Baroque Villa Böcking

Where Goethe once fought the waves

“The stream was soon swelled into billow by the force of the wind, the intermitting blasts descending with furious roar; one wave after the other washed over the little boat, and we felt wet to the skin; the danger appeared always greater the longer it lasted. And thus we were tossed to and fro in the total darkness, till at length a light was seen at a distance, and hope also was awakened within us...”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ansicht auf einen Klavierspieler im Musiksalon des Mittelmosel-Museums in Traben-Trarbach.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe could hardly have found more dramatic words when, several decades later, he described his foolhardy Mosel journey of 1 November 1792. The life-threatening adventure of the Weimar Privy Councillor seemed far removed from the leisurely punt tour taken by the most famous English painter of his era, William Turner through the idyllic river valley just a few decades later.
But it was certainly not one of his many educational trips that took Goethe to the Mosel region; instead, the poet had participated in the Campaign in France, with which the Prussian army aimed to drive the spectre of the 1789 Revolution out of Paris once and for all in the First Coalition War, so that he could “experience cannon fever at first hand”, as he himself put it. But the campaign ended in catastrophic disaster following the Battle of Valmy: nearly a third of the 60,000-strong army died of disease and invalidity during the retreat. Despite all the mortal danger that Goethe exposed himself to during his adventurous escape in the rowing boat, compared with the sad fate of the common soldiers, the poet prince travelled comparatively comfortably from Trier to Koblenz.

The light that, according to Goethe's memories, loomed so hopefully in the distance halfway through the journey, came from the Mosel town of Trarbach, where they landed shortly afterwards. The house in which the poet prince found friendly hospitality with the wealthy merchant Ludwig Böcking following his life-threatening escapade can still be visited today. In addition to Goethe, the Prussian Crown Prince and later King Friedrich-Wilhelm IV along with French poet Apollinaire later became guests in the stately city villa, which was built around 1755 by the wealthy merchant and state treasurer Johann Adolf Böcking according to the plans drawn up by the ducal Palatinate-Zweibrück chief architect Hauth in the style of the Trier Baroque, and which today houses a gem among the museums of the Mosel region.

The Mittelmosel Museum in the baroque villa Böcking, still depicts the upper middle-class living culture of a wealthy patrician family of the 18th and 19th centuries, making it a truly special feature in the Rhineland-Palatinate museum landscape.

The more than 20 showrooms of the Baroque Villa Böcking not only display valuable furniture and art objects across three centuries, but also an extensive collection on the history of Traben-Trarbach. Archaeological finds from the Roman and Frankish eras can be found there, as well as rural home décor and the history of crafts and urban guilds. Plans and finds from the excavations of the former French fortress of Mont Royal undertaken in the 1930s further complement the permanent exhibition, which also includes a model of Grevenburg Castle that has since become historic in its own right.

Text: © Dr. Christof Krieger

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