Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What about this Hermann the German in New Ulm? September 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:23 AM
Hermann the German towers above the trees in New Ulm.

Hermann the German towers above the trees in New Ulm.

Ten 25-foot pillars add architectural beauty and support to New Ulm's Hermann Monument.

Ten 25-foot pillars add architectural interest and support to New Ulm's Hermann Monument.

BACK IN THE DAY, when I was a kid, we traveled to New Ulm for the Bode family reunion at Hermann Heights Park.

That was the park on top of the hill, where Hermann the German stood, ruling over the town with his mighty sword. Of those reunion days, I remember a lot of Bodes, food that was plentiful and good, lots of trees, and that towering Hermann statue.

I didn’t exactly like heights back then and still don’t, so even the park name triggered minor anxiety. Spotting Hermann as we entered the park only added to my tension. I knew I would be expected to climb up to the statue. But I knew that even if I tried, I would never accomplish the feat.

Now, let’s fast forward to this past July when I revisited Hermann Heights Park for the first time in decades. Even though I travel through New Ulm often on U.S. Highway 14, I usually don’t detour up the hill to the park. But I needed photos.

So you would think that after all these years, I could brave up and climb the spiral staircase leading to the feet of Hermann. Uh, uh. That wasn’t going to happen. I stayed with my native prairie feet rooted in the ground while my husband and son ascended toward the heavens. They reported later that when they reached the feet of Hermann and looked up, they could see him swaying in the wind.

I suppose I could try again this weekend to climb the monument. New Ulm celebrates the 2000th anniversary of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, a battle led by the legendary German warrior Hermann. He and his warriors successfully defeated the Roman legions, halting their advancement into what later became modern-day Europe. Saturday’s events include a battle re-enactment.

For a complete list of activities for the September 17 – 20 celebration held at several New Ulm locations, go to http://hermannmonument.com

The website features lots of facts about Hermann and the monument. For example, I had no idea Hermann has been standing in New Ulm since 1897 after being stored in a shed for two years. He measures 32 feet from toe to sword tip. And from the monument base to the sword tip, there are 102 feet. That’s about 90 feet higher than I will climb.

This guy’s also on the National Register of Historic Places.

And those lions I couldn’t recall at the base of the sculpture? No wonder I couldn’t remember. They were imported from China and installed in 2001.

I found one other interesting fact. When the Hermann Monument was dedicated 112 years ago, a special beer, Hermann’s Brau, was brewed for the occasion. Well, it’s back in a limited edition thanks to August Schell Brewing Company.

If you’ve never seen Hermann the German, the upcoming celebration would be a great opportunity to learn about an important part of New Ulm’s culture and history. And if you’re brave enough, you can wind your way up the monument’s narrow spiral staircase for a beautiful view (from what I’ve been told) of the Minnesota River valley.

Decorative lions were added to the monument in 2001.

Decorative lions were added to the monument in 2001.

An arch and wrought iron fencing along the stairway add to the artistic beauty of the monument.

An arch and wrought iron fencing along the stairway add to the artistic beauty of the monument.

It's a long ways from the statue base to the top for this writer.

It's a long ways from the statue base to the top for this writer.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling