Hotel Haus Daheim

Elisabethenstrasse 42, Bad Homburg, Hesse, 61348, Germany
Hotel Haus Daheim
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More about Bad Homburg vor der Höhe


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Susette Gontard, Hölderlin's DiotimaSusette Gontard, Hölderlin's Diotima

2. In a bus in Bad Homburg2. In a bus in Bad Homburg

Travel Tips for Bad Homburg vor der Höhe

18th century printing and publishing in Hebrew

by Nemorino

Homburg in the 18th century had not only a large Jewish community with a large and active synagogue, it also had a printing and publishing house that brought out numerous publications in Hebrew between 1710 and 1757.

There is a small display on this in the historical museum of the Gothic House.

Tannenwaldweg 102, Bad Homburg
GPS 50°14'2.47" North; 8°34'28.85" East

The Oak Trees on the Hölderlin Path

by Nemorino

1. Signpost with the text of Hölderlin's poem "The Oak Trees".
2. The poem and some trees -- not only oak trees, however, and not terribly majestic.

Shortly before the Hölderlin Path reaches Bad Homburg there is a signpost with the complete text of one of Hölderlin's most famous poems, "The Oak Trees".

Admittedly the trees in the background are not only oak trees, and they are all quite scrawny compared to the towering trees in Hölderlin's poem, standing "like a nation of Titans" in the mountains and seizing space with their powerful arms, their sunny tops "pointed serenely and majestically" towards the sky.

But don't let that bother you, okay? In the 22 kilometers between the center of Frankfurt and the center of Bad Homburg there don't happen to be any mountains or towering oak trees, so this is the best location they could find.

In the poem Hölderlin contrasts the proud and splendid oak trees to his own life of servitude, and says he would gladly come and live among the oak trees if only his heart, which can't stop loving, didn't chain him to human society.

The poem is of course in German, but you can click here for an English translation. Here's the German text:

Die Eichbäume
Aus den Gärten komm ich zu euch, ihr Söhne des Berges!
Aus den Gärten, da lebt die Natur geduldig und häuslich,
Pflegend und wieder gepflegt mit dem fleißigen Menschen zusammen.
Aber ihr, ihr Herrlichen! steht, wie ein Volk von Titanen
In der zahmeren Welt und gehört nur euch und dem Himmel,
Der euch nährt` und erzog, und der Erde, die euch geboren.
Keiner von euch ist noch in die Schule der Menschen gegangen,
Und ihr drängt euch fröhlich und frei, aus der kräftigen Wurzel,
Unter einander herauf und ergreift, wie der Adler die Beute,
Mit gewaltigem Arme den Raum, und gegen die Wolken
Ist euch heiter und groß die sonnige Krone gerichtet.
Eine Welt ist jeder von euch, wie die Sterne des Himmels
Lebt ihr, jeder ein Gott, in freiem Bunde zusammen.
Könnt ich die Knechtschaft nur erdulden, ich neidete nimmer
Diesen Wald und schmiegte mich gern ans gesellige Leben.
Fesselte nur nicht mehr ans gesellige Leben das Herz mich,
Das von Liebe nicht läßt, wie gern würd ich unter euch wohnen.

Update: Thanks to VT member csordila (Laszlo) for pointing out that this poem is written in dactylic hexameters, which he says reminds him of the Greek epics.

Hölderlin was indeed a big fan of ancient Greek poetry, and he spent the winter of 1803-04 translating two classic Greek verse plays by Sophocles, Oedipus Rex and Antigone, into German. When these translations were published in the spring of 1804 they were rejected by traditionally-minded reviewers and in fact were taken as proof of Hölderlin's insanity.

Later generations recognized the brilliance of these translations, however, and they have even been trans-translated into English (unusual -- a translation of a translation!) under the title Hölderlin's "Sophocles": Oedipus and Antigone translated by David Constantine and published in 2001.

Kurhaus Bad Homburg

by Nemorino

1. Kurhaus Bad Homburg.
2. Tourist information office in the Kurhaus.

Since Bad Homburg is a spa town it of course has to have a Kurhaus or "spa house" to provide activities for the visitors, some of whom have prolonged stays here for rehabilitation purposes.

The Kurhaus here is a modern building which includes a theater, a shopping center, two cafés and of course an underground parking garage. It also includes a tourist information office with a helpful staff.

What's so BAD about a place like Bad Homburg? Click here to find out.

Bad Homburg has been a spa since 1834, but it was officially known merely as "Homburg" until 1912, when the city was finally given state permission to add the coveted word "Bad" to its name.

Hölderlin in Bad Homburg

by Nemorino

Bad Homburg vor der Höhe is now an affluent suburb of Frankfurt am Main.
In the 19th century, Bad Homburg -- or just "Homburg", as it was officially called until 1912 -- was a fashionable spa for the rich and powerful, and before that it was the seat of silly little landgraviate (sort of like a minor-league duchy) called Hessen-Homburg.

Frankfurt and Bad Homburg are now connected (since June 2008) by a well-marked 22-kilometer walking and cycling trail called the Hölderlin Pfad (Hölderlin Path), named after the poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843), who used to walk from Bad Homburg to Frankfurt very often -- but not daily, as an exaggerated local legend asserts -- to catch a glimpse of his beloved Susette Gontard and on a good day even cop a kiss or at least exchange love letters by secretly passing them through the hedge when nobody was looking.

Susette was married to a wealthy Frankfurt merchant named Jakob Friedrich Gontard. In 1796 they hired Friedrich Hölderlin, a recent theology graduate, as a private teacher for their children. This was a common occupation for young intellectuals in those days, before they got established as professors, like Hölderlin's friend and former roommate Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, or before they drifted off into incurable insanity as Hölderlin himself eventually did.

It was love at first sight between Hölderlin and Susette, but he was well aware that as a resident teacher the worst thing he could do would be to have a love affair with the lady of the house, so he suffered in silence and started rewriting his novel-in-progress, Hyperion, to make his hero's beloved Diotima more like Susette.

This was all very well for an idealistic poet, but Susette wanted more so she soon took the initiative, passed him on the stairs at every opportunity, spoke to him, told him how she felt. Before long they were spending hours together while her husband was off at work. She soon knew she was Diotima, and read every word he wrote.

In the summer of 1796 a French army was threatening to attack Frankfurt, so Susette fled with the children -- and their teacher! -- to Bad Driburg in Westfalen, leaving her husband behind to protect his business and the family property. In Bad Driburg Susette and Hölderlin had an idyllic summer together, before returning to Frankfurt and their life of secrecy.

It took another two years before even Susette's husband realized what was going on, but then in September 1798 he finally fired Hölderlin and ordered his children never to mention their teacher's name again.

After losing his teaching job at the Gontards, Hölderlin moved to nearby Bad Homburg at the suggestion of his old friend Isaac von Sinclair, who lived and worked there as a minister in the government of the Landgrave of Hessen-Homburg. In the next two years Hölderlin finished the second volume of his novel Hyperion and wrote numerous poems that were not widely appreciated at the time but which later established his reputation as one of the most brilliant poets of his generation.

These two years, 1798-1800, were the years of his now-famous walks from Bad Homburg to Frankfurt and back.

Later Hölderlin returned to Bad Homburg for another two years, 1804-1806, but that was a very different time. Susette was dead, so there was no longer any reason for him to walk to Frankfurt. Hölderlin still had some lucid periods in which he wrote great poetry, but during these two years it gradually became clear that insanity was taking hold of him, and in 1806 his friend Sinclair reluctantly agreed to have him forcibly removed to an asylum in Tübingen. He lived for 37 more years, but never really recovered.


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