The Rheinau Park in Bonn is spread over 160 hectares of greenery and extends across the left and right banks of the Rhine. It was the site of the National Horticultural Show in 1979 and has been a pleasure park ever since. There are many lovely spots to visit like the Rose Garden, the Japanese Zen Garden, the garden for visually handicapped, and a totem pole 6.5meters high, which was a gift from the Canadian government.
Most visitors to the park barely glance at a large circular red wood slab eight feet in diameter, with a hole in the centre. It is mounted on an oak platform and is a gift from the United States to the City of Bonn, on its 2000 year anniversary and the 40th anniversary of the founding of the GDR. This piece of California red wood is 750 years old and has travelled a long distance from North Carolina, by ship from Oakland to Rotterdam and then by train to its resting place in Rheinau Park.
On closer inspection one sees tiny brass plaques embedded in the concentric circles of its girth, that mark important events like the formation of GDR in 1949, John Kennedy’s death, Beethoven’s birth, the inaugural performance at Beethoven Hall etc.
On 31st May 1989, Mrs. Barbara Bush gifted the red wood slab to the City of Bonn as a symbol of lasting friendship between USA and Germany.
She said, “I hope passersby will enjoy the red wood slab and I also hope they’ll be reminded of the close ties of friendship between our people.”
Hans Daniels the Mayor of Bonn thanked Mrs. Bush for the gift and for the help of America in rebuilding the Republic of Germany after the war. Hannelore Kohl said it would remind visitors of the ‘continuity of the world.’
The red wood slab stands proudly on the windswept knoll in Rheinau Park but very few visitors give it more than a passing glance and recall its significance.
By Eva Bell