Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Next Stop: Cologne

Did you know that Cologne actually had something to do
with, well, cologne? I admit I didn't.
We arrived in Köln at night. Cologne on a Sunday night was a considerably quieter place than Amsterdam on a Friday night, so there were no crazy crowds, no packed trams. I snapped a quick picture inside the train station, and then we just grabbed our stuff and headed in the direction of the hotel. The sign, by the way, is a big advertisement for the original eau de Cologne (which sounds way better than the German version, seen here: Echt Kölnisch Wasser), brand name (brand number?) 4711.

In the morning, we had a great breakfast at our hotel. German breakfasts usually consist of lunchmeat, cheeses, and bread, and we had those things, but also cereal, boiled eggs (this trip introduced Emily to egg cups), fruit, yogurt, antipasti ... I'm probably leaving out some things. But the point is, it was delicious, and we kind of wished it was breakfast all day.

We had decided to follow the same plan as in Amsterdam - rent bikes for one day, walk for the second one - so we headed down to pick them up. Riding bikes in Cologne was a little different than in Amsterdam or Gent. (This is an understatement.) It took us a while to figure out whether we were even supposed to be on some busy streets because bike lanes may or may not exist. It seemed to be that generally, bikes behaved as if they were cars ... except when they decided to just ride on the sidewalk. This is a huge no-no in Belgium! Of course, in Belgium, cars also yield right-of-way to bikes. In Amsterdam, you have dedicated places to ride and often, dedicated traffic signals. In Cologne, you're just another piece of the moving traffic puzzle. So we were nervous at first but got into the groove pretty quickly.

I had seen some photos of animal graffiti/art that seemed to be near the zoo. As it turned out, it was on the outer wall of the zoo itself, so we walked along it and took some pictures.

There's a joke to be made here about Emily finding a stand-in for her
brother ... but I'm not the one to make it.
Mindful that we needed to eat before 2 pm if we planned to eat lunch at all, we found a sandwich shop. This was another one of those times when it became clear we weren't in Belgium or the Netherlands anymore. In Belgium, "Spreekt u Engels?" often gets an "oh, yes." The same question in Amsterdam hardly needs to be asked; people speak English as a matter of course. At the counter of the sandwich shop in Cologne, "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" got a panicked look, and a gesture to someone else. Who spoke a little English. Very little. We muddled through it, though, and it was kind of funny that after every selection we made, she would say, "So?" (Meaning "yes, and?", of course, but it's funny how rude something like that can sound if you choose the wrong synonym.)

After that, we headed to the main thing I'd wanted to see in Cologne: the Basilica of St. Ursula. I had read the story of St. Ursula before, and knew that it was based around a church in Cologne. I'd always wanted to see it, but thought I probably never would. Well, I thought wrong!

Seen one church, seen 'em all. No, seriously, this
one had some really interesting stained glass.
There were several of these praying figures on the upper level.
This was all well and good, but really what we'd come to see was the Golden Chamber. We saw a locked door and a sign in German of which I could read "Golden Chamber," "closed," and something that roughly translated to "thank you for your understanding." But before giving up, I found a woman who was working there and asked her if she spoke English. She replied with a whole bunch of German which included the words "Goldene Kammer" and a questioning tone at the end. I said "Ja," and she went and unlocked the door, asked for our money, and let us into a small room.


Interesting wall decor ... wait, are those clavicles? And femurs?
Kneecaps? Part of a skull?

Yes, that's my name. In bones.
It's worth going to look at my panorama shot of the room, even though it's blurry. Restorers were at work inside, and I guess that made me a little more shy than usual about taking photos, because I didn't take that many (for me). I may have also just been awed and more interested in standing around looking at it instead of looking at the view screen. Usually I do a better job of doing both. I think Morgan and Emily got some good ones in here as well. The legend says that these are the bones of Ursula and her 11,000 virgins, but since the story is probably apocryphal and the bones came from the cemetery on the site of which the basilica was built, these are most likely just the bones of whoever. Nevertheless, how often do you see something like this? Not very often, unless you have hobbies which are frowned upon by society.

That seems like a good stopping point, so I'll be back soon with the next installment of our time in Cologne, which will feature fewer bones.


  1. I've been to Cologne. Thanks for letting me revisit my memories, including the not-so-happy ones: German breakfast!
    Are you getting to watch any U.S. Open?

    1. You didn't like the German breakfasts? It doesn't really bother me, although it's not ideal for my vegetarian daughter, obviously!

      No US Open for me. Same story as with Wimbledon - no tv, and streaming isn't available in Belgium. So I listen to their radio broadcast and keep a window open for the scores. The night sessions take place at a ridiculous hour here so I miss out on those entirely. I went to bed last night when Ferrer-Gasquet was 2 all in the 5th, and I woke up to the disappointing results.

    2. No, I didn't like the German breakfasts. They were just disappointing to me: cold and plain.
      I had to go to work at the beginning of the Gasquet/Ferrer 5th set (I wasn't watching live), and I know the result now. I plan to watch last night's men's match this morning. ;-)

    3. Ack, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to spoil it for you. I figured since I didn't find out the result until a good 8 hours or so after it finished, I was probably the last to know.

    4. Sorry I wasn't clear - I didn't mean you spoiled anything. You didn't.