What capital of a major Western country is so dull that a 200 page mens' guide to German cities kissed it off in two paragraphs?
The answer is Bonn. West Germany, seat of government of Western Europe's most powerful country.
Later this week, however, President Carter, the heads of five other major Western powers, their entourage of some 2,000 deputies and staff members and another 2,000 or so reporters, cameramen and technicians will descend on this town, which is already short of hotel space, for an aconomic summit meeting.
It is the biggest thing to hit Bonn since the 9th U.S. Armored Division rolled through in March 1945, enroute to Remagen, just to the south, where the only bridge left standing over the Rhine River would lead them into Hitlers heartland.
The 4,000 or so new arrivals will be protected against any terrorists that may be lurking within the ultramodern government quarter or the fine old 18th century architecture of residential sections by about 4,000-5,000 police and security forces. Their equipment includes dozens of special tank-line, antiterrorist vehicles that local residents are used to but which undoubtedly will make some of the visitors wonder what decade this is.
Germany had a bad time with terrorists in 1977, when three leading establishment figures were murdered and numerous other terrorists acts were recorded. The police crackdown since then appears to have driven them away, however, and 1978 has been a quiet year thus far.
Actually, Bonn is something of a reverse cliche. It is a nice place to live but yoy probably wouldn't want to visit here.
There is a sprinking of good restaurants, a lovely old university and town hall and, thank goodness, the house where Beethoven was born, and the Beethoven Concert Hall, which ocassionally attracts top orchestras passing through.
It has, like many German cities, a charming town square with old wind-version of health-restoring chicken soup-"frische luft," or fresh air.
When you are in Bonn, the old saying goes, "it is raining, or you are tired, or waiting for the rail crossing barriers to go up." The latter refers to the old trains that used to run right down the main street, making it difficult to cross town until a subway was built two years ago.
That Bonn is the capital is one of the great post-World II accidents.
The dream of West Germans after the war divided their country was Bonn and the very unlikeliness of this sleepy university town as a world capital tended to reinforce the idea that it was only temporary.
At the time, there were 130,000 people here, according to Mayor Hans Steger. Now, there are 285,000, a reflection of bureaucracy and the setting up of more than 100 embassies, but of the incorporation by the city in 1969 of the surrounding bedroom suburbs: places like Bad Godesberg, where well-to-do Germans used to "take the Waters" of underground springs and relax in the old "cure" houses.
Visiting bureaucrats will feel comfotable here. About one-third of the jobs in Bonn are civil service posts.
Mayor Steger says there are 4,000 hotel beds in the Bonn area, theoretically enough to handle the summit. But there are some tourists here, and several hundred people attending a scientific gathering associated with the European conference on security and cooperation. So the squeeze in on.
The Japanese, who seem to be even better than the Germans when it comes to operating overseas these days, came up with the choice hotel space. The Americans, whose embassy here is the largest U.S. Embassy anywhere, reportedly came is last in the bed-and-breakfast sweepstakes and some Americans will find themselves sleeping in Cologne, about 25 miles to the north.
Steger, just as a precaution, recently asked the local buergers, or citizens, to make private rooms with breakfast available, especially for journalists in distrress.