Dateline: Cologne, Germany and Points South.
We continued to motor up the Rhine river all night and, as the scenery seemed to be mainly the back sides of apartment houses and chemical refineries, alleviated by the occasional industrial site and cargo ship dock, I decided I could sleep in a bit this morning and laid around reading and watching a not so good movie that MNM will get her claws into shortly. Habitation and bridges started to increase around 11 AM as we headed into the suburbs of Cologne, docking right next to the Hohenzollern Bridge leading into the main train station, just a few hundred yards from the famous cathedral. I have been to Cologne before, but frankly, I remember next to nothing about it. I know I went to the cathedral, as that’s what you do in Cologne but for the life of me, I can’r remember another thing about the city from my grand tour of the early 80s.
In the thirty five years since I was last here, they have redone Cathedral square with some contemporary museums and cultural amenities such as concert halls and one very large venue dedicated to Broadway Style musicals. Our tour guide wasn’t very happy with that one. It has a ‘temporary’ canvas roof that never seems to be replaced with a permanent structure and she considered it a bit of an eyesore. I would have been interested in checking out what was being offered this evening, but alas, our ship departed at 6:30 PM. Far too early to partake in any of the local night life.
The cathedral remains magnificent, still undergoing repair work from a combination of World War II bombs and time and the elements. The entire plan and the apse date back to the 13th century but most of it was actually constructed in the 19th century when Cologne finally had the funds to finish the job. There was damage from the Allied bombers. (It was too close to the train station and Rhine bridges not to sustain some) but it mainly survived intact and they have been carefully restoring and repairing all of the intricate stonework ever since. The locals took down most of the stained glass during the war so many of the medieval windows survived. Where windows did not (primarily the 19th century windows in the newer parts of the church) they have been replaced with modernist patterns of stained glass which still give color and light, but which remind us all of the casualties of war. The old altar is dedicated to the magi and their bones rest in an impressive gold and silver reliquary. Whether it’s actually the magi or not is a source of some debate, but the provenance can be traced back to Helena, mother of Constantine, who brought the bodies out of the holy land in the 4th century. My guess is she was snookered by the locals on her relic hunt but either way, they’re bones that have seen a lot of history.
After craning my neck looking up for an hour or so, it was off to the Ludwig museum. This is new since my last trip as it wasn’t opened until the late 80s or early 90s. Herr Ludwig, a German chocolatier of a previous generation, developed quite the interest in modern art and assembled quite the collection, especially of early 20th century artists. There are many Picassos, Kandinskys, Klees, Noldes etc. Dali’s Railway Station at Perpignan is there, and much larger than I had imagined. It is all well displayed with galleries explaining all of the different directions 20th century art traveled and how it was reacting to social and other artistic trends. The later 20th century and 21st century collection was more of a mixed bag. A lot of Pop Art as apparently Mr. Ludwig was a fan so bunches of Warhol and Liechtenstein.
Then it was time for a bit of a walk through town. I did some shopping, but didn’t buy anything. walked on the railway bridge to see the padlocks (It’s a German version of the bridge in Paris – couples put a padlock on the bridge to lock in their love. 40,000 and counting at this point.). As it’s a strong iron railway bridge, there will never be a need to remove them due to weight. They’ll run out of padlock room first. Then, back down to the river, back on board, and time for dinner. We’re continuing to sail upstream. We should pass through Bonn sometime after midnight and arrive at the Lorelei Rock and the beginning of the middle Rhine with all of the cliffs and castles sometime tomorrow morning.
Shingles are hurting and I can’t think of a good story immediately so I am going to sign off here and pick up again tomorrow.