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A little Vienna in Niederrhein. This place has heaps of culture, art and landscaping. The town is surprisingly hilly, compared to the flatness of the surrounding countryside. But the topography lends itself to the romantic beauty of the town. Prepare to climb up, down and around Kleve, where on a good day, you can see right into the Netherlands.

Koekkoek Museum
The museum is located right in the inner city. For fans of romantic paintings, this is stop number one. For a mere €2.50 you can enjoy three floors and 4 generations of Koekkoeks and their paintings. The house itself is quite beautiful and the paintings, which are both from the Koekkoeks and other local artists, display well in the amply lit house. There are many paintings of Kleve which are fun to look at and compare to the town as it stands today. Beware of the opening hours, which are fairly limited to the afternoons and weekends.

Museum Kurhaus
The other super museum is about a 15 minute walk from the inner city. There are a number of delights to behold in the area around the museum: the new “Iron Man” statue, the rectangular lake and its mazelike landscaping, and the park with its cupola and romantic statue. There is also a botanical garden directly across the street from the museum. If this isn’t enough, the museum is located on the side of the Tiergarten (complete with a zoo, as the name implies), which is a huge park that seems to be mostly wild woods. This is rare in Germany, so if you are seeking a little R&R, this may be the place for you.

But the museum itself is a wonder in modern art. The temporary exhibit that I saw seemed to take up most of the rooms in the museum. While it was wonderful, I would hate to comment too much on it, as it will be gone at the end of the month. What is great about the museum is the internal architecture. The building runs alongside the park, and incorporates the light and nature of the surroundings quite radiantly. There is also a café on the very top floor serving cakes with vanilla sauce, making the museum one of the best smelling attractions in town.

Swan Castle
The castle is the most prominent structure in the whole town of Kleve, so you really can’t miss it. It’s fun to walk up down and all around the castle. Check out the archaeological dig on the way in. The foundations of a building dating back to 1300 are encased in glass and visible to anyone who is tall enough to see over the wall. On weekends, and on weekdays during the summer, you can visit the geology museum and walk up to the top of the tower. If you follow the extremely steep path down to the water, you come to the riverside bank at the Kermisdahl. There are paths leading along the waterside and into the woods. It is quite peaceful and you will see a number of people walking their dogs.

The Old Synagogue
Just to the side of the castle is the monument to the old Jewish synagogue of Kleve. Many German cities have plaques or markers explaining that the town once had a synagogue, but that it was destroyed on Kristallnacht in 1938. Kleve has an actual monument, outlining the foundation of the synagogue in addition to a small Holocaust memorial, which is remarkably well done with small stones representing individuals whose names are attached with small signs. It is hard to get memorials just right, and I think this particular memorial, while small, stands above many others.

St. Maria Himmelfahrt Church (Stiftskirche)
This church is worth a visit for many reasons. Inside, you will find tapestries, paintings, chandeliers, and beautiful altars. While the decorations don’t all fit to one specific style, the church has an interesting look that lends itself to the curious observer. I especially enjoyed the tombs in the room to the left of the altar.
Outside the church are many old engraved stones and some unusual sculptures. The monument for the fallen soldiers quite literally shows us a fallen soldier. Its super human size and art deco form give it a paranormal look.

How to get there: Take the regional train from Krefeld. Kleve is directly on the Dutch border.

Great things: There is more to see in Kleve, but with the limitations of one day’s journey, this is what I took away. I had first heard about Kleve in the Prueßen Museum in Wesel and realized that this was an important place in the time of the Prussia. While there isn’t a history museum here to be seen, the town’s grandeur and elegance speak for its great history.

Date of visit: February 16, 2007

Kleve website: www.kleve.de