On October 18th 1814, the famous writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited Johann Jakob von Willemer and his wife Marianne in their charming little garden house. From the balcony of the tiny summerhouse on the Mühlberg hill, they enjoyed the view of the campfires celebrating the anniversary of the end of the Napoleonic Wars that night.
The full moon, the lights of the fires illuminating the sky, the lovely house and garden, the charm and beauty of 29-year-old Marianne led to a romantic love affair. The poet in his sixties kept secretly visiting the young lady in the tiny hideaway. She inspired him for the character of Suleika in his collection of poems “Westöstlicher Diwan” published in 1819 and kept him in Frankfurt again for a while. Until his death, they maintained an intense exchange of letters and encrypted messages.
Only when Marianne Willemer was in her late sixties did she reveal that three of the most famous poems from the collection had actually been written by herself. Goethe had kept the affair with the married woman a lifetime secret.
Willemer Häuschen, where they met, is a lovely small gemstone in Frankfurt open to the public on Sundays in summer. I love the little garden with the old gingko trees. Sit on the bench there and collect a gingko leaf – is the shape of a heart a twofold or rather a divided split shape?! Maybe it will remind you of the love story of Marianne and Goethe.