Return to Monschau: The Haus on Holzmarkt

Monschau is without a doubt one of the most beautiful towns within a radius of 200 kilometers from Rotterdam. I wrongly ignored it for decades. But recently I was there again, as a man on a mission.

View from the bridge acros the river Rur towards a row of colorful half-timbered houses in Monschau, Germany
Monschau upon Rur

Day trips

In the seventies, as a teenager, I visited Monschau, Germany a few times, on day trips from our holiday addresses in South Limburg or the slightly more easterly Heimbach. After that I ignored the town on the Rur for decades, busy as I was visiting India, Indonesia and Iceland, among others. But at the end of May I was in town again, together with travel companion I., during a three day roadtrip to the Eifel mountains.

Traditional half-timbered houses in Monschau, Germany on a sunny day in spring
Picturesque

Photogenic

In my memory Monschau was a village, but it turns out it’s certainly a town. A town for which words like scenic, picturesque and photogenic were invented. Beautifully situated in a valley between wooded mountains. With half-timbered houses that seem to fall into the river. With narrow streets between facades of slates, natural stone, wood and plaster. And of course Monschau, like all beautiful places, is somewhat touristy. But on a Thursday outside the high season, it was not too bad.

Close-up of a facade with somewhat mossy slate in Monschau, Germany
Mossy slate

Engagement

Actually, my connection to Monschau goes back even further than the late 1970s. In August 1959, my father and mother traveled to the Eifel by motorcycle to get engaged. Not much is known about that trip, and about the details of the engagement. Was there a romantic dinner? Did my father get on his knees, offering a ring? Or were people not acting so dramatic in those days?

The valley of the Rur in Monschau, Germany with on one side a row of traditional half-timbered houses
Houses that seem to fall into the river

Family history

As a family historian, things aren’t made easy for me anyway. The photo album “Engagement and Marriage” contains only three photos taken in Monschau, two of which were at “the engagement house”. Taking pictures was expensive in the 1950s.

Narrow and curving, cobble-paved street, in Monschau in the Eifel mountains
The Holzmarkt

Holzmarkt

The address of the engagement house is also not mentioned anywhere. But it can be found with some detective work. The photo shows a facade with a bend and in the background there’s a white plastered house with two streets on either side, the left of which goes uphill. A look at the map makes it clear that this can only be Holzmarkt, at the junction with Kirchstrasse and Bergstrasse.

Photograph from 1959 with Willem Blok next to the engagement house in Monschau
Monschau 1959, photographer: my mother

Remake

Of course, that calls for a remake of that photo from 1959, with me taking my father’s place. Very little seems to have changed in all those years. The biggest change is a window on the ground floor that has been restored to its old style. At the bottom right of the screen, a balustrade has been placed at the stairs that go downhill. And there is a street name sign.

The author in front of the engagement house of his parents
Monschau 2023, photographer: travel companion I.

Time

But otherwise almost everything is the same, even the lamppost in front of the white house. If my parents had suddenly miraculously been beamed 64 years ahead in time, they probably wouldn’t have even noticed it right away. Time stands still in Monschau. Although they might have raised their eyebrows at the sight of the wheelie bin and the satellite dish, carefully kept out of the photo by traveling companion I.

The Kirchstraase, a narrow cobble-stone street in Monschau, Germany
Kirchstraße

Remake of the remake

I don’t have children myself, so whether in, say, 2087 someone will travel to the Eifel for a remake of my photo is somewhat doubtful. Anyway: I am curious whether so little will change in Monschau in the next 64 years.

Street scene in Monschau, Germany, with half-timbered houses and facades of stucco and natural stone
View from Kirchstraße

2 Responses

  1. Ilmu Komunikasi says:

    What are some of the notable characteristics and attractions of Monschau, and how would you describe the atmosphere and level of tourism you experienced during your visit?

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