NOW probably you, like me, had never heard of Siegburg.
If you look it up on www.siegburg.de you will see that their slogan is "The discovery town", which is true!
I had not intended to go there. I was taking one of those cheaper flights from Edinburgh to Koln, and then going on to join up with some pals in Karlsruhe the next day.
To stay in Koln or Bonn was expensive, and someone suggested Siegburg, as it is on the railway line that I would be travelling on anyway, and most trains stop there including trains direct from the airport station.
I searched the internet and found a good hotel, the Hotel Zum Stern. From the modern railway station it is a short stroll up through the pedestrianised shopping area to the large market place.
It was evening, and the traders were packing away the unsold fruit and vegetables, and clothes and household goods – quite a mixture of things and a quite large market obviously.
On my left I saw a large hanging golden stern (star) showing me the way. The hotel is good, and the breakfast buffet is an exaggeration of a buffet! There is nothing that you can think of that is not there on offer – well recommended.
I asked the lassie on reception what there was to see in Siegburg – old buildings or castles; she replied that there was nothing to see really. Behind her was a large picture of a lovely old building – she explained that it was a house in Bonn – all the pictures are of Bonn because there is nothing interesting in Siegburg.
Well, I dumped by bag and went out to see anyway. The market place has a fine war memorial, then up a lane at one side there was a short stiff walk up to St Michael's – a 950 year old Benedictine monastery with elaborate gardens packed into odd shaped bits of ground squeezed around the volcanic plug that the monastery sits on, with panoramic views over the countryside.
I could see the cathedral, looking like it is made from icing sugar, all pink and white, so I went down to have a look. This remarkable building is dedicated to St. Servatius, and construction started in 1170. Beside it is a parish house that was originally built in 1250 – and another house dated 1770 nearby.
Walking further around, there is a modern shopping area, all pedestrianised, and suddenly I came across a peculiar colourful little building looking like a giant church bell – this turned out to be the old hospital chapel – what did she mean when she said there was nothing interesting in Siegburg?
She must be like many young people, cannot see anything interesting in the place where she was brought up – it is all familiar to her. She had given me a tip to go to eat at the Peperoni restaurant (www.peperoni-siegburg.de) and this proved to be spot on. It has a great menu, at extremely good prices.
The next day I went off on the trip, and returned to Siegburg on the Saturday evening. I went to the Peperoni and was greeted like an old friend, which impressed me! On the Sunday morning I would go to mass across the square in the Cathedral, it was Palm Sunday so the mass started outside, and carrying bunches of Box Wood twigs the large congregation made a procession through the streets around the cathedral before going inside.
After mass the square was filling up, with the equivalent of a car boot sale without the cars. Stalls, or even just a blanket on the ground, were proliferating everywhere, and it was interesting to wander around looking at what was on offer.
In one corner of the market place is the town museum. On its side wall is a battery of bells, and on the hour these peal out a very melodious tune, which is different every time! The door was open, so I went in as it is the tourist office as well.
A very glamorous and friendly lady asked of she could help me. Now unfortunately she had no English, and my German is very, very limited. As we were trying to converse, a man came past (on his way to the toilet) and asked of he could help. He kindly took me round the museum, explaining the pottery, which Siegburg was famous for in past centuries, and the significance of the chunks of wall that are here and there.
The town was well defended by an extensive wall, going all up to the St Michael's monastery, and having seven elaborate towers or gates.
When their trading pact with the Dutch collapsed (mainly because we were at war with the Dutch and stopped their trade) the town council sold the stones from the walls to make ends meet. There is one large section of crumbling wall (leaning over at an angle) alongside an attractive little park with a fountain just off one street, and this is another section of the original wall.
Just beyond the hill of St. Michaela, there is a printing ink works, he said the Siegburg is the fourth largest producer of newspaper printing ink in the world and the factory employs 1,000 people.
It was fascinating to hear the story of the town from an enthusiastic local, then his mobile rang – he looked at the screen and said "Oh – it's my wife; she and the children are still outside wondering where I have got to!" They must have thought that he had been locked in the loo! He had to hurry off.
Meanwhile, the glamorous lady had got me some leaflets and a booklet. I thanked her and went into the museum café for tea and irresistible cake, and to see where I would go next.
There is a lot to discover in this friendly town, and when I was lost, I asked a lady who was walking her dog the direction to the market square, and she insisted on seeing me to the right corner and sending me off in the right direction.
Siegburg definitely IS a place to discover. With a population of just 40,000 people, it is overshadowed by Koln and Bonn, and although it does not have the picture postcard charm of the small towns along the Rhine, or the fame of the Black Forest, it is a friendly place and well worth a visit.