Monday, December 30, 2013

Next Stop, Cologne

Prior posts  The Travelogue Begins and The First Day

To pick up the tour from where we left off...Day One was spent in Andernach, Germany just getting a peek at the many of the  historical remnants left in a town that was founded by the Romans on the site of a Celtic settlement before 12 BC.

Careful planning helps get everything accomplished
While we weren't finished seeing the sights in Andernach, our plan was to circle back later in the week to meet up with friends and finish our "sight seeing." We had created an itinerary for the week and the following morning we were preparing to drive to Köln....or if you prefer the English name that is Cologne.

I was recently talking to another blogger about how we prepare for trips. Here's how we approach travel...When our time is unlimited and flexible,  there is something to be said for just "flying by the seat of your pants."  That is taking each day as it comes.   However, when  there are time constraints and we are only in a country for a limited amount of time, there is something to be said for planning very carefully on the front side of the trip so we can make the most of our time limitations.   That was the case for this trip.  I had 10 days to work in as much as I could, knowing that even with the most careful, preemptive planning, I wouldn't get everything seen. With that being said, hubby had already made hotel reservations, purchased train tickets, routed day trips etc.  prior to my arrival.

There are meats, cheese, yogurt, and soft boiled eggs.

Luckily for me, my husband had the luxury of knowing the area very well as he had been living in Weissenthurm at that point for 85 days.  Unlike prior trips we have taken from the vantage point of being totally unfamiliar with an area, it was quite helpful that he had already visited all the places that I wanted to visit.  In fact, he had been to some of the locations several times and had a working knowledge of how to get around.

After spending my  first night at the guesthouse, the Rhein Hotel, we got up for our breakfast.  As hubby has been living there, Mama makes his breakfast every morning at 9 AM.   The breakfast is typical German fare....meat, cheese, yogurt, bread, and soft boiled egg. The breakfasts don't vary much from hotel to hotel.  You might get a few extra choices if you pick an American chain hotel.(Notice: I said "you might" so don't get your hopes up.)  At one restaurant we went to, there was some scrambled eggs and we were the only people in the place that recognized their "deliciousness.". The fact that my husband ran to them with the same eagerness as a crack addict scoring crack, might of scared the other patrons off...but to be fair he has gone nearly 3 months eating a singular soft boiled egg and sliced meat for breakfast. I gave him points for not physically maiming  someone over the little pan of bacon that was on the same buffet table as the eggs. 

Driving into the city center
While I am taking a momentary detour to talk  about  German breakfasts....In most cases, the eggs are served soft boiled.  The "container' next to the egg cup keeps the egg hot until you eat it.  For those of you living outside of the U.S.  that might think this is so obvious that it is not worthy of being mentioned. You would be wrong.  It is very unusual to have eggs served soft boiled in most parts of the U.S. I would bet money on the fact, if you handed most people here in the states an egg spoon, they would be looking around the room trying to get a clue how to use it. I might go so far as to say most men would be crackin' the shell of that bad boy on the table. 

In honor of my first morning at The Rhein Hotel, Mama served us apple strudel fresh out of the oven.  It really is a shame that smells and sounds can't be incorporated into blogs. While strudel isn't normal breakfast food really should be.
After breakfast, we packed an overnight bag and set out  for Koln.  We chose to drive to Koln as it is just 57 miles.  Considering the highway speeds are over 100 MPH, it doesn't take very long to get from point A to Point B.

Arriving into Koln has a similar feel of other large cities or at least at first glance...lots of commercial buildings and a lot of traffic. However, as we got closer to the city center, we started seeing some of the charm of the city.

 Our first order of business, was to find our hotel.  Again, we had chosen a small local hotel over one of the larger chain hotels because we were hopeful to experience a little  more of the local flavor than previous trips when we stayed in recognizable chain hotels. As I mentioned in one of the earlier posts, we booked rooms off of (the European equivalent to The  Cerano Hotel  had excellent customer reviews and a lot of pictures that looked as most European hotels do...very contemporary in decor.

Husband is usually walking ahead because I tend to pause to look at things.
Many of the smaller hotels in the city center are tucked in on unassuming side streets that have a bit of an "ally" quality about them.  One-way alleys with no apparent place to park.  We knew that there was to be a private parking garage with our room.  (FYI...we knew this because if one wants to park a car one gets to pay for the pleasure....we happily paid for a space.)

The hotel turned out to be a lovely place to stay.  The group of owners, that refer to themselves as "like family" were gracious and welcoming.  The breakfast the following morning, was not only tasty but the presentation was beautiful.  The young girl that makes the breakfasts made each dish a work of art. I wish I could of brought myself to be the consummate tourist and take pictures of all her little "tapas style" plates so you could appreciate how pretty everything was. Alas, I couldn't reduce myself to that level and it didn't help that the next table over the people were all speaking French. Eavesdropping on their conversation, I figured out they were from Switzerland.  Anyway, I concluded they were  the type  of people that would NOT take pictures of their breakfast.
Our room for the night

BUT...on the day of our arrival,  after getting checked in and getting the car into the garage, we set off for the Cologne Cathedral. From the hotel it was a quick five minute walk.

The Cathedral is the most visited tourist site in Germany averaging more than 20,000 people visiting per DAY. No matter what faith a person might have, the Cathedral is jaw-dropping in it's scale and majesty.  While we aren't Roman Catholic, I had to respect the fact that at least a  portion of the people in the church weren't tourists.  I suspect a rather small portion judging by the obvious "touristy" look of the swarms that were milling around the church. me crazy, but most worshippers don't bring their cameras to Mass.

[Side Note.....Actually, I found this rather odd that all the towns we visited had historical churches that were wide open for tourists to come into.  In fact, I found that a bit unsettling. The people that were actually in the churches lighting candles or praying seemed oblivious to the crowds of gawkers.]

 A little bit of history concerning the cathedral....The construction of the cathedral commenced in 1248 and after several stops and starts was finally completed in 1880. 

It is 144.5 metres (474 ft) long, 86.5 m (284 ft) wide and its towers are approximately 157 m (515 ft) tall.[3] The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe.  Its two huge spires give it the largest facade of any  church in the world. The choir has the largest height to width ratio, 3.6:1, of any medieval church.

The church houses a number of valuable art and historical treasures but one of the most noted is the Shrine of the Magi.  The Shrine is  a large gilded and decorated triple sarcophagus that is believe to hold the bones of the Three Wise Men.

The exterior of the Shrine is covered in a total of seven feet of gilded silver and jewels.  Images of Old Testament prophets line the bottom while the twelve apostles decorate the top.  It is considered the high point of Mosan art.  In 1864 the shrine was opened and three skeletons were found inside; one of a young man, another of a middle aged man, and the third of an older man

 A few additional facts about the Cathedral....
  • The cathedral suffered fourteen hits by aerial bombs during World War II. It did not collapse, but stood tall in an otherwise flattened city. The great twin  spires are said to have been used as an easily recognizable navigational landmark by Allied aircraft raiding deeper into Germany in the later years of the war, which may be a reason that the cathedral  was not destroyed. The stained glass windows were removed during the war to keep them from being damaged and were later reinstalled. 
(the picture above that shows the church standing in the midst of WWII's  devastation of the city. The photo  came from a Flickr account of Kevin Trotman

  •  Some repair and maintenance work is constantly being carried out in some section of the building, which is almost never completely free of scaffolding, since wind, rain, and pollution slowly eat away at the stones. The Dombauhütte, which was established to build the cathedral and repair the cathedral, is said to employ the best stonemasons of the Rhineland. It is said that once a person is hired to work on the church, the job is theirs for life.
  •  The Cathedral has 11 bells...four of which are medieval. The largest of the bells is the Bell of St. Peter which weighs 24 ton. It is the largest free swinging bell in the world.
Perhaps being the only lay person entombed in the Cathedral isn't without it's down side
  • There are a number of tombs in the Cathedral. However, Count Gottfried of Arnsberg was the only layperson to be buried in the choir of the Gothic cathedral along side archbishops and saints in the Middle Ages. During his lifetime he transferred his entire estate to the archiepiscopal state of Cologne. The sandstone tomb chest is decorated with mourning figures, coats of arms, and helmets. The gisant of the count, which is protected by an arched iron grid, shows him in full armour. Legend has it that the grid was put in place to protect the recumbent effigy of the deceased from being vandalised by disappointed relations.

Next time we will be going to the Christmas Markets...stay tuned.


abeerfortheshower said...

Wow, fresh apple strudel, 100 mph highways, and a chance to see the Cologne Cathedral? What an adventure. Your cathedral experience reminds me of my Thailand trip. The temples are swarming with tourists taking pictures, and yet there are still monks praying and meditating everywhere, looking completely undisturbed. The patience it takes to maintain that while John Q. American is screaming for his kids to "move to the left, no to your OTHER left" is unimaginable.

Just Keepin' It Real Folks said...

Your trip sounds so amazing!!! My husband and I are like you and prefer to stay in local hotels, rather than American chains when we travel so we can get the local experience. That strudel looks delish!!!

Wendy said...

Hey- I'd know what to do with the spoon . When one of my lads was two he had a cute egg holder and tiny spoon to eat his egg. There is such a fun aspect to that, at two years old. I am amazed there is a lay person, so obviously not a saint, 'buried' in the cathedral. I confess, I am not too enamoured of dead people in a beautiful place. Icky. Loved video of the whole cathedral you took. Taking 600+ years to complete it? Hum, maybe that is why all the churches over here in 'the new land' are so plain- we just can't wait too long for anything!

lisleman said...

"the largest free swinging bell in the world" - Now that's an interesting bit of trivia. Thanks for reminding me about the soft boiled eggs, my wife got a little hooked on them after one trip. I think the local food (of course I don't always find it appealing/tasty) is as interesting/memorable as the sites on a foreign trip.
Hey was I the blogger you discussed the trip planning approaches with?
Thanks for sharing your trip adventures.

Riot Kitty said...

Being vandalized by disappointed relations! Damn. I just realized I need a similar suit ;)

Thanks for the tour. I love old churches and their history. Did they hypothesize who the skeletons belong to?

Cheryl P. said...

I would love for you to visit Germany sometime. It would really be a shame not to make use of all those German classes you took.

Isn't that an odd dynamic...hanging around a church like you are visiting a theme park? I nearly feel a bit blasphemous, not so much that I didn't have my camera flashing in the face of worshipers.

I laughed at the comment "no to your other left" ...that absolutely sounds like John Q. America.

Cheryl P. said...

The strudel was amazing. I typically stay away from carbs because at my age, they cause the fat cells in my ass to multiply and divide but I made lots of exceptions for this trip.

Cheryl P. said...

I knew that you knew how to use an egg spoon. Not only because you are savvy but Canadians just seem to be wiser about International travel, I am here to tell you, there are a lot of Midwesterners that are still stumped about what the salad fork is for.

I found that interesting that he is the only lay person given the honor but it was after he turned over his entire estate. You may not be able to buy your way into heaven but it seems you can get at least into a choir box.

As far as the tombs...that is certainly different than the more modern churches in the U.S. While many have gardens, cemeteries and such most don't have tombs within the naves or choirs. As far as the creepy factor...most of the tombs are quite beautiful. Later in the week I walked through a regular cemetery as well. It was gorgeous. Truly, it could be compared to the nicest botanical garden. Germans really know how to bury their people.

As for the 600 years.... After going through all that work to have a church that magnificent and then find out that the maintenance on it will take FOREVER...lesson learned to lower the bar.

Cheryl P. said...

Yes, you are the blogger that I was talking to about our tendency to hyper-manage scheduling on some trips. Now that I think of it I should of put a link over to your blog.

I found the bells to be pretty interesting. 24 TONs...that is one big bell.

I like to see how other people live and enjoy trying food that isn't too "adventuresome", but I would agree that I might not remember the food as long a I would remember the sites.

Cheryl P. said...

If his relatives were ready to steal off of his tomb, they probably were the type that were really POed that he left his entire estate to the church.

The general consensus is that the 3 skeletal remains are the remains of the Three Wise Men. I guess it is a matter of faith more than science as to who is really entombed in the Shrine.

Jo-Anne said...

This was one interesting read, I think Germany is a country with a lot of history and interesting history at that. I love soft boiled eggs with toast haven't had them in a while though.

Cheryl P. said...

I am glad you found it interesting, Jo-Anne. I know travel posts aren't everyone's cup of tea. I don't know why soft boiled eggs seem to be popular in so many other areas but not here where I live. I like them as long as they aren't too soft. I don't think I would want them every day though.

Chubby Chatterbox said...

Having trouble leaving a comment. But great post.

Cheryl P. said...

I have noticed on several sites tonight that Disqus is down for routine there seems to be a lag in comments showing up.

Agent 54 said...

Wow, what a great detailed report. Nice pics.
You had peer pressure from Swiss tourists. I don't think I'll ever experience that. Happy New Year!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Fascinating info about the great cathedral! Glad it survived the war.

Cheryl P. said...

Thanks, Timothy. It's funny how after you get back from a trip and look through all the realize how many are horrible. Thank goodness a few were good but none of them do the real church justice.

Yes, I cave to peer pressure rather easily, I guess. People that speak French just seem classy.

Happy New Year to you and your family!!!

Cheryl P. said...

Thanks Debra, it is such an interesting place. People really knew how to put a building together in the 13th century....well 13th thru the 19th...time management wasn't their forte though.