Koblenz is yet another one of these cities on the Rhine that have been there since Roman times. It is about an hour from Cologne by train, so as part of a birthday present for my girlfriend Carrie (who keeps sneaking into the pictures from my rolls, despite the fact that portraits aren’t usually my thing), we took advantage of that closeness, and of a mid-May holiday to spend a three-day weekend there.
Koblenz owes its name to what two thousand years of living language made out of the very descriptive Latin Castellum apud Confluentes. Koblenz is located at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. It is home to the “Deutsches Eck” or “German Corner,” a headland at just that confluence, where a massive statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I on horseback stands. Built in just-united Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, it was destroyed in World War II. After 1945, the pedestal, now sans emperor, served as a memorial to German unity. When the country was reunited in 1990, a controversy ensued about whether the long dead emperor should reascend his masonry throne. After all, he had once united the nation under the banner of war, and fought against democracy. Was this really a symbol the newly unified Germany should display at the end of the twentieth century? In the end, the city acquiesced and accepted a donor’s gift of a recreated Kaiser statue, and dissenting voices have largely died down.
It is odd to stand there, in the twenty-first century. To know that the historic postcard of a picture that every tourist takes of the memorial (selfies preferred) is a fake, and that perhaps we should all be thinking about which supposedly great men – and many fewer women – we honor with statues, and why.
Vividly, Koblenz is a symbolic place, and a place filled with symbols. If you stand at the German corner and look across the river, another landmark, Festung Ehrenbreitstein, dominates the view. An aerial tramway leads up to the expansive fortress. Having sightseen enough of emperor epigone, we ascended. What we found there, however, will be the subject of another roll.
Minolta XE-5 with the very very good 35/2.8 MD lens. Ektar 100 is exactly the film you want to give you the old-timey post card look of a touristy place. The XE-5 worked well for this roll, even though it would become more and more unreliable as the trip continued. Its shutter had been replaced during an extensive CLA, but the operation was only temporarily successful. The patient is still waiting for its final diagnosis, and possibly another operation.