Day 1: Cologne


Night selfie with the bell towers in the background

I fell asleep pretty early Sunday night, around 9:30, but was somehow wide awake at 12:30. Thankfully I was able to get back to sleep, although not until 3:30 or so probably. I woke up around 7am and felt much better. So maybe 6.5 hours sleep total? I’ll take it.

The hotel has breakfast available, a completely unimpressive array of fruits, breads, cheeses, and some deli meat. I wasn’t that hungry so ate just a little. The coffee was surprisingly good though and I had several cups of that while confirming that, yea, the internet availability is touch and go.

If you read yesterday’s entry you know I went to the train station to finish the blog. This is a random little park I passed along the way, which I’d passed by twice (coming and going) yesterday. Nothing in particular to point out, just capturing things.

A little park in central Cologne

A little park in central Cologne

I also passed the cathedral on the way of course so got to get a shot of the front without all the people in it. I went in for a little while to do my morning meditation. Morning mass was happening again, in a side chapel up on the far right. The rest was open for wandering.

Early morning in front of the cathedral

Early morning in front of the cathedral

Just a few people about

Just a few people about

Since the mass was going on in a side chapel, I was able to get a close-up of the altar

Since the mass was going on in a side chapel, I was able to get a close-up of the altar

Once again trying to capture the grandeur with some people for perspective

Once again trying to capture the grandeur with some people for perspective

I sat at Kamp’s, one of the local bakery chains, got some coffee and a struselthaler (sort of like coffee cake) since I felt like I needed to pay for the table!, and spent about 2 hours finishing the blog. The internet was painfully slow.

My little workstation for the morning, with lots of people coming and going around me

My little workstation for the morning, with lots of people coming and going around me

...and a view onto the cathedral steps to my immediate right

…and a view onto the cathedral steps to my immediate right

I walked around the train station a bit, mostly because I was heading to the restrooms on the opposite side. You have to pay ā‚¬1 to get in but it’s super worth it in my opinion: it’s close, I knew where it was, and know it will be super clean, which it was. I took a few other shots while I was making my way there, realizing as much as I talk about the train station I don’t think I’ve ever really included photos.

The train station isn't that different from any typical mall

The train station isn’t that different from any typical mall

As you can see, it’s nothing special to look it, just sort of like a mall. Mostly I love the concept of a transportation hub that facilitates a lot of other things – I’ve bought nail clippers and batteries here on previous trips – and wish the US would do this.

Kamp's and The Body Shop, with the cathedral in the background

Kamp’s and The Body Shop, with the cathedral in the background

I do love this shot though; the Body Shop (of which there are an extraordinary number of in Germany for some reason), Kamp’s, and the cathedral right outside,

I did make my way over to the Cologne City Museum, but it’s closed on Mondays. Not surprising. Most museums are closed either Monday or Tuesday. But there was a sign on the door that said most of the permanent collection is closed due to renovation anyway, so I don’t feel like I missed anything. It was approaching Noon and I decided I would stop for lunch early since I hadn’t eaten much breakfast and wasn’t sure how long I would be at my next stop. I wandered around a little more and eventually decided on a little Indian place that was way off the beaten path. Glad I did.

The Taj Majal, and Indian restaurant

The Taj Majal, and Indian restaurant

With a name like Taj Mahal it was very likely that it could be kitschy, but it wasn’t at all. The tables were set for fine dining, and the menu had lots of interesting things. I settled on a cod dish made in a creamy, yogurty sauce with coconut in it. It was pretty amazing; I was surprised for some reason how good it was. So I sat there for about an hour and took my time with my meal and my sparkling water (“with gas?” still takes me by surprise when they ask!).

It was pretty empty when I got there, but filled up as the hour went on

It was pretty empty when I got there, but filled up as the hour went on

The dishes were served on a little hot plate with candles beneath to help keep the food warm

The dishes were served on a little hot plate with candles beneath to help keep the food warm

Much of the walking around I did before and after lunch was in pedestrian friendly shopping areas – no vehicles allowed. You have lots of that in Europe; it’s another thing I wish we’d adopt! The two shots below are just some of that.

Pedestrian friendly shopping area

Pedestrian friendly shopping area

Pedestrian friendly shopping area #2

Pedestrian friendly shopping area #2

Notice the umbrellas. It was drizzling much of the morning. I brought one on the trip but didn’t bring it with me when I went out because there wasn’t much rain in the forecast, just like a 5% chance. I managed without it.

After lunch I made my way over to the Kolumba Museum. I really had no idea what I was getting into. I knew loosely it was based on finds of Roman ruins, but certainly didn’t expect what I found. It was a delightful jaunt through this eclectic mix of historical things with some very interesting modern art, as well as some WTF pieces. And there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to any of it. You’d turn a corner and have no idea what you were going to see next. I spent probably 2 hours here and it was a total delight.

Before I get started on photos, I think it’s helpful to orient yourself in Cologne history. Cologne was established in the first century AD as a Roman colony, which is in fact where it got its name. Most if not all of what we know of as Germany today has roots in the ancient Roman empire. And, after that empire fell and the Catholics came into power, Germany from like 800-1800 was included in the large area of central Europe referred to as the Holy Roman Empire which, at various times depending on the century, also included France to the west and Bohemia to the east. At any rate, some of this museum is based on archeological finds discovered under the Saint Kolumba church after it was bombed in WW2. Saint Kolumba was the largest and most important parish church in medieval Cologne.

The head of Medusa, circa 137 AD, in the foyer

The head of Medusa, circa 137 AD, in the foyer

The foyer

The foyer

This is the end of the foyer where Medusa was in. To the right of this was the excavation room, where is where the next 4 photos were taken. There was a map that showed which sections were developed in what century. Some dates all the way back to the 1st century, but much of it dates to about the 12th. Old no matter how you count it.

The excavation

The excavation

This looks like an entrance into the old church that was later walled up

This looks like an entrance into the old church that was later walled up

More excavation

More excavation

The outside of a chapel as seen from the excavation site; you'll see the inside later

Stained glass from outside of a chapel as seen from the excavation site; you’ll see the inside later

Behind where I was standing to take the foyer photo was a staircase. There was something bare and almost creepy about it and I started to wonder what I was getting into. Nothing could have prepared me šŸ™‚

The stairway

The stairway

The first room contained several items, including the first “WTF” modern piece – a video that made no sense to me. The description didn’t help; something about “distorting film quotations to create a new construction of meaning.” Huh? I went for the classics in the room instead, pictured below.

A relief of Mithras, who was regarded as the guardian of the Roman Empire, from the mid-2nd century

A relief of Mithras, who was regarded as the guardian of the Roman Empire, from the mid-2nd century

The archangel St. Michael battling a demon. Artist is Simon Troger, made in Munich around 1725, of walnut, ebony, ivory, glass and copper

The archangel St. Michael battling a demon. Artist is Simon Troger, made in Munich around 1725, of walnut, ebony, ivory, glass and copper.

The next room had a modern piece I could appreciate. Oddly by the same artists as the earlier video, Annamaria and Marzio Sala. These are “light frescos” – interesting and beautiful, which are projected on the wall by what looks like the kind of overhead projected I haven’t seen in about 25 years.

The projection

The projection

The projectors

The projectors

Bottles found in Cologne, from about the 3rd century

Bottles found in Cologne, from about the 3rd century

What I always appreciate about stuff like this above is the craftsmanship and patience it must’ve taken to create these pieces. Not sure what kind of tools they had to work with but couldn’t of been much.

Smog Blossoms II, 1971, by Werner Schiefers. He had several pieces here that I liked. This, by the way, was next to the bottles above. I loved the mix of old and new throughout this museum.

Smog Blossoms II, 1971, by Werner Schiefers. He had several pieces here that I liked. This, by the way, was next to the bottles above. I loved the mix of old and new throughout this museum.

Green goblets from the 3rd century

Green goblets from the 3rd century

Another piece I liked by Schriefers

Another piece I liked by Schriefers

"Christ in Distress", lime wood, circa 1480.

“Christ in Distress”, lime wood, circa 1480.

91 faces in this painting according to the description. I didn't verify that but feel free!

91 faces in this painting according to the description. I didn’t verify that but feel free!

Urns with faces on them from the 3rd century. Kinda cute!

Urns with faces on them from the 3rd century. Kinda cute!

Display of 3 large shells with a beautiful multi-colored modern bowl, shaped somewhat like the cup of a flower

Display of 3 large shells with a beautiful multi-colored modern bowl, shaped somewhat like the cup of a flower

I loved the bowl. The was the only item I photographed out of this room.

Somewhat randomly a little study appeared off of one of the exhibit rooms. It was very comfortable looking, with lots of wood and leather chairs.

Somewhat randomly a little study appeared off of one of the exhibit rooms. It was very comfortable looking, with lots of wood and leather chairs.

A hat and coat on a coat rack against a bare gold leaf wall

A hat and coat on a coat rack against a bare gold leaf wall

This was perhaps the oddest thing I encountered, with a description that epitomizes what I hate about modern art: “…oscillates between picture and stage, between the captured moment and space for action, between looking back on the lost traditions of Western culture and a challenging confrontation with the present.” Exactly what I got from it, how about you? This, mind you, was in the same room as the classic pieces below, sculptures of heads of Roman Emperors from the 1st-3rd centuries.

Heads of Roman emperors

Heads of Roman emperors

Various pottery found in Cologne from the 1st-4th centuries

Various pottery found in Cologne from the 1st-4th centuries

And on the wall behind me where I took the photo of the ancient vases…

Several paintings of a man and a vase in various sometimes ridiculous situations

Several paintings of a man and a vase in various sometimes ridiculous situations

This actually started 4-5 frames to my left on another wall entirely.

A small crystal cup in a display case, the only item in the room, with variations of the same style of modern art on the walls all around it

A small crystal cup in a display case, the only item in the room, with variations of the same style of modern art on the walls all around it

A close-up of that cup. I did love how the colors of the art on the walls sort of went with this

A close-up of that cup. I did love how the colors of the art on the walls sort of went with this

Throughout the museum, which went up 3 stories with very high ceilings, you got views of Cologne through the windows, here with the ever-present cathedral

Throughout the museum, which went up 3 stories with very high ceilings, you got views of Cologne through the windows, here with the ever-present cathedral

I left the museum and walked around to the side to get to the chapel referred to as Madonna in the Ruins.

Madonna in the Ruins

Madonna in the Ruins

Remember the stained glass you saw from the excavation site? Here’s what the inside looks like. The centerpiece is the statue wall called Madonna in the Ruins. It is of Mary and the child Jesus, and is named so because it escaped destruction and was found in the ruins of St. Kolumba after the war.

A side altar in the same chapel

A side altar in the same chapel

Are you exhausted? I was! The Kolumba was less than 2 blocks from my hotel so I went back and rested for a bit. I was able to get some of the photos uploaded but not eventually gave up on the frustrating internet at the hotel and went out again after just laying down for awhile.

I wanted to go into a portion of Old Town on the other side of the cathedral by the Rhine river so headed in that direction.

The beginning of a nice area along the river

The beginning of a nice area along the river

That’s the train bridge to the far left and a building called Triangle in the distance. I walked the train bridge – which is also loaded with love locks! – and went up to the observation deck of that building in 2014.

A nice little play area for the children, and perhaps some adults

A nice little play area for the children, and perhaps some adults

Albeit a bit touristy, there's a nice little collection of restaurants along the river

Albeit a bit touristy, there’s a nice little collection of restaurants along the river

...more restaurants...

…more restaurants…

There were lots of options, but I figured since I hadn’t had German food yet I may as well. And I’m very glad I did.

Outside the German restaurant I ate at

Outside the German restaurant I ate at

Inside the restaurant

Inside the restaurant

My appetizer

My appetizer

The restaurant called this a Cologne specialty so I figured I had to. And it was pretty good: a toasted rye roll, served with Gouda cheese, raw onions, mustard, lettuce and tomato for you to make a sandwich out of. It all worked great together.

Schnitzel and potatoes

Schnitzel and potatoes

This might be the best plate of German food I’ve ever had. Schnitzel is very thin and lightly breaded fried meat, in this case chicken. It was crisp and moist and tender and just kind of amazing. There was a mushroom cream sauce on it which was just OK. The potatoes were, get this: fried in teeny pieces of bacon and onions. How can you go wrong? The might’ve been the best bite of the trip so far. I was so full after all this I even skipped gelato after!

Cologne Cathedral at night

Cologne Cathedral at night

But I couldn’t leave without one more shot of the cathedral. I knew it would be beautiful at night and I was right.

And realizing I hadn’t included myself in any of the photos yet, I ended with this.

Night selfie with the bell towers in the background

Night selfie with the bell towers in the background

 

PS: Thank God for fast internet! I was finally able to finish this once I got to my hotel in Paris. More on that tomorrow…

4 thoughts on “Day 1: Cologne”

  1. melanie Luckenbach says:

    First, I totally get the WTF coat rack and hat šŸ™‚
    I love reading the history about the Roman influence.
    The mixed use of wood with rock in the art is fascinating; like you said how did they do that with limited tools to work with! That cathedral is amazing from all angles! what a perfect day!

    1. Steve Haas says:

      Cologne is very special to me – Iā€™m so glad I started this trip there!

  2. Jon Scott says:

    Jaja Iā€™m with you on the modern art. Pedro loves it and half the time Iā€™m like huh? Some is fabulous though. Looking forward to Paris.

    1. Steve Haas says:

      Well, at least tomorrow is the Louvre so we don’t have to worry about any modern art there!

I'd love to hear from you!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.