It was September, 26, 2021, the German Election day. It was fitting for the moment to visit Unkel at the Rhine. Two very well known political figures in German history spent time there, one taking refuge from the Nazi’s
Unkel is one of the few places on the Middle Rhine with a car-free Rhine promenade. The path directly on the river bank invited me to stroll and it offered a fantastic view of Drachenfels and Rolandsbogen. On one of the numerous benches or in the café, I was able to relax and watch the ships and passenger boats on one of the busiest waterways in the world
At the Rhine promenade you will also find the piers of the Rhine day cruise ships
The home of former Chancellor Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt (1913 – 1992), was one of the most important post-war politicians in Germany and Europe. He lived 13 years of his life in Unkel, from 1979 until his death in 1992 in his house on the Rheinbüchel. It is here that he also wrote his book “Erinnerungen”, published in 1997. Brandt is Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Governing Mayor of Berlin, Foreign Minister, Vice Chancellor and, at the peak of his career, and at high hight Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The Willy-Brandt-Forum or Museum is located in the heart of the old town on Willy-Brandt-Platz. The museum commemorates the life and work of Willy Brandt, German Chancellor, Nobel Peace Prize winner and a citizen of Unkel
Unkel gave refuge to Konrad Adenauer to escape the Nazi’s
Konrad Adenauer (1876 – 1967) was the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1963. He found refuge from persecution and imprisonment during the Nazi regime in October 1935 in the Unkel “Pax-Heim”, where he lived in exile until April 1936.As a lawyer, Adenauer was already making a career for himself as a member of the Catholic Center Party during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. He later became mayor of the city of Cologne and president of the Prussian State Council. Adenauer is a co-founder and from 1950 to 1966 party chairman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU).
Parallel to Pützgasse, Vogtsgasse leads you directly to Unkeler Marktplatz. I passed the Rheinhotel Schulz and arrived at the market square directly at the Willy Brandt Museum. From the market square, I headed north to the end of the pedestrian zone and there I found the entrance to the Villa Henkel. From there I extended my walk along the Fritz-Henkel Park at the northern end of Unkel.
Fritz Henkel, the founder of my favorite washing liquid Persil
Fritz Henkel (1875 – 1930), was the son of company founder Friedrich Karl Henkel and became partner of the company in 1904. He subsequently developed the Henkel company into a global corporation.
In 1915, the family built the country estate “Haus Henkel” in Unkel in the middle of a large area. As a generous new citizen, he helped the town of Unkel on many occasions.
Henkel gave the town a fire brigade, the first motor pump and a fire truck. He donated a soccer field to the sports club. In 1928, in gratitude for his charity, the city made him an honorary citizen. The former “Elisabeth-Strasse” where he lived was renamed “Fritz-Henkel-Strasse”.
The Henkel Charity stays in the family: around 90 years later, Fritz Bagel, grandson of Fritz Henkel, was also made an honorary citizen of Unkel for his support of the city of culture and art.
On the way back to the city center it took me along the Rhine promenade through the Bürgerpark, past the Fritz Henkel estate and a newly restored section of the city wall.
On the way to the city center I passed the Pützgasse, which gets its unique character from the close-packed half-timbered houses.
At the entrance to the Pützgasse alley is the eponymous Pütz, meaning fountain in a Rheinish dialect.
The densely built and excellently maintained half-timbered houses date from the 17th and 18th century.
Also a visit to the “Lämmlein” is worthwhile
Pützgasse is pure Rhine romance
The Pützgasse leads back to the Rhine promenade.
Freiligrath house at the Rhine Promenade
The Freiligrath house is located at the exit of Pützgasse, directly on the Rhine promenade. The poet Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810-1876) lived here in 1839 and 1840. He was one of the most important voices of the German Vormärz and was also called the “trumpet of the revolution”. Freiligrath experienced his formative time as a poet in Unkel. It was here that he met his partner Ida Melos. He campaigned for the reconstruction of the destroyed Roland arch. The family of the composer Carl Loewe later also lived here.