This is a special post: it’s about Juelich, my current home town – a small town “in the middle of nowhere” between Cologne, Duesseldorf and Aachen. Surounded by sugar beet fields and huge surface mines, the area is not really a touristic hotspot. However, 2000 years of history still pop up here and there.
Juelich, my current home town. Small, rural, unexcited – and with beautiful sights throughout the year.
The post features pictures taken at various occasions – so this is not a kind of “travel report”, but a summary of how Juelich looks like, in spring, summer, autumn and winter. And despite being a pretty unknown town in a pretty unspectacular area (at least regarding touristic highlights), you may find it quite pretty.
Let’s start with Juelich’s most famous building:
built between 1518 and 1548 by the famous Italian Architect Allesandro Pasqualini. It used to be a typical Renaissance fortress within a Renaissance city, as you can depict in this model:
Typically, the Citadel includes a castle in the center, surrounded by thick walls (10-20 meters) and moats.
There are two entrances, in fact curved tunnels through the walls, called “Poterne”, crossing the moats either by a bridge (the southern entrance) or a dam (northern Poterne).
The tunnels are curved to avoid cannon balls getting directly through.
The Citadel Renaissance Chapel
The Renaissance castle – in fact almost never used as a castle, but for many years (during Napoleonic times) as barracks for the army – has been almost completely destroyed during the second world war. The only original part still standing is the chapel:
After the war, modern buildings were added to the Chapel. Nowadays, the Citadel hosts the municipal “Gymnasium Zitadelle”, the major school in Juelich, and a museum. Due to the historic environment and the impressive Citadel walls, it’s certainly one of the most remarkable and beautiful schools in Northrhine-Westfalia.
In the 1970ies, the company RWE started to extract brown coal in the area around Juelich by opencast mining. Most of the surface mines are still active, and Juelich is surrounded by four huge “holes”, each several kilometers long and wide. The digging of the holes lead to a considerable decrease of the groundwater table, and concomitantly to geological downcasts along certain geological “lines”. One of these “lines” crosses the Citadel area, leading to a downcast of large parts of the school building. If you look at this photo…
…you will see that the left part of the building is about half a meter lower than the right part. The downcast happened many years ago and quite fast, and nowadays, the building in maintained in the current state by huge spiral springs underneath. Within the building, there are three steps on each floor that got “divided” into two levels.
Leaving the Citadel on the city center side, there’s a small “castle park”, which is a popular playground for kids.
From the Park you’ll have a great view of the outer citadel walls, which are really impressive, in spring…
…as well as in autumn:
Next to it, the main shopping area starts, including lots of cafes and icecream parlours – this one called “Panciera” is the favorite among the locals:
From the Castle Park area there’s a pedestrian zone that stretches into western direction to the church square…
and, right next to it, the market square – both places popular spots for sitting outside, day and evening.
Hexenturm – Witch Tower
Just a few hundred meters down from the market square there’s the second historic building of Juelich, the “Hexenturm” or “witch tower” in English. It‘s a medieval building including a gothic city gate, built at the beginning of the 14th century.
However, this is not the oldest building of Juelich – Juelich has been established as a “vicus”, a small town, more than 2000 years ago in Roman times. Being located at a passage over the river “Rur”, it was conveniently located between the important Roman city of Cologne and Belgium. Still, if you start digging in the ground in the Juelich area, you might end up finding remains from Roman times.
Another historic site in Juelich is the so-called “Brueckenkopf” Park. The “Brueckenkopf” or bridgehead of Juelich, a fast fortress, dates back to Napoleon and was built in the early nineteenth century to secure the Rur passage.
It consists of several bastions that are preserved quite well, and hosts today a popular park, including several playgrounds, water channels and even a small zoo.
Along the river Rur there used to be a very impressive alley of chestnuts, one of the most popular areas for walking and jogging. Unfortunately, many of the old trees have got infected by the horse-chestnut leaf miner, had to be cut down and were replaced by lime trees.
But some beautiful old trees are still remaining:
During autumn, the entire river area is very picturesque:
The river, framed by walkways on both sides, is attractive evenin winter:
Sometimes (about once every 10-15 years; the picture is from 2008) the winter gets so cold that the smaller creeks freeze and you can walk on them:
With these low temperatures, even plain garden trees look spectacular:
As mentioned above, Juelich is located in the middle of a rural area well-known for sugar beets. In fact, in summer you’ll see lots of green fields of sugar beet plants, and in autumn you will find huge piles of sugar beets everywhere:
Every autumn, the Brueckenkopf park celebrates a party called “autumn lights”. For three weeks, usually end of October till mid of November (2019 from 28.10. – 10.11.), lots of modern light installations illuminate the trees…
…in many different variations:
…and more illuminated trees…
…with the moon above:
And the ancient fortress buildings are also illuminated at night – quite a show:
Inside the fortress walls and bastions, many different installations surprise the visitors, drenching the rooms in red…
Some installations allow for interesting selfies – this is me with a human glass sculpture:
In the park, lots of different light sculptures are presented, like colorful circles…
or funny figures that animate the visitors to join them in dancing:
And last but not least: a short movie, showing a moving hearts, produced by a spray of water that serves as screen for the projection of the heart.
I’ll update the post with the 2019 “autumn lights”.
Finally, my personal favorite recipe (which I prepare only once a year, on Christmas day): Roast Christmas-Goose á la Marion
Recipe for 4 persons
- Small goose (3-4 kg)
- 3-4 small apples, skinned and cores removed, sliced into halves
- Herbs: Marjoram and Mugwort (Artemisia)
- Lots of Salt, very little pepper
Clean and dry the goose from inside and outside. Spread the inside with salt (at least 2 teaspoons, maybe more), a little bit of pepper, more Marjoram and a little bit of Mugwort. Stuff the apple halves into the goose and close the openings tight with cooking needles or sew them with cooking thread.
Put some hot water (maybe 200 ml) in a large casserole / roasting tin, place goose (breast side down) in the casserole and keep it for 1 hour per kg weight in the oven (180° C with top and bottom heat, maybe a little less if you use air circulation). Then place the goose on a cooking grate, spread it with saturated salt water and put it for another 30 minutes into the oven at high temperature (e.g. 220°C). Spread occasionally again with salt water. Observe carefully – you don’t want the gorgeous skin burnt. When ready, place the goose on a nice tray and carve it on the table after due admiration.
Serve with bread1 and/or potato dumplings, the apple halves from the inside of the goose, home-made red cabbage2 and green salad.
1 Bread dumplings: cut 4 dried bread rolls into small cubes, mix with 1 egg, 175 ml full fat milk, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt, a little bit of pepper and 1-2 tablespoons parsley. Form small balls (this amount should yield 5-8 dumplings). Heat water until cooking, put the dumplings into the bubbling water and immediately reduce the temperature. Let the dumplings with closed lid simmer for 18 minutes – ready!
2 Home-made red cabbage: slice a red cabbage (approx. 1 kg) into stripes (0.5 cm times 5-10 cm), fry briefly with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large casserole. Add salt (min. 2 teaspoons) and pepper, 100 ml of red vinegar / aceto de balsamico, 5 or more tablespoons sugar – you will have to taste and get the right mixture of salty, sweet and sour. Add the seasonings (8 black peppercorns, 5 juniper berries, 5 cloves – all together in a tea bag, makes removing them later easy) and cook for approx. 50 minutes, until the cabbage gets soft, but not too soft. Remove the “seasoning bag” and enjoy.
Greetings from Juelich!