"The Heart of Europe . . ." Gelnhausen by Nemorino
Gelnhausen Travel Guide: 53 reviews and 98 photos
At the beginning of the year 2007 Romania and Bulgaria became members of the European Union (EU).
This had the effect of shifting the geographical center of the European Union 110 miles (177 km) to the east. So now the geographical center is at 50° 10′ 21″ North, 9° 9′ 0″ East, which is a point in a wheat field in the Kinzig Valley, within the city limits of Gelnhausen, Land Hessen, Germany.
From May 2004 to December 2006 the mid-point of the EU was in the German village of Kleinmaischeid (population 1,300), about 25 miles southeast of Bonn. Before that it was in the Belgian town of Viroinval. There is an institute in Paris called the Institut Géographique National which keeps track of such things, for whatever reason.
Gelnhausen was founded in the twelfth century by the Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa, who built one of his many castles here.
Gelnhausen now advertises itself as "The Barbarossa City", and has restored the castle to the extent that you can visit without fearing that beams or rocks will fall on your head as you walk through.
Barbarossa himself, however, could not actually have spent much time in Gelnhausen. He reigned as Emperor of the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" for thirty-five years, but he seems to have spent most of those years on horseback, trying to preserve order in Germany, maintain control over his rebellious provinces in Italy and negotiate with the Pope.
The Italians were the ones who gave him the nickname Barbarossa, meaning Red Beard.
In later centuries a bizarre controversy arose in Germany about whether Barbarossa’s beard was really red (did they think the Italians were colorblind, or what?) or about whether he actually had a beard at all. To this day there is a saying in German Um des Kaisers Bart streiten (= to quarrel about the emperor’s beard), which means to waste time arguing about unimportant things.
The author Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen was born in this house in Gelnhausen sometime in the early 1620s -- five hundred years after the birth of Barbarossa.
A plaque on the house describes Grimmelshausen as "the greatest German writer of the 17th century", which he indisputably was, primarily because of his huge, brilliant and very graphic novel on the horrors of the Thirty Years' War, Simplicius Simplicissimus or The adventurous Simplicissimus.
The house is now a hotel, called the Grimmelshausen Hotel of course, and is next door to the Barbarossa Pharmacy in the Schmidtgasse.
Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen only lived in Gelnhausen as a child. After his father died, his mother re-married and moved to Frankfurt, but he stayed on in Gelnhausen with his grandfather until he was kidnapped by marauding soldiers at the age of twelve or so.
Photos: 1. Bicycle route R3 near Gelnhausen 2. The R3 in the woods upstream from Gelnhausen 3. ADFC hotline and... more travel advice
Gelnhausen as I remember it from the 1970s was an automotive nightmare, with huge creeping traffic jams extending the... more travel advice
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