Köln (Cologne)

May 17th - May 23rd, 1999

Situated at the southern end of the German Industrial belt, the Rührgebiet, and at the opening of the Rhine river valley, Köln was another one of our drive-by cities when we previously visited Europe. We stopped briefly to have lunch and to visit that thousand year old wonder, the Kölner Dom (trans: the Cologne Cathedral). One of the few old buildings left in the center of Köln, the Kölner Dom is a massive structure that dominates the Köln skyline. It's exterior, blackened with age, is one of the most intricate of any cathedral in Europe.

Back then, we didn't know anyone who lived in Köln and were eager to head south and embark on our motorcycle tour of what the Germans call "the Father Rhine." This time, we do indeed know a Köln resident: Heike, a Feldenkrais associate of Kathy's. Her lovely country home provided a welcome measure of solace from the big city hustle that so far has marked our trip, and her hospitality made Köln feel like a much more special place than it appeared in 1986.



While the rest of Köln was carpet-bombed in World War II, the Allies purposely spared the Kölner Dom (as they did most other significant, non-military historical monuments). People to this day lament that if they only knew that, then people would have fled to the Dom during the attacks. You can see the scar one near miss inflicted in this picture on the left -- the bomb damage is purposely repaired with simple bricks as to always remind the people of Germany the horrors the war visited upon them. The white stone below the bricks shows some test cleanings of the church. Apparently, Köln is embarking upon a restoration of the Dom and the whole church will be returned to it's original white stone color. The picture to the right shows the spires at the very top of the Dom's twin towers.



One finds it impossible to accurately capture the interior of the Dom with photos. The open interior lifts the soul up and gives one the sense of something greater than the self. Around the edge of the church's interior are many tombs of past dukes, kings and significant donors. Our favorite was this one in the left picture where the tomb's statue was surrounded by a castle wall. The Kölner Dom has one of the largest sacristy we've seen made of gold.



In our search for new and different beers, Heike took us to the original Torburg brewery. It's a grand 19th century building right next to one of the old Kölner town gates. On the right is the original brewing apparatus that got the brewery off of the ground -- such humble beginnings!






Clockwise: Heike and Kathy outside one of Köln old gates; Kathy in an ancient Roman abwasserkanal (tr: sewage pipe!); Heike and Kathy next to a monument commemorating the women of Köln throughout the ages; and a memorial for parents who lost their children in World War II.



We made a few side trips to Bonn, the former capitol of West Germany, and the birth place of Beethoven. The house he was born in has been preserved as a museum of his life and accomplishments. In general, we found Bonn a wonderful and interesting town, and very sad that it's no longer the capitol of Germany.






Another day trip found us hiking up a mountain called Drachenfels (Dragon's rock) and through the vineyards and nature preserve that surround it. Germany, unlike the USA, has laws on the books that require all property owners to allow "pass-through" rights through their land. So, forest walks are never stopped by no trespassing signs or a barbed wire fence. At the top of Drachenfels is the ruins of the castle of the Duke who once ruled this land in the Middle ages, and the view of the Rhine river valley from there was spectacular. And check out this old 17th century house in the town at the base of the mountain. Apparently, home owners are given financial incentives by the German government to restore historic homes back to their original condition.

Once again, thanks!

Once again, many thanks for Heike opening up her home to us for the week we spent in Köln. We truly loved the home-cooked meals and evenings by the fireplace, the chats about life, health and German politics, and for letting Jim warm up his very rusty German language skills.

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