Sunday, June 01, 2008

Turista a Colonia

I have now some time to continue to post about my trip in Germany, after a few days of interruption.
After visiting Michael in Constance, I left for Cologne by train. The sceneries were beautiful, again. I was particularly struck by the intense yellow of some fields that were visible here and there on the hills we were going by. Here is a picture I took from the train window, which captures at least some of this beautiful color.
I arrived in Cologne in the early afternoon, and went to my bed and breakfast to deposit my luggage. It was an inexpensive and yet quite nice room, in a very lively neighborhood at walking distance from the Cathedral and the Rhine. Here is the room:
If you ever want to reserve a bed and breakfast in Germany, I recommend using this website. It worked really nicely for me, and you can pay less than half of what you would pay if you went to a regular hotel. Plus, you will feel at least a little bit immersed in the normal life of the city you’re visiting, as the rooms are simply part of apartments were people live.
Walking up the stairways in the building where my room was reminded me a little of visiting a friend in Torino. There is something similar in the way buildings are built everywhere in Europe, which is very distinct from the apartments and houses in the US. I must say, there is something about walking in a city in Europe that makes me feel instantly at home. Possibly this is just a superficial feeling, and I’m not sure if I would really feel more at home in a city in Germany compared to Berkeley. In the end, I’m Italian, and the unity of Europe as a nation has not really sunk in the hearts of the people, so that nobody would ever define himself or herself ‘European’. Yet, it is something that I have noticed quite a few times. It must be the architecture, the many people walking around in the streets, all the shops, cafes, restaurants. And the churches, the museums, and in general, that feeling of history that I only recently realized saturates the air of Europe.
During my first afternoon I walked around downtown and visited the impressive Cathedral that makes Cologne famous. It’s an amazing building. Its fa├žade is so tall that it was impossible for me to take a picture of the whole of it. So, here is the upper part:
And here is the lower part, with the monumental entrances.
All its facades are quite impressive. Here is another of them, seen from the square where two of the main museums of Cologne are. In particular, on the left side of the picture you can see the museum of Germany history, and on the right side, the Ludwig museum of modern and contemporary art.
During my day and nights in Cologne I was completely by myself. This was a new experience for me, and I was somewhat happy and concerned at the same time about it. In the end, it was good, although I must admit that I do prefer traveling in the company of a good friend or two. On the bright side, being by myself, I was able to visit a number of museums, churches, and parts of the cities that I wouldn't otherwise have had the possibility of seeing. I don't know how many people would have agreed with my rhythm.. on the other hand, I would have probably enjoyed more the nice atmosphere of cafes and restaurants, had I been with someone nice to talk to. I did a lot of people watching and tried to live in the present as much as possible, but in the end, the best was always for me to explore new things rather than sitting somewhere. So, here are some of the wonderful things I saw.
On my first afternoon, I had a stroll around the cathedral and on the Rhine river before dinner. The atmosphere is really nice:
I love cities built around a river.. obviously that's one of the things I like of my own hometown..
After dinner, I explored a lot of the city. I was particularly impressed by how lively it is. There are groups of people everywhere, sitting at restaurants or pubs, outside. In a particular square (Altmarket) there are tables with small stands, where people have wine and cheese and bread, sitting friendly close to each other. And when I went home, around 11 pm, the streets were even more crowded than in the middle of the day.
The day after, I spent most of my morning inside the Cathedral. I decided I wanted to climb up the tower, even though I read that there were 520 steps and no elevator. I decided my knees would have to bear it, because who knows in how many years would I go back to this wonderful place? I wasn't disappointed. The view is breath-taking, both when you're still inside and when you finally get outside.
This is the top of the tower, from its inside:
And here is a detail of a window, from inside:
And here is a view from outside! How beautiful this is. The big building you see in this picture is St. Martin, a beautiful church.
I love this picture with a detail of the Cathedral, and the modern shape of the roof of the Ludwig museum. It's amazing how the two constructions don't clash, even though they are so different and yet so close to each other!
Here is a better view of just the museum:
When I finally descended, I went back inside the cathedral, to breathe in once more this sacred Gothic atmosphere. Here is a picture that captures only a fraction of it:
I think this was one of the best parts of my visit. After this, I walked around, and "found myself" in front of the chocolate museum! How could I say no to a visit inside? It looked like a cool building, on a small island on the Rhine, and there were lots of people inside. In fact, it's a wonderful museum. There are lots of panels about the scientific facts related to cocoa growth and harvest and its transformation into chocolate, together with other panels describing the social issues related to the labor and the unfair wages of the people who grow cocoa in Africa and South America. I really liked these explanations, which were totally missing in the 'Death by chocolate' exposition that I went to some time ago in Napa Valley.
There are also some more fun parts, of course, like this amazing chocolate fountain:
We were given small pieces of wafers dipped in the liquid chocolate.. :)
What I also found amazing is that there is a whole floor dedicated to the industrial production of chocolates. After the liquid chocolate is poured into the molds, a particular machine 'shakes' the molds so that the chocolates become flat:
Then, the chocolates are dried, and moved by special machines:
The chocolates are then moved on a single line by a machine, then wrapped by another one, and finally placed in small bags and weighed by a person... quite a tiring job this must be:
My other favorite touristic activity (in Europe, at least) is to visit churches. In Cologne, there are a lot of really beautiful ones. I'll show you here some views of insides and outside of these sacred and wonderful buildings.
This is St. Andreas, with both Gothic and Romanesque arcs:
And this is a detail of the ceiling:
This is a statue that's inside, which really touched me:
And here is the beautiful organ.
German churches seem to have maintained their organs in wonderful working conditions. I heard some of them playing just while visiting the churches, then I heard the Cathedral organ playing during a Mass that I attended. I also specifically went to the St. Apostles basilica to listen to an organ and choir concert. It was the Derby choral union, and they played the Te Deum by Haydn and the Requiem by Faure. It was really wonderful. I hadn't been to a classical music concert in ages.
This is the inside of St. Severin:For some reason, its simple setting, and its circular apse really touched me and made me feel part of a higher reality.
This is a detail of the outside.
I saw one of the most wonderful views of the cathedral from a balcony in the Ludwig Museum. Nobody was on the balcony - I guess no one went all the way up to this hidden part of the museum, so I had it all for myself and took a lot of pictures. Here are the best.
Here is a detail of the facade:
And here is the back:
Then, since I was alone, I had a lot of fun taking pictures of myself with such a beautiful background. Here is the best shot I took (I was just stretching my arm and had the camera pointing towards me) :)
The Ludwing museum itself was very interesting. I am not a big lover of contemporary art, so I didn't appreciate all of it, but I did enjoy many parts. I think actually the part that I loved better was a temporary exposition, 'Paula Modersohn-Becker und die Agyptischen Mumienportraits'. It was a comparison between the portraits painted by Paula Modersohn-Becker and those found in Egyptian tombs. I didn't know this author before, and it was a big discovery for me. I loved her portraits. Here is a self-portrait of hers, that you can see if you visit the exposition:
(Image borrowed from the museum website)
This will end my post about my adventure in Cologne, I hope you enjoyed the little virtual tour. In summary, it's a beautiful and lively town, filled with history and art, a worthwhile stop if you're traveling throughout Germany. My next post will describe some of the food I had while I was in Germany!


Anonymous said...

Ecco, queste belle campagne ubertose, pulite e ben tenute mi mancano....qui i contadini sono dei disastri, non sanno fare il loro mestiere!
Ciao dal Nepal

Emigrante said...

Grande la citazione dei primi articoli della costituzione repubblicana. Io penso che la nostra costituzione sia molto buona, ha garantito la ricostruzione, la democrazia ed il benessere nel dopoguerra. L'unica cosa che non mi piace e' la prima frase dell'articolo 1. Cioe' che vuol dire che e' fondata sul lavoro? L'ho sempre trovato terribilmente ambiguo quell'articolo. Secondo me una costituzione e' il fondamento di una nazione. Quindi si fonda sul popolo e si applica al suo teritorio.

Il matto said...

Ma come, passi in Germania e non ti fai neanche sentire? Ahi Ahi Ahi.
Ti giustifico solo se sie rimasta sotto l'Elba!
Il matto amburghese

Amanda said...

I'm a bit late catching up... and I see you tagged me blow. I will respond soon!

I know what you mean about travelling alone. It can be good, and lonely, too. I was in Geneva a few times on business and though there was work to do during the day, the rest of the time was a bit boring all by myself. Certainly meals were not as convivial as of course they would be with a group. But I also had the opportunity to wander wherever I wanted to, eat what and when I desired, and enjoy my own silence while people-watching, which I did enjoy tremendously. It is something to learn how to enjoy just being alone in those kind of settings.

chemcookit said...

At last I get to answer to these nice comments!

Niki - grazie per essere passata di qui! Bello avere un'amica blogger in Nepal. :)

Emigrante - grazie mille per il commento. Ma mi sono un po' stupita: dov'e' la citazione della costituzione? E' del tutto inintenzionale, anche se sono onorata che ci sia. :)
Ho sempre trovato molto bello il primo articolo. L'idea di dire che l'Italia e' basata sul lavoro e' allo stesso tempo poetica e pratica. Tutti devono avere la possibilita' e il dovere di contribuire all'Italia con il loro lavoro. Il lavoro, non il denaro, e' cio' che conta e su cui si basa la nosra repubblica.. almeno, cosi' intuisco.

Il matto - ma vivi ad Amburgo?!?!? non l'avevo colto! Beh, la prossima volta mi faro' viva di sicuro. :)

Amanda - thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment. I agree with all you said. Being alone is something everyone should learn to enjoy.