Gelnhausen, Germany with Significant History
Posted on June 7, 2016
Gelnhausen is one of those medieval towns filled with those wonderful half-timbered houses from the Middle Ages.
Eva and I returned for the second time in two years, in part because it is less than an hour’s drive from the Frankfurt airport but also because we very much like our accommodations and hosts there. Our apartment is located on a slope just beyond the city gates where the forest and trails begin.
The house was built over 100 years ago in the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) by a wealthy doctor as a summer get-away home.
Gelnhausen played a very important role in ancient German history that shaped the whole character of Germany to this day. It was here that Frederick Barbarossa (Red Beard) built one of his strongholds and palaces and founded the town in 1170. He had become king of all the 1600 German principalities spread far and wide. Unlike France which more or less unified around this time and had a central power before 1400, Barbarossa made the fundamental decision to not unify the Germans. Despite German unification in 1871, there were still hundreds of political entities existing until after WWI. And it was only at that time that the Kingdom of Bavaria joined Germany. Unification has been a long, long process. Because of all this political division (but not cultural) Germany is a gem of a place to visit. Every little region has splendid things to see and do, like one is visiting hundreds of countries in one, in many ways.
Gelnhausen has two other claims to fame. The German writer Hans Jacob Christoph von Grimmelshausen takes the honor of writing Germany’s first novel, “The Adventurous Simplicissimus Being the Description of the Life of a Strange Vagabond Named Melchior Sternfels von Fuchshaim” in 1668. Believe it or not, I have read this fascinating, 800-page book from cover to cover, and Eva is doing the same in German, despite its antiquity and strangeness. Grimmelshausen was born in Gelnhausen and a good part of his novel took place around there.
There’s yet another famous fellow from Gelnhausen you have probably never heard of, a Mr. Johann Philipp Reis. He was an early inventor of the telephone. Unfortunately, despite worldwide effort, he could not get financing for its manufacture. Such a device was too risky a venture at the time. But Reis actually named his invention the telephone so he at least deserves to be remembered for that. After his death, Alexander Graham Bell, at the urging of his father who had witnessed the demonstration of Reis’s telephone in London, further developed the device and the rest of course is history.
The remainder of this post is a collection of photos of things I found interesting during our five day stay in this charming town.