Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Ain't Europe Grand (Tour) with Chryss and George (Day 16)
A Town By Any Other Name Wouldn't Smell as Sweet
Day 16 we visit Cologne, but since we're docked for just over 13 hours, perhaps we should call that semi-Cologne. Yep, I have stooped to punctuation puns. No wonder the gargoyles seem about to retch. So let's show something sweeter, literally, a breakfast aboard the Vali. While Chryss and I got particularly fond of the egg benedict--and that's no typo, they served a single, which is a non-gorging perfect serving--I also discovered the blueberry pancakes weren't bad either. Especially with a little side boat of bacon, as nobody wants syrup on their bacon, at least no one I like.
And the view this morning from our cabin? Glad you asked.
Yeah, it looked threatening again, but rain held off all day. So think of it as a highly Germanic, dramatic cloud show.
Walking Tour, Cathedral Wins, Spires Up
Before we get to the 516 foot gorilla in Cologne, let's go on the day's walking tour, that first skirts the Rhine where a boat says, "I'm not afraid of you, Loreley."
Or, perhaps, it is hoping to get crashed into by another boat someday so somebody whose name sounds like butt in another language writes a famous poem about it. And then there's just beautiful buildings, mostly fake old while lots are quite modern (post 1945). The fake old part goes back to WWII again, as the allies, mostly the RAF, thought a great way to demoralize Germany would be to bomb die Scheiße out of Cologne. The first 1000 bomber squadron of the war dropped their long tons on Cologne. Many of the bombs were incendiaries, but luckily the city's grand, wide streets helped the fires from turning into massive firestorms. Not that the town didn't end up looking like this in 1945.
Let's not do war no more, ok?
But even the taverns can look lovely, once rebuilt to look the old they were, like this one right across from our mooring.
Not far was the Kölner Philharmonie, which you can, and cannot, see in this photo. For it's below plaza level, and that woman rolling her suitcase might be disturbing a recording, for all we know. Evidently she didn't read the signs saying don't walk, or even more so, roll stuff (including yourself) over these bricks.
Behind it is the Museum Ludwig, supposedly home to an amazing modern art collection. Again, one of the biggest faults to an otherwise fine cruise is you never feel you have enough shore time to dive into a place like the Ludwig. But it certainly plays off its neighbor the Cologne Cathedral quite effectively.
And before we get to Kolner Dom, look, here are two spires I can't ID, but make a cool photo!
And they turn trash into statues, even though, again, searching the nets I can't find the details I know our fine guide told us.
It's both fun to look at and a bit terrifying--all that's waste, and now it's a giant human. (Which is better than the large human who's a waste in the White House right now--pa da dum!).
We Go Goth
Words can't quite express the glory that is the Cologne Cathedral. Another one of those churches that got built over centuries, beginning in 1248 but not finished until 1880. And no, it didn't take that long, there were just a lot of stops and starts. It's even worse than trying to open a fully licensed new business in Santa Barbara!
Yep. the tip of the towers are 50 stories up. If you think the spire-tops are small, they disabuse you of that notion by putting models of them in the magnificent, tourist-jammed plaza.
Before we head in, here is its back, too, just because I love how much a Gothic cathedral looks like some defiant spiny creature--you can see why dragons might seem real to folks in the middle ages (or GoT fans, of course).
Just the doors are enough to impress, but you sort of have to have that given 20,000 people could fit inside.
And let's get our rhyming out of the way--there are doors and then there are as amazing floors.
Of course the hard part is to avoid looking up the whole time. So much interior space. So much light.
If not perhaps enough for me to take a shot of any of the stained glass I felt was worth sharing here. Not even of the controversial, but if you ask me abstractly beautiful, one that Gerhard Richter did for the south cross nave in 2007. Sorry. Instead, I do have a perfectly good focus on a deathly image, as usual.
Speaking of death, the cathedral goes all in on reliquaries, starting with the Engelbert Reliquary. While you thought Mr. Humperdinck's career was buried on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island...oh, wait, I just got a message from the Catholic home office...this Engelbert was one of those non-canonized saints who was Archbishop of Cologne back when the cathedral was a mere foundation stone. Still, what's left of him has quite a golden box to hold it.
Alas for Engelbert, his reliquary is practically Jan to the Marsha that's the Shrine of the Three Kings. which Those relics are why this site was a place to build what's now the third largest church in the world, as people have been pilgrimaging here to stand outside the box that holds some of the decaying parts of Melchior, Kaspar, and Balthazar. You need a lot of frankincense to cut that odor, or a lot of gold and jewels to hold it in. See if you can work myrrh in yourselves.
No Ifs, Tongues, or Butts
The Colognese (that can't be what the city's peoples are called, can it?)* are a saucy sort, even with a cathedral that would make a pope proud in the heart of their city. For on their City Hall one of the towers features a wooden face of a man who sticks his tongue out at the town every time the bells toll the hour.
*Turns out here's what they call themselves, as their own website insists: "Kölner are people who live here, Kölsche are those who where born here and in whose veins the pulse of this city can be felt."
My guess is it was a real Kölsche who decided to put up the sculpture across the plaza from the platzjabbeck above. That would be German sculptor Ewald Mataré, who in 1956 created Kallendresser. Sure, there's a history of people pooping from upper stories back in the day. But perhaps his work is an "artistic" way to tell town hall to lap some tuchas.
Heck, they even celebrate Mardi Gras here, if a statue for Mardi Gras is a hint. Or maybe it's just something to trick tourists to take photos of.
I do wish I remember the name of our great tour guide, a fine story-teller, good herder of cats. Here he is in front of some of the parts of the cathedral that have been replaced by newer parts--supposedly over 80 stonemasons, glaziers, roofers and other specialists are constantly at work on the maintenance and restoration of the building. So in addition to letting us see some of the work up-close, these massive stones double as something else in our tenuous 21st century--great barriers to keep some amped up asshole from making his mark on the world by barreling into the pedestrian-packed dom plaza with a vehicle. In this case, god does protect.
Krazy for Kölsch
Cologne has got its own beer, Kölsch. Kölsch is warm fermented with top-fermenting yeast, then conditioned at cold temperatures like a lager--as Wikipedia puts it. (You come up with a graceful paraphrase of that line.) So it's a bit of an ale, and a bit of a lager, and brilliantly bright, fresh, clean, clear and with a good hopiness if you're not looking for a West Coast IPA (we have done so much to make our tastebuds hope for a hop-bludgeoning, haven't we?) You can bet we made sure we drank some, and at different places. So after our shipboard lunch (photos of all that food is coming, don't worry), Chryss and I hightailed it out from the boat to check out one of the spots our fine local tour guide recommended, Sion.
A version of this brauhaus has been around almost as long as the cathedral, which just goes to figure. Even better, Kölsch has got a whole sort of drinking traditions built around it, like the order of the mass. There's a special 7 oz or so glass called a stangen, so you drink it cold and very fresh. You often order a few at once, and if you don't and your glass goes empty--which doesn't take much at such a size--the new one shows up without you saying a thing. So that's even more religious--that's a miracle of beery faith. To get the beers to stop, you need to put a coaster over the top of your glass. The waiter keeps your consumption score right on the paper tablecloth or another coaster. At Sion it's 1,90 Euros per.
We enjoyed Sion so much we ran back out after dinner, too, as our ship didn't sail until 10:30 pm. We dragged along Steven and Carol, as we knew we'd soon no longer see our fun friends. But that didn't stop us from one more night of German fun. (Not an oxymoron.) This time we tried Peters Brauhaus, which charmingly on its translated website suggests: "Pleasure independent of your wallet, 'Klaaf' with friends." We klaafed away. (I tried looking that up and it seems to translate as yap-yap?)
Watching the circular tray they call a crown fly through the bar like a UFO of pleasure--I could have spent a lot more time in Cologne's bars.
Across the Rhine
OK, I've blown all the straight chronology here, but given this post is going up months after the day took place, it's fortunate I can remember any of it, let alone in precise running order. After Sion Chryss and I walked some of the beer off, running into yet another St. George, who unlike this George, clearly knew how to lay off the Kölsch.
It's fun to check out the Rhine from over the Rhine, so we did that, too, hoping to get more saintly svelte. One thing I definitely got was more scenic shots than anyone needs to view, but here's one toward Hohenzollernbrucke and the cathedral.
And then the reverse shot, toward Severinbrucke. Both taken from Deutzer Brucke. Now you know the word for bridge in German, minus an umlaut.
That also meant we got to walk over where the Vali was docked, to get this great view of the shuffleboard and putt putt we never shuffled or putted on. Too much else to do!
All Aboard the Ship
I promised you lunch photos, so here you go, with something shrimpy-salady on bready in the back and the twirled for you spaghetti alla puttanesca up front, for all you fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
And soon we wouldn't be on a cruise so wouldn't have dessert at every meal. In the meantime--lemon meringue pie!
We also has a sadder moment, the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party, since the next evening would be our final one on the Vali and I assume they figure everyone's too busy packing for their returns home to get a pre-dinner buzz on. (Amateurs!) Here's the head crew in their finest while we enjoyed sparkling.
As for dinner, I had to keep with the regional specialties, so here's rettichsalat--yep, radishes on pumpernickel. What could be wrong with that? I love the surprising sharp a radish hides.
Chryss went for a classic on the specials of the day menu, a crab cake with zippy scallion remoulade (plus some unidentified red, probably roasted pepper).
For mains I stuck with the regional menu, although I'm not quite sure how herb crusted ahi is particularly native to Cologne. Maybe it's the boiled potato and the very steaky presentation.
Chryss stuck with the evening's other specials, a risotto con zucchine, burrata e tartufo al limone, which, if anything just too much flavor.
And then here's a photo of Roger's dessert--after having the real thing in Vienna, I couldn't bring myself to try anything that might be a tragic falling off from Platonic ideals, but sachertorte has a pretty high floor, no matter.
Instead I opted to order from the "Classics: Always Available" side of the menu that adventurous-me barely even scanned otherwise. But being pretty full, with dinner and captain's toast and Kölsch before with yet more Kölsch in my future, I ordered fromagerie, figuring the whole table could nibble. And a fine collection of cheese, fruits, dried fruits and nuts it was--perfect for sharing.
After all that, and the second run to Peters, was Cologne all alight and gorgeous and glowing as we sailed on? You decide from these two, I admit, blurry wonders, but by then perhaps I was a third one, too.
Go back to Ain't Europe Grand (Tour) with Chryss and George Day 15
Go ahead to Ain't Europe Grand (Tour) with Chryss and George Day 17