Linz am Rhein: A German town from the pages of a storybook

Linz am Rhein

No one knows exactly when the town of Linz, about 18 miles down the Rhine River from Bonn in Germany, was founded. The oldest records anyone can find of the town are dated 874.

It’s a little boggling for this American to think that this town has existed for well more than a millennium, long before modern Germany existed. It survived a lot of regimes, a lot of changing country borders, and a lot of wars. But so did many other German and European cities and towns. Here in the United States, while a surprising number of cities and towns predate the American Revolution — about 100 — for the most part, anyplace you are was founded after that. Compared to Linz, your town is but a youngster.

Today the town is the seat of a municipality called Linz am Rhein (Linz on the Rhine). To us, it looked like the municipality and town names were used interchangeably.

I’ve seen photographs of utter devastation in Germany after World War II. Cologne in particular, not far up the Rhine River, lay in complete waste but for the enormous Cologne Cathedral. Yet here is Linz, looking for all the world like it spent the war in a protective bubble off which bombs merely bounced.

Linz am Rhein

I’m confident that I’m showing my ignorance of history as I write this article. Perhaps there were places less affected, perhaps there were places entirely spared. Perhaps some damaged places were carefully restored or even rebuilt to original spec. Whatever Linz’s story was, here it is looking like the pages of a storybook.

Linz am Rhein

Most of the town’s roads lead to the wide plaza at its center. Here we found lots of shops and little restaurants. We took our lunch under the white umbrella.

Linz am Rhein

The sign on the left advertises this bistro’s Flammkuchen, a kind of flatbread. Some of them are savory and make a fine lunch, and some of them are sweet and make a fine dessert. Margaret had one of the savory Flammkuchen for lunch here.

Linz am Rhein

Notice the pavement, which is laid out in a fan pattern. This was once a common way to arrange paving blocks, even in the United States. (I found the last remnant of a street paved this way in Indianapolis; see it here.)

Linz am Rhein

On Linz’s streets, the fans alternate gray and red. For these streets to look this fresh, these pavers have to be well maintained and perhaps even replaced after many decades or centuries of use.

Linz am Rhein

As a Midwestern American, I’m used to streets being arranged in neat grids. That’s not so in the parts of Europe we’ve explored!

Linz am Rhein

As a lifelong Hoosier who has always lived in the northern part of Indiana, I’m also used to cities and towns being flat. Linz was built up on the rolling terrain just as it was found.

Linz am Rhein

We spent a whole day in Linz. There’s a lovely old church on a hill, which we toured, and I’ll probably share in a later article. We also walked along the Rhine River. But here I’m focusing just on the old city center.

Linz am Rhein

This is the historic town hall in Linz, the oldest town hall in the German state Linz is in (Rheinland-Palatinate) that still serves as a town hall. It was built in 1517.

Linz am Rhein

As we stood in the plaza near the town hall, bells began to ring. I took the opportunity to record them with a video on my phone, and turn to take in the panoramic scene around me.

Finally, on many buildings we noticed words painted like this. We felt sure that they told a story. Despite my moderate abilities speaking German, I didn’t always track with the words used or the syntax. I had to look up the word Gesell below, which I guess means fellow. So this says to me, “poor fellow for the rich into hell.” What? Perhaps this fragment makes more sense in its wider context.

Linz am Rhein

I loved spending the day in Linz. But while here I learned a really important lesson. By late afternoon I could feel that my battery was almost drained. But I knew we are unlikely ever to pass this way again, so I kept going. Finally I was past the point where I needed to sit and take a good long break. We found a little pastry shop and stopped for cake and coffee. I was so tired that I struggled mightily to understand the proprietor’s German, and to respond to her in words she could understand. Even when I used some English, she didn’t catch my drift and return the favor. Despite English being widely spoken in Germany, that doesn’t mean everybody can do it, or is willing to do it. We finally got the job done, but I’m sure I frustrated her. I felt pretty vulnerable in that interaction. I didn’t enjoy the feeling.

Our future travels will be to places where I don’t know the language. I think it will be even more important for me to heed my inner energy warning signals as we will need to successfully surmount the language barrier.

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11 responses to “Linz am Rhein: A German town from the pages of a storybook”

  1. Cynthia Avatar

    “Das ist das beste in der Welt, dass Tod und Teufel nimmt kein Geld, sonst müsste mancher arme Gesell für den Reichen in die Höll’.”

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I see you are familiar with this!

  2. William Smith Avatar
    William Smith

    Tarte Flambé in France. Had it in Strasbourg and it is yummy.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, I read that this is kind of a regional thing along the German-French border?

      1. Shirley B. Avatar
        Shirley B.

        Flammkuchen used to indeed be a regional specialty.

        During the last decade, it’s become quite popular though. A lot of restaurants (even in The Netherlands and Austria) have it on their menu. It’s also available in many supermarkets and that’s when you know it’s become normal.

        Fresh is still best, though.

  3. Suzassippi Avatar

    Lovely town photographs!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you!

  4. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    Great post. The first time I went to the UK having grown up in New Zealand, which was settled by European people only 200 years ago it was like having my internal clock reset…here if something is 100 years old it is considered a heritage building!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Much the same in the midwestern US. Anything older than about 1875 just seems ancient.

  5. J P Avatar

    Since becoming interested in church history a number of years ago, I have become used to reminders of what a speck the last couple of hundred years have been in human history. The cake and coffee sound delicious at the moment.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yet these last couple hundred years are crazy important to us now in a way that all the years before aren’t. Not saying that’s right, just saying that’s what it is.

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