Friday 30 August 2019 – Monday 9 September 2019 – Copenhagen (Denmark) – Cologne (Germany)
Before leaving Denmark, we caught up with our Best Man Grant, his wife Leanne and their daughter Bec for a lovely night out and about in Copenhagen.
Next morning, we drove to Rodby to catch the ferry to Puttgarden in Germany. Upon arriving in Germany, we continued for the next two days through Hamburg and Dortmund to Dusseldorf for the Caravan Salon, a motorhome and caravan show where we bought a number of items for the motorhome.
From there we drove to Cologne and parked our motorhome in a beautiful parking area along the Rhine river close to the town centre.
Cologne is a 2,000-year-old city spanning the Rhine River in western Germany.
We decided to go on, you guessed it, another free walking tour! The tour started at Eigelstein Torburg Plaza.
The sights of Cologne:
Eigelstein Torburg is one of six of the twelve gates from the walled city that still remain today. It was built in the second quarter of the 13th century and was used as a fortress, prison, museum and music school.
Since 1915, the wreckage of a lifeboat of the cruiser ‘Cöln’ was installed under the passage of the eastern gate tower of Eigelstein Torburg. It serves as a memorial for 379 sailors who died during the World War I naval Battle of Heligoland.
Attached to the wall of the tower is the city of Cologne’s Coat of Arms, which consists of three crowns which symbolise the Magi (Three Wise Men) whose bones are said to be kept in a golden sarcophagus in Cologne Cathedral. There is also eleven black drops which recall Cologne’s patron. Saint Ursula, a Britannic princess, and her legendary 11 virgin companions who were supposedly martyred by Attila the Hun at Cologne for their Christian faith in 383. An interesting story about the symbols representing Cologne’s Coat of Arms which makes other Coat of Arms a bit boring!
Stolpersteine stones (stumbling stones) are monuments to the Holocaust embedded directly underfoot, in the cobblestones of the streets outside the last known residence of the victim. The stones represent a new vision of urban remembrance. The inscription on each stone begins ‘Here lived’, followed by the victim’s name, date of birth and fate (internment, suicide, exile, deportation or murder) and the prison camp. To read the stone, you have to bow before the victim. This was a very moving time and is a very personal way of acknowledging the tragedy. Apparently, Cologne is not the only place in Europe where Stolperstein stones are used to commemorate victims of the Holocaust.
St. Mariä Himmelfahrt is a parish church for the Italian community, who, along with the Turkish and Polish communities, helped rebuild Cologne after the WWII. The service is spoken only in Italian and it is the only church in Cologne where this occurs. Inside the quaint church is a beautifully embossed altar.
Kiosk is a small convenience store where you can buy cold alcoholic beverages at a very reasonable price as well as a variety of small goods. In the corner of the store there is a bottle opener where you can open your purchase and then stand outside or walk along the street and consume alcohol. It is legal to drink whilst walking or in public places in Germany. The Kiosk is also the only shop open on a Sunday, all other grocery and supermarkets are closed. A very interesting concept which is very well patronised.
So, we all went in, bought a drink and then proceeded to stand around talking whilst drinking our drink. Before drinking, you say Prost, make eye contact with the person and never cross your arms. Apparently, if you cross your arms you will not have good sex for 7 years! An interesting theory.
The Roman City Wall was almost four kilometres long and can still be seen in various parts of the city. Recent excavations have proved that the city wall was erected at the end of the 1st century AD. At the front of the western entrance to Cologne Cathedral is an arch from the former northern gateway. The foundations of the gate and part of the defensive wall can be seen in the underground garage beneath the open area beside the cathedral and in the excavation area under the cathedral.
Cologne Cathedral took 632 years to complete and is the world’s third-tallest church. The imposing cathedral was spared during World War II bombings, which destroyed 95 percent of the city, and the twin spires stood towering above the rubble. In 1996 the building was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Construction began in 1248 to house the relics of the Biblical Three Wise Men and we were informed that we should not miss the shrine.
Rathaus (City Hall) erected between 1569 and 1573 is decorated with more than 100 stone sculptures depicting important figures in the history of the city over a span of two thousand years.
Under the clock on the tower which faces the Alter Markt (historic marketplace), is the famous ‘Platzjabbeck’, a wooden grotesque face sculpture which opens its mouth and sticks out its tongue and moves it back and forth, four times daily at 9am, 12pm, 3pm and 6pm.
The Schmitz-Säule was erected as a gift to the city by award winning architect Josef ‘Jupp’ Engels in 1969 who was known for his Cologne humour and tried to boost the city’s morale wherever possible. When he was building his house, he found a section of the ancient Roman harbour and turned it into a monument. On the front of the monument is a dedication inscription stated the placement of this monument is where the island of St Martin, surrounded by the Rhine once flowed. At the same time as the dedication of this monument, Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon. As a result, on the other side of the monument is an inscription which informs the astronomical calculation verified by NASA of the distance from this monument to where Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon, the time of landing according to Central European Time and that Armstrong and NASA gratefully acknowledge this column and inscription.
We may travel far and wide on planet Earth, stand in many cities admiring monuments to human achievement, reflect on the past and wonder at man’s accomplishments, but here in front of the Schmitz-Säule monument you can see history in one go and smile at the humour of it all.
The walking tour ended at Ostermannplatz where the Ostermann Fountain is located. This fountain was completed in 1939 and depicted on the fountain are references to the songs of the Cologne lyricist and singer Willi Ostermann (1876 – 1936). His music is still part of the carnival today. The carnival is a 6-day street carnival in November where people celebrate, sing and dance in the halls, pubs and restaurants. During these six days, normal life is suspended throughout Cologne, with many public institutions closed. The guide explained and demonstrated a dance which they perform during the carnival and then we all joined arms and swayed as we sang the chorus.
It was an interesting walk through the streets of Cologne and a different way to finish our tour of this lovely, busy city.
Other points of Interest visited:
The old cathedral was consecrated in 870, and after the relics of the Magi (Three Wise Men) had been installed there in 1164, the construction of the Gothic cathedral began in 1248 on the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. In the early 16th century, building was stopped as a result of a lack of both money and interest. Work did not restart until the 1840s, and the edifice was completed to its original Medieval plan in 1880.
At the rear of the cathedral is the stunning Shrine of the Magi, a triple sarcophagus decorated with 12th-century reliefs of episodes from the life of Christ, prophets and apostles. In addition to the precious Shrine of the Magi, the cathedral contains the Cross of the Gero which is the oldest surviving large sculpture of the crucified Christ in the Western World.
The light shining through the spectacular glass windows is truly amazing. The colours are so vivid, and the designs are quite detailed. There is one particular glass window which consists of endless coloured squares, which replaced the window destroyed during the war. It is a huge cathedral, but the inside is very tastefully done and not over the top like most of the cathedrals we have previously visited.
Wallraf-Richartz- Museum and Foundation Corboud is an art museum with art from the medieval period to the 19th centuries. It opened in 1861 and the collection was regularly expanded by donations. In 2001, Swiss collector Gérard Corboud gave his collection of 170 works to the museum on permanent loan and this is why ‘Foundation Corboud’ was added to the museum name. The museum is extremely well organised on each of the three floors and is presented in chronological order from Medieval, Baroque to 19th century. The most notable works of art have a description of the painting, in German and English, to provides an insight to why or what the painting is about. We found this really helpful because to someone who likes art but doesn’t necessarily understand the intricacies, it enabled us to appreciate the art even more.
NS-Dokumentationszentrum (Museum of the history of National Socialism in Cologne) documents how the harsh period of the national socialism influenced the life in and around Cologne. The centre is dedicated to memorialising the victims of the Nazi regime, as well as research about Cologne’s history during the Nazi era.
The exhibition is set in a former prison of the Third Reich and was founded in 1987 and is situated in the EL-DE building, site of the Gestapo (secret police) in Cologne from 1935 to 1945. The Gestapo had the building reconfigured for its own purposes, which included building ten prison cells in the basement.
Today, you can visit the prison cells in the basement, sub-basement bunker and the courtyard, as well as the permanent exhibition which depicts the political and social life in Cologne during the Nazi period. Unfortunately, the permanent exhibition is only in German, but you can still get an idea of life during this time from the many photographs, posters, artefacts, documents and witness statements.
With the use of an audio guide we walked through the prison cells, bunker area and finished our tour in the courtyard. There are about 1,800 inscriptions and drawings by prisoners on the wall of the cells.
In the final months of the war, four hundred people, most of them foreign forced labourers, were executed (hanged or shot) in the courtyard of the building and piled up in the corner awaiting to be collected by rubbish trucks and taken to the Cologne Westfriedhof cemetery. There, the Gestapo had a designated plot at its disposal, the ‘Gestapo Field’. The minute we stepped into the courtyard surrounded by mirrors an eerie feeling crept over us and then reading the information board of what actually happened here made it even more chilling. The last group of murders took place four days before the American soldiers arrived and were still awaiting removal. The Americans found the bodies and the gallows in the EL-DE house in October 1945. We can only imagine what it must have been like. A very somber place to visit but definitely one we are glad we did.
The Basilica church of St Ursula is built on the ancient remains of a Roman cemetery. The church has a very impressive shrine, The Golden Chamber, created from the bones of the former occupants of the cemetery found in a mass grave in 1106. The alleged remains are said to be those of St Ursula and her 11,000 virgins who were killed by the Huns. The original legend said only 11 virgins accompanied St Ursula, but the number grew over time, eventually to 11,000. The walls of the Golden Chamber are covered in bones arranges in designs and letters along with relic skulls. Apparently, this is the only church in Germany where you can see the bones displayed on the walls. It is a very interesting concept and the effect of display is quite stunning.
Around 30 years ago, Tomas Baumgärtel started spraying bananas on buildings and became known as the ‘Banana Sprayer’. The banana functions as a tag that shows a building is an arty place and like Michelin stars, the more bananas the more extraordinary the place of art is (1 – 3 bananas). Apparently, the idea behind the banana symbol is it is the best sign of change. Everything in life is like a banana. Nothing is straight or logical and you never know what the banana is going to be like inside until you peel it. It is now commonplace for museums in Cologne and throughout Europe to display bananas to indicate their importance as a museum. When this is pointed out, you start seeing bananas on buildings everywhere.
Beer portions appear to be quite measly. The local brew, Kölsch, comes in tall, 200-millilitre glasses called Stangen. It is not because it is expensive or they want you to drink more, it is because Kölsch is traditionally served with a beer head and the frothy foam collapses quickly and the beer tastes stale. So, serving it in a Stangen ensures that you always have a fresh beer in front of you. As you are served a beer the coaster under your beer is marked with a tally stroke. Once you have finished your drink, another beer magically appears. When you are finished and do not require any more you place your coaster on top of the glass. The waiter arrives and tallies up the strokes and you pay in cash. This seems a very old-fashioned way of serving beer, but it works extremely well, and the service is second to none.
Fetish Auto (Golden Bird) was placed on the tower of the Cologne City Museum in 1991. HA Schult created this winged car as part of a two-week art action ‘Fetish Auto’. As you walk along the street you can see the gold wings shining in the sky.
Opposite the Groβ St. Martin church stand two bronze figures that represent the typical original inhabitants of the city: Tϋnnes, and Schäl. Tϋnnes, represents the good natured, simple and goofy farmer while Schäl, the thinner of the two, is the classic bourgeois and bon viveur. Apparently, if you rub the thick nose of Tϋnnes it should bring luck, and this is the reason his nose is very shiny. Here’s hoping!
Heinzelmännchen Fountain built in 1899 in honour of August Kopisch who immortalised the legend of the Heinzelmännchen – the house gnomes, in his poem ‘The House Gnomes of Cologne’. Legend has it that the house gnomes took over the work of the ‘stressed’ craftsmen every night until they were scared off by a curious housewife. From that time on, the citizens of Cologne had to do all their work by themselves.
The poem (translated)
Once upon a time in Cologne,
how comfortable it was with the Heinzelmen!
For if you were lazy, … you just lay down
on your bench and took care of yourself.
Then at night, before one knew it, came
the little men and swarmed
and clattered and rattled
and jumped and trotted
and cleaned and scoured –
and even before a lazy bum awoke,
all his daily work was … already done! …
I think when the gnomes left Cologne they went to live in Australia!
As you walk from square to square through the cobblestone alleys of the historic centre of Cologne it is quite humbling to think that around 75 years ago this area would have just been rubble as three quarters of Cologne was obliterated in the war. We loved just sauntering along the Rhine river into the city and watching the boats go up and down the river every night from our gorgeous motorhome parking spot facing the river.
We left Cologne and headed to Bonn, the home of Beethoven.