Wednesday, June 02, 2010

A Visit to Koln

In the U.S., we call this city Cologne, and apparently it is where Eau de Cologne originated. In those days you could splash it on your body or drink it for refreshment.

But we were there to see the cathedral. It is stunning to see as you pull into the train station. And it's not too difficult to find your way to the cathedral from the station! But we stopped for a mettwurst at a stand inside the station (smoked pork sausage with mustard on a bread bun).

Nothing quite prepares you for the immensity of this cathedral and the complexity of the architecture.

I think you could spend a day just walking around the outside and studying all the detailed structures and figures.


Entrance Ornamentation

This UNESCO-designated site took 632 years to build (beginning in 1248). When I asked Wolfgang how it survived the bombing of WWII, his response was "God." In fact, it was hit 70 times, but the twin spires remained intact and it didn't collapse. Another reason might be that the twin spires were probably used as a navigational marker for the Allied planes.

Inside, the nave supports one of the highest Gothic vaults in the world, almost as high as Beauvais Cathedral, much of which has collapsed.

Many of the glass windows were destroyed by the bombings but have been replaced in their original styles.

Here is just a small sample of what we saw.

On the left is the oldest style of window and on the right, the more familiar style. The window in the center is the south transept window which had been temporarily repaired after the war with plain glass. This new window was completed by German artist Gerhard Richter in 2007. Square glass "pixels" represent colors taken from the other windows in the cathedral and arranged by computer. There is a pattern of repeated sections but you have to spend a lot of time staring up at it to identify the pattern.

The archbishop was not at all happy with the finished design. However, while he presides at services, he does not make decisions on restoration and maintenance of the cathedral. Those decisions are made by the Dombauverein, a non-profit civic association established in 1842 to manage the completion of the cathedral. So when he comes to the cathedral, he prefers not to sit facing the window. We learned this because a German tour group was standing near us when we were looking at the window and Wolfgang joined the group long enough to learn the story.

As light comes through Richter's window, it casts colorful patterns onto the walls nearby.

Here is a sampling of the floor mosaics.

You can see a little bit of window reflection here too.

There are two organs, built in 1948 and in 1998.

As we left the cathedral, I realized that the mettwurst was not sitting well in my stomach. We searched out an apotheka and got some digestive pills from a helpful pharmcist. Then we stopped for coffee (peppermint tea for me) at a small Italian cafe. They were really into coffee.

Heading towards the rathaus, we came across this Roman dig. Wolfgang says it's not unusual to discover underlying Roman structures when preparing to build a new shopping area or public building.
Dave and Wolfgang explored the area while I sat nearby, trying to get a point where I was feeling better. The air had warmed up a bit and the sun was shining. When they came back Wolfgang brought me a rose from a wedding party they ran into at the rathaus. Dave told me that the plan for the dig area is to build a shopping area on top but provide access to the Roman structure beneath the shopping area.

Okay, so let me explain about the rathaus. We were introduced to this term when we noted that the metro to our apartment went to Rathaus Steglitz. That wasn't too encouraging. However, it turns out that rathaus means courthouse, not house of rats. So this wedding was in the courtyard in front of the courthouse. There was music, food, and lots of merriment (I think that means alcohol).

We walked through the crowd and were planning to walk to the Hohenzollern bridge over the Rhine river. The bridge accommodates both train and pedestrian crossing. Lovers affix padlocks (called love locks) to the metal rails, then throw the key into the Rhine below. But we didn't get to see this or to toss a key because I really wasn't feeling well. Instead, we went back to the train station to catch and earlier train back to Mannheim.

I sat in a Starbuck's trying to avoid the smell of food, while Dave and Wolfgang negotiated with the reservation agent. He told them that the trains were completely full so they paid for 1st class reservations on the next train back. Turns out the train was practically empty so we had our choice of seats. Our conductor, Tim, even offered to let us drive the train.

This suited Wolfgang just fine, especially since he could go 300 kph without even touching the controls.

But actually the engineer running the train was at the other end. We went back to our seats to enjoy the ride without the additional responsibility. I practiced a little more speed-of-light photography since I was feeling a little better.

This one is interesting because you can see the up close image compared to the distant image. And you can also see the rapeseed crop that grows all over Europe to supply canola oil to the world. It's called rap or rape oil in Germany. You can understand why canola is a better marketing name in the U.S.

Conductor Tim came back to visit with us and pose for photos.

We walked back to Andrea's apartment and I cuddled up under a blanket while Dave and Wolfgang walked a couple of miles to get Vietnamese take-out. I skipped dinner since I couldn't even handle the smell of food. I really wanted to get better quick because the next day we'd scheduled a visit to Grossteinnhausen, the tiny village southeast of Mannheim in Sudwestpaltz, Rhineland Palatinate, the village my Herbruck ancestors left to come to the U.S. I didn't want to miss that.

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