Tuesday 17 May 2011

Echt Kolnischwasser

We woke this morning in Cologne, the cathedral's 157m high twin towers (one of them hung with the inevitable scaffolding - the builders still in after 800 years) looming black against the cloudy sky. The cleanest part of the building is the corner repaired after WW2: the cathedral itself we were told used by Allied bombers as a landmark and so not targeted. Far from avoiding mentioning the war, our guide Detlev referred to it constantly, even discussing the Jewish issue and suggesting that it was because they were so well integrated into German society that they felt safe here as the war approached, and so became trapped. "And then along came a little Austrian with a Charlie Chaplin moustache."

Inside the cathedral, the ceiling soars so high that it makes the building feel narrow, though of course it's a huge space. The stained glass is lovely, and includes a modern one that's made of colourful pixels, no pictures at all. The main attraction though, literally (pilgrims do bring so much money into a town) is the carved and gilded sarcophagus containing the bones of the Three Wise Men - of whom only one understood what made an acceptable gift.

Cologne's other claim to fame is Eau de Cologne, and I trailed through the Hochstrasse pedestrian shopping precinct that could have been almost anywhere - Subway, McDonald's, Bennetton, C&A, Esprit - and found it at 4711 Glockengasse. (That's 47-11 in Germany, not 4-7-11, by the way.) More scaffolding over the rather elegant building with distinctive turquoise features, and inside the gorgeous smell coming from a continuously-flowing fountain of cologne splashing into a bright brass basin. Ahhh!

On the way back to the boat, I passed the road tunnel that gets closed off when the Rhine floods, as it has pretty dramatically throughout Köln's history. The last time they pumped it out, they found 6000 fish trapped there: a good indication of the health of the water of the super-astonishingly busy Rhine. (Shame they all had three eyes.) I've been very impressed by how clean and litter-free the river is.

Along the rail bridge above are thousands and thousands of padlocks engraved with lovers' names, who click them on and then throw the keys into the river. Very sweet - and modern, too: I found one engraved 'Sonia und Julia'.

1 comment:

Germany Travel Guide said...

The cathedral in Cologne is lovely, but I think I prefer the smaller, less conspicuous churches...like St. Georg Church, for example, it dates back to the 14th century!


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