No, this is not the house where Grimmelshausen lived when he was the Sheriff or Mayor or Magistrate of Renchen from 1667 to 1676. His house, wherever it was, was burnt to the ground by French troops in 1689 along with nearly everything else in Renchen.
The house that is now called the Simplicissimus House, next door to the town hall, was built in the 1730s and is one of the oldest still-existing houses in Renchen. The house was bought by the city of Renchen in 1984 and renovated for use as a museum.
The trouble was that they had absolutely nothing from Grimmelshausen or his time that they could have displayed in a museum, because anything that might have remained after his widow died in 1683 was destroyed in the great fire six years later. Also no one even knew, in the eighteenth century, that Grimmelshausen was the author of Simplicissimus, so interest in him was minimal.
Eventually a small group of dedicated people came up with a new concept for a museum, namely to display the illustrations, in some cases the originals, from the many illustrated editions of Simplicissimus that were published in the twentieth century.
Second photo: The Simplicissimus House is only open on Sundays from 3 to 6 pm (which is when I went), but at other times you can also ask Ms Sester at the Citizens’ Bureau across the street, and she’ll let you in so you can have a look around by yourself. (The Citizens’ Bureau is also the Tourist Office, not that they have many tourists coming through.)
Third photo: As I have mentioned in one of my Gelnhausen reviews, there is an opera called Simplicius Simplicissimus by the composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann (1905-1963). I asked my guide at the Simplicissimus House in Renchen if she knew the opera and she said she had heard of it but never seen it.
Fourth photo: The program booklet for the opera Simplicius Simplicissimus when it was performed at the Frankfurt Opera in 2009.
Next: Inside the Simplicissimus House
This was one of those situations where I was (at first) the only visitor to the museum (two others arrived later in the afternoon), so I was seized upon by one of the curators and given a very detailed and enthusiastic personal tour of the displays.
She was delighted that I had actually read parts of Simplicissimus and had some idea what she was talking about.
A similar thing had happened to me a few months before at the Grétry Museum in Liège, where I was the only visitor on a rainy Saturday morning.
My guide at the Simplicissimus House in Renchen turned out to be the widow of one of the artists whose illustrations were on display. She was a native of Renchen and assumed she was somehow descended from Grimmelshausen, who had ten children with his wife Catharina during the years they were living in Renchen.
For those who don’t get a personal tour of the displays, there are also free audio guides in German, English and French.
Admission to the Simplicissimus House costs all of 1.50 € for adults, 0.50 € for children and young people.
Second photo: An interior wall of the house, which has been left open to show how the house was constructed in the early eighteenth century.
Third photo: A room full of lithographs by A. Paul Weber, illustrating the Simplicissimus novel.
Fourth photo: This illustrated edition of Simplicissimus, from the year 1970, is the one we have at home. The Simplicissimus House in Renchen also has a copy of this edition on display, but their copy is in better condition than ours, without the coffee stains.
Next: Grimmelshausen Sculpture
This sculpture on the main street of Renchen shows Grimmelshausen, on the right, being advised by a friendly imaginary creature, half man, half bird and half fish (that makes three halves, but never mind), about what he should include in his books.
Fourth photo: The sculpture is based on this historic illustration from an early edition of Simplicissimus from the year MDCLXIX, meaning 1669.
Next: Grimmelshausen monument
If you want to start a small business in Germany, a popular choice is to start a bakery plus café, provided you can find a place that doesn’t already have a bakery/café within a block or two. You don’t even have to be a baker to do this, because there are companies that deliver ready-formed bakery goods that just have to be shoved into the oven, baked and sold.
You do have to be willing to work long hours, or hire people to do it for you. This “Feel Good Café” in Renchen, for instance, was open all day on the Sunday when I was there, until 6 pm.
The “Feel Good Café” was designed to feel harmonious in accordance with Feng-Shui principles, and I can confirm that it really did feel good to sit there and drink a cup of coffee while waiting for the Simplicissimus House to open. It felt especially good because it was warm inside, which was welcome on a cold December day.
Another popular kind of small business is the electronic gambling hall. There are two of these in Renchen in the same block, across the street from the “Feel Good Café”, but they were both closed on Sunday. Actually I don’t understand how a town with a population of 4472 people can support two electronic gambling halls; in the long run, it probably can’t.
Also in the same block there is a sun studio – another popular kind of small business that unaccountably thrives all over Germany, despite the danger of getting skin cancer from excess radiation.
Next: Crucifix in Renchen
After the train leaves Karlsruhe main station, Renchen is the fifth stop on the Black Forest Line (Schwarzwaldbahn), a railway line which runs south from Karlsruhe through the Rhine Valley to Offenburg, then turns half-left and goes up through the Black Forest and finally down to Konstanz. Some of the trains also cross the border into Switzerland, ending at Kreuzlingen.
For the most scenic parts of the Black Forest Line, between Offenburg and Donaueschingen, you can download a free AudioGuide in German, English or French as MP3 or iPhone App. I haven’t done this yet, so if you try it please let me know how it is.
Second photo: InterRegioExpress pulling out of Renchen.
Back to Renchen intro page
This crucifix on the way from the station into town testifies to the fact that Renchen was traditionally a Roman Catholic village.
Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen was originally a Lutheran, as were most people from his home town of Gelnhausen, but he had no qualms about converting to Catholicism so he could marry Catharina Henninger in 1649.
Second photo: The inscription at the base of the crucifix reads: “1771. Christ our salvation. Erected by Bernd Schwer. Renovated by his grandchildren 1882.”
Next: The Black Forest Line