ;) :)