One of Bonn’s main claims to fame is that it is where Beethoven was born, and a visit to the composer’s birth house is an important stop on many tourists’ itinerary. When we arrived, a large group was gathered around the outside of the building, which is more or less in the centre of town, and a line of about ten people were waiting for tickets inside. Entrance is €5, but if you have a Bonn Welcome Card like we did, it’s included.
We were given an information brochure in English, which turned out to be very useful as all the signs in the house itself were in German only. From the ticket office, you pass through a small shop and find yourself in a courtyard between the two houses that comprise the complex. The one on the left was Beethoven’s house, the one on the right is the home of the digital archives studio, where you can listen to and see Beethoven’s work in a digital format — a great idea.
We stopped in there then headed down into the basement of the same house to experience “Fidelio, 21st Century”, a modern interpretation of one of Beethoven’s most famous operas. It was awesome, and this by itself was worth the entrance price. We were given 3D glasses so that we could see the “characters” in three dimensions; these are each represented by a different abstract shape. In the centre of the room are four columns topped by devices (ropes, a ball, arrows, a joystick) which viewers can use to move the characters around the screen.The opera is sung in German but subtitles explain what’s going on. You can also read the story in the brochure or on one of the laminated pages in the waiting room; in addition, our guide explained the plot before the performance began.
After this interactive experience, the museum itself was quite dull; three floors of pretty standard museum exhibitions. The life and death masks were interesting to see, as were the hearing trumpets, but otherwise nothing really stood out — if you’re not a hard-core Beethoven fan, just seeing the outside of the building is enough to tick this “must-see” off your bucket list.
That said, I’d highly recommend a visit to the Beethoven-Haus for the interactive opera in the basement — it was really an experience like no other.