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  • jahnerdavid

Rabbits, peacocks, and donkeys: Paderborn and Unna; and one spectacular sunset


Departed early for Paderborn and took the city train to the Frankfurt Central Station. I’m always impressed with the Frankfurt station and its immense canopies that stretch over the 24 main gates. Boarded the Inter-City-Express (ICE) and departed for Kassel. As we traveled north, I was quickly reminded at how beautiful this part of Germany is, with rolling, forested hills dotted with castles and towns. In some ways it feels like riding through a postcard, even after all these years.

I switched trains in Kassel and boarded a train bound for Paderborn. Once again, we passed through amazingly beautiful countryside with forests, pastures, and towns. We reached the height of the Eggegebirge near Altebeken and then began our descent into the valley below where Paderborn is located.

The city of around 150,000 was new for me, and I was greeted by a construction zone, as the central station is completely gutted and undergoing renovation. I found my way to the central part of the city and finally was able to locate the tourist information stand, where I spoke with a most helpful associate, Eddy, who is going through his three-year apprenticeship period. When I explained my goals for the afternoon and future visits to the city, he provided me with a wealth of information and options. He said to be sure to stop by to see him the next time I’m in town.

Armed with information, I set out to explore this 1,200-year-old Catholic-dominated city that was founded by Charlemagne at the springs of the Pader River, the shortest river in Germany. There are at least three monastery sites, a huge cathedral that Pope John Paul II visited, a large Catholic school and statues around town, including Libori, the patron saint of the city, that serve as constant reminders.

The cathedral is a mix of Romanesque and gothic, and there was a section of the altar dedicated to giving thanks to the harvest, since October 2nd was Erntedankfest (Giving Thanks for the Harvest). In the cloister section of the cathedral, you can find the famous window of the 3 hares that was become a symbol of the city. Even though there are only three ears, each hare has 2 ears. Near the window with the hares is a fountain with a peacock, which is connected to the story of the patron saint of the city, Libori.

In addition, there are several areas in the center of town where the springs of the Pader emerge and then converge to form the shortest river in the country. The city features buildings of many architectural styles to reflect its long history, including Romanesque, gothic, baroque, renaissance, and modern, and all can be found within the confines of the old city.

After several hours of exploring the city, I made my back to the train station and sought to get to my final destination of the day, Unna, about a 45-minute ride from Paderborn. Whenever anyone is traveling by train in Germany, they simply cannot do without the Deutsche Bahn app, as it provides real time updates for connections and delays. I was able to put together a different route than I originally planned by using the app, and only arrived in Unna 45 minutes later than expected. It was interesting to travel through the farmland of Westfalen and see the hills of the Eggegebirge and the Sauerland in the distance. Photos below.


Back when I first started teaching, we had an exchange with a school in Unna, the Ernst Barlach Gymnasium, so I went to Unna annually the first 4 years or so that I taught. The connection was made back in the day by the German Consultant at the Georgia Department of Education at the time, Horst Bussiek. The day in Unna with Horst and Traudl Bussiek was a treat and consisted of three main segments: a walk through the forest and farmland near their home in the village of Unna-Uelzen; a visit to the estate of Opherdicke between Unna and Holzwickede and a stroll through the pedestrian zone in the old city.

After breakfast we went for a long walk through the forested land not far from their home on the outskirts of Unna. We walked along a small stream that they said had been dry for most of the summer due to the intense heat and drought. Since the rains of late August and September, however, the area had greened up a lot and was quite nice. One of the highlights was seeing the oldest Plantane tree (it’s a type of sycamore tree) in all of Westfalen. It’s estimated to be between 250 – 300 years old and is 42 meters high (so around 150 feet). Unna is on the edge of the Ruhrgebiet industrial area and is located 20 kilometers east of Dortmund, so Horst pointed out how it’s important to remember that even in this densely populated area, there are still places where people farm and where you can escape and not see any buildings and experience nature.

After our walk, we journeyed to the south of Unna to the buildings that belonged to a large landowner quite typical for this region of the country. It is now used for art exhibitions, concerts, weddings, and other types of gatherings. Called a castle, it comes replete with a moat, but it was not ever used as such. This region of Germany is packed with lots of “water castles” – castles surrounded by moats – but they are decorative features. This particular one is called Opherdicke and the white exterior of the main building contrasted nicely with the stone and brick outer buildings used as barns back in the day. We had a delightful lunch including sparking rhubarb juice (it was delicious!) and enjoyed views of the Sauerland hills on the horizon, and it was warm enough that we could eat outside.

From there we made our way to the old part of Unna and had a walk around the town. The small family run department store, Schnückel, survived the pandemic and is still in operation, but there have been some changes along the other streets in the pedestrian zone. The city’s main church was under renovation last time I was in town due to damage from a terrible wind storm, but the steeple and damage has all been repaired. The new steeple hasn’t had time to oxidize yet (see pictures below). The market square features a statue of a man pulling a donkey, an Esel in German. the "Unna Esel" is the symbol of the city and stands for the stubborn, hard-working determination of the people.

There was still time for a quick coffee and cake in Bussiek’s yard before heading to the train station so I could catch the train back to Frankfurt (via Cologne) and Heusenstamm. The ride back went smoothly and the sunset over the Cologne Cathedral was spectacular. A fun time was had by all!

Paderborn, top to bottom, left to right:

Row 1: 3 hares, 3 ears; hare window & peacock fountain; Cathedral

Row 2: Thanksgiving altar; Mary column; City Hall

Row 3: Libori statue (and peacock); Cathedral and church museum

Unna, top to bottom, left to right

Row 1: Cologne Cathedral at sunset; Unna City Church; Unna Esel (donkey)

Row 2: Unna Esel and Market Square; Opherdicke; Forest near Unna

Row 3: With Traudl and Horst Bussiek; Oldest Platane in Westfalen



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