Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Köln; a brief description.

The city Christchurch wants to be when it grows up?
I went to Köln expecting to be greeted by a wife, a daughter and a dear friend, but instead came away as alone as I'd started. Thankfully though, Köln's the type of place that treats you right even when you feel like everything is totally plain wrong.

Iceland. Who would've thought such an isolated place could have such an impact on the world?

Based only on a single weekend admittedly, I can't help but think if Vancouver is Wellington 2.0, then Köln is what Christchurch dreams of being. I say Christchurch 'cause both are flat and revolve around a cathedral, but the vibes are similar too, only in Köln everything is bigger and brighter. The buskers are a class above as well, ranging from African acrobatic troupes to Vivaldi playing quintets of strings and accordians (plural).

The Dom, outside....
...and in.
My first bit of sightseeing was to the Kölner-dom, the largest Cathedral in Germany and a stunning example of its type to boot. Photos simply do not do it justice, in part because it's too big to photograph from the ground, but also because it's impossible to capture the grandeur of the place. Inside's neat too, even if you can't get anywhere near enough to the supposed remains of the three Magi. The 93 odd metre climb up the tower is also an experience that should be added to everyone's "things to do in Europe list" - steep and narrow to the point of absurdity, and the views are breathtaking (even if decent photos are prevented by the textured safety windows).

The chocolate fountain, one of nature's true miracles
I also took in the Lindt Shokolademuseum, and a couple of the big art galleries. The Ludwig-Gallery, which is devoted to modern art, was especially terrific. I'd put up photos, but photographer wasn't allowed and those that I surreptitiously shot with my cellphone didn't turn out so great. The Station at Perpignon by Dali, and a piece co-developed by a French chemist called (I think) [Something] Blue, or were my favourites - it was a pity the Pop-Art exhibition was closed for renovation.

My Saturday evening was spent drinking the local beer, a deceptively delicious lager called Kölsch in the sun, eating quesadas and concluded with a trip to Papa Joe's Jazz Bar. Papa Joe's, a tiny place with a mighty group of geriatric jazz musicians playing, it seems, non-stop. Great place, which brought with it a wave of nostalgia and longing for good times with good friends at the Robbie in Dunedin. Overall, a great city for a weekend, but I suspect a much better place when you're not all on your lonesome.

By night, a truly beautiful place
The trip home, which was much longer than I'd planned because of Iceland-caused train timetable disruptions (not a direct effect, more the result of rescheduling to cope with passenger pressure), but I could excuse all that 'cause we went via the Moselle Valley Rhine. It wasn't so easy to take pictures from a train going 150 km/hr, so for the most part you'll just have to take my word for it; the MoselleRhine is stunning. A long river valley, punctuated by hilltop castles, ancient vineyards and oh-so-quaint villages, it was close to the most picturesque journey I've ever taken; it's certainly up there with the approach (by air) into Queenstown (NZ), getting out of the plane on to Ross Island and the Hokianga by dinghy in my list of all time great scenic experiences.

The MoselleRhine, beautiful even from a train.

1 comment:

  1. Nice pics, i've always wanted to visit the cathedral in Koln, although have been under the impression that the remainder of the town is a bit limited. Shame you didn't get to sample a few wines in the Moselle, although I'm sure they must be more readily available over there than in NZ.

    Poor Sara, I'm thanking our lucky stars that we managed to get to the UK before eruption time (imagine being stranded in Abu Dhabi).

    Perhaps we could arrange a virtual tasting sometime? British vs German beers?