Sunday, June 17, 2012

Köln on Saturday, Club till Sunday

My ticket that I bought online to go to Köln

Hmm.. Everything is too bright today, too cheery.. Man, what a night.

Yesterday I went to Köln, known to us Americans as Cologne. I woke up at 6 AM (yes, on a Saturday) and went to the Paderborn Hbf to catch a train at 7:38 AM. I got there early, as I always seem to do and I sat on a bench where I met an 84 year old man who continued to tell me his whole life story. He has six female cousins in Australia you know. He was a conductor for DB (Deutsche Bahn) and he has three children. Nothing is quite as bad as when he pulled out his wallet to show me the pictures he had with him. Gosh, he was so cute though (I mean that in the least "I'm attracted to old men" kind of way.) He offered to buy me coffee but I know what that means in Europe. When a guy asks to buy you coffee, it's a sign that you should probably run. They like you and they want to spend a lot of time talking to you. It's not the worst thing in the world ... Unless you have somewhere to be ... Or you're just not at all interested.
I had a quick (~ 3 hour) train ride into Köln with no stops, well, yeah there were stops but I didn't need to switch trains. I got off the train and skipped toward the doors on the Dom side. I say skipped but I really mean skipped, yeah that made no sense. I opened the door to the square and this is exactly what I saw first. This is the main reason that people visit Köln, and for good reason. It was absolutely beautiful ... Inside and out.

I had the opportunity to see what I think is one of the most impressive cathedrals ever constructed. I present to you Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Mary or The High Cathedral of Saints Peter and Mary. This cathedral is massive and the tallest structure in its immediate surroundings. To see this cathedral for the first time, I was completely speechless at how tall this structure is. To put it into perspective how massive this structure is, to get a photo that has the entire structure in the entire photo, I took a photo about 200 meters away from the Cathedral standing inside a restaurant!

Quick Facts about the Cathedral
Construction of the cathedral began in 1248. Construction was than ceased in 1444, and it did not resume until the 1842. The cathedral was completed in 1880. Production of this marvel lasted 632 years!

The spires stand at 157 m from the ground. From the main entrance to the flying buttresses it is 58 m long.
Like all Gothic cathedrals the foundation is in the shape of a cross.

The cathedral is the largest Gothic Church in Northern Europe and the spires are the second tallest spires and the largest facade in the world. *The tallest Church in the World is the Ulm Cathedral, 120 KM from Munich, which I visited on my trip to Stuttgart.

The cathedral was not destroyed during world war because Allie bombers used it as a landmark to bomb the rest of the city.

In 1996 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In 2004, it was determined as a “landmark in danger” due to the fact that a high rise building was to be constructed close to the cathedral therefore ruining its visual monopoly on the skyline of Köln. In 2006, it was taken off the “in danger” list as a law was passed to prevent any high rise buildings to be constructed near the cathedral.

It is estimated, that the cathedral has 20,000 visitors a day.

I have found during my short stint so far in Germany, that is quite impossible to see an entire city in one day. I don't care how big or how small it is, the next time you go back, there's something new to see, something new to do. I think I'm going back to Köln again, because in my 10 hours spent there, was NOT enough.

Honestly, the day is a bit of a blur so I can't totally give you a walking tour of my day because I got lost so many times. I didn't have a map of the city, well, not one that did me any good at least, it was so far zoomed out that I could only see the "major roads" which didn't help because I needed the small road names. It also had no attractions listed on it so I was SOL and began wandering. Of course, I started at the Dom, or cathedral mentioned above. I think I spent a good hour there, not that I minded, there was so much to see.

I left the Dom and walked to the left and it was like a girls dream come true, SO many shops. As far as the eye could see there was clothing stores, home goods stores, shoe stores, food, and even a Dunkin' Doughnuts. I just kept walking, there's no way I can afford to buy clothing in Germany, I mean even just a plain pair of jeans can be between 25 and 75 euros. PLAIN jeans, not a brand, nothing special, boring, plain jeans. That's when I got lost for the first time. I kept walking and walking and all the sudden, the shops were gone and I was in the residential area. I found a map on the street, you know the ones, like a billboard almost. Apparently I was already half way to Ehrenfeld, crap. I tried to get my bearings but I have no sense of direction what-so-ever (especially in a city, where my womanly intuition is blocked by the tall buildings) so it turned into me just walking back the way I came and taking a few extra turns. 

I found a REWE grocery store and I went in to buy some "mineral wasser" can you guess what that is? Yup, Mineral Water, "with gas" as the Germans say and I also bought a Popsicle 'cause, well, why not? I got back into the street and chose a direction and I guess it was a good one because I ended up at the edge of the Rhine river, near the cathedral again. I saw a museum, the Ludwig Museum, to be exact and it was an art museum. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take any pictures in the museum, or take my backpack with me for that matter, but I went to the museums website and I found this picture, I think it does justice to my favorite exhibit that I saw. "Ein Wunsch bleibt immer übrig" or "One wish is always left unfulfilled" as it is in English.

I left the museum and walked toward the most famous bridge in  Köln, the Hohenzollernbrücke Bridge. 
"The Hohenzollern Bridge  is a bridge crossing the river Rhine in the German city of Cologne. Originally, the bridge was both a railway and street bridge, however, after its destruction in 1945 and its subsequent reconstruction, it was only accessible to rail and pedestrian traffic. It is the most heavily used railway bridge in Germany, connecting the Köln Hbf and Köln Messe / Deutz stations with each other."

"The bridge was constructed between 1907 and 1911 after the old bridge, the Cathedral Bridge (Dombrücke), was demolished. The Cathedral Bridge was unable to handle the increasing traffic in Cologne. It was named after the House of Hohenzollern."

"The Hohenzollern Bridge was one of the most important bridges in Germany during World War II; even under consistent daily air strikes the bridge was not badly damaged. On 6 March 1945, German military engineers blew up the bridge when Allied troops began their assault on Cologne." - Wikipedia
 The bridge is also famous for the locks that are attached to it. Love padlocks  are a custom by which padlocks are affixed to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolize their everlasting love. In Europe, it is quite popular. I have seen it in Paris and again this weekend in Köln where entire bridges are covered in locks. Sweethearts lock custom locks to the bridge to show their love and toss the keys into the river below. Deutsche Bahn threatened to have the locks removed from the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne. Deutsche Bahn is the bridge's operator, but in the end relented in the face of public opposition.

See what I mean, what do you call this?
Since I had finally found my way back to the river Rhine, I went down the walking path below to walk along the river. There was a lot of people there and I do love people watching quite a bit so I sat down near a nice little, hmmm, what was it. It was art I think, maybe like sculpture. But there was water running through it and there were people with their shoes off wading in it. It almost looked like buildings or something.
This view was AWESOME
Roman Ruins
After a while of sitting and drinking some water, I got up and walked down the river Rhine. I had no idea where I was going but eventually, I ended up at St. Martin's Church. Germany is a VERY catholic country and there's a million and a half churches here, if not more. This church was again, beautiful, high ceilings and beautiful paintings and stained glass. But it was more too. For 0,50 euro, I got to go into the basement to see the Roman ruins. Its foundations (~ 960 AD) rest on remnants of a Roman chapel, built on what was then an island in the river Rhine. The church was later transformed into a Benedictine monastery. The current buildings, including a soaring crossing tower that is a landmark of Cologne's Old Town, were erected between 1150-1250. The church was badly damaged in World War II, with restoration work completed in 1985.

I decided to keep walking along the river Rhine because at this point, I had not been lost yet while following this landmark. I ended up at the Lindt chocolate museum. Awesome! It cost me 6 euros as a student to go in and I even got a free piece of chocolate, then got to watch them make it! It was quite interesting to see the whole process that goes into making the delicious stuff and I got to see from roasting and de-shelling the beans to wrapping them up in nice papers and putting them into boxes to ship. I even got a free sample of the chocolate before it was molded into the tiny squares. There was a chocolate fountain and a woman dipping wafers into it and handing them out. The museum was a lot more than just free samples though and I learned a lot about the history of chocolate and the process of creation for one of my favorite treats. On my way out of the museum, I stopped in the gift shop and bought, obviously, chocolate but I also thought I'd try some chocolate liquor (... delicious by the way.)

When I left the chocolate museum, I noticed that next door was the "Deutsches Sport & Olympia Museum" a bit ironic coming from sweets and treats to fitness. Entrance was 3 euro for students so I decided to go inside. It was interesting to learn about another countries history when it comes to sports because it's not really something most places focus on. There was, of course, an entire room / section dedicated to the EM that I wrote about last time and it was cool to see the way the uniform changes each time the EM comes around. Also, fast cars are considered sport everywhere in Europe and it's not just a redneck kind of thing. I like this place.

That says 1810, just so you know.
When I left the sport museum, I went across the street and there was the "Kölner Senfmuseum" yup, a museum about mustard. I mean, how could I resist? I went in and it was a bit disappointing, but it was free, so why not? There was samples too, no pretzel or anything, just a spoon and some mustard. What the?! Germans are weird ...

I set off in a new direction after that and man was that a bad idea, especially given my "I couldn't find a light switch on a wall if the lights were already on" method of getting lost. And of course I got lost. I did have a nice walk though, through the woods. Some of the places were screaming "rape me" so I jogged through them but other places, I found bunnies hopping along the path with me. Wildlife is hard to find in Germany, it's not nearly as big as the US and most of the space is taken up by buildings. As proof of my bunny encounter, here's a picture, they're so cute!

Eventually, I found my way back to the Dom, with many detours to stop in a church here, or grab some food there. Honestly, like I said everything was running together, don't forget to check out my pictures for the "full story." It was only 7:10 PM, but I thought I shouldn't risk getting lost again and went into the train station an hour or so early for my train's departure. I wasn't bored though because train stations in Europe are also malls. Mostly. I looked in a few shops and at 8:00 PM, I went to my track to wait for my train which departed at 8:21 PM. Again, the ride was about three hours but this time, I had to switch trains in Hamm (Westf) where I usually make my switch. And at 11:00 PM, I arrived in Paderborn. I rode my bike home and wanted nothing more than to go to bed.
Mary's Bar Paderborn

While walking into the B.I.B., where I live, some of the guys I have met in the past invited me out to the city. With having so few friends here, I couldn't really say no. I ran inside and grabbed my wallet and came out. We drove into the city and parked. We walked to Mary's Bar in the city center. We found a seat in the back and grabbed a table. I met a lot of new people and honestly don't remember any of their names. We drank and drank for, I don't know, hours maybe? Eventually, we decided we wanted to dance so we went to go to the club or "disco" as the Germans say. When we tried to get in, however, the bouncer wouldn't allow it because one of the boys who was with me looked like a boy who had been causing trouble a few nights ago. Really?

Whatever, we decided to go to a different club and wound up at Kenzo, another club nearby. (I had to go back this morning to take this photo because I couldn't remember the name.) Before I knew it, it was 4:00 AM and I was still going hard. I decided to leave and told the boys such and they followed me out to drive me home. I got to my room and passed out. Woah, the birds were already chirping when I got home.

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