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28 July 2012

What happens when your home city is 95% destroyed?

As we have wandered down this river system, seeing one old town after another, and hearing how much of the place was destroyed and by whom, I have often thought how terrible it was that someone should destroy a city. It takes a second before I remember why all these cities were bombed. But the German people are so nice...

War is definitely trouble for me
It starts when two people disagree
Then they go out and have other people kill other people for them.
War's a bad thing and it makes me mad.


Whereas the other cities we've seen suffered major damage and have rebuilt, Cologne was almost entirely destroyed (the red outline there is the bridge, as you can see).  There was nothing to rebuild.  The cathedral looks unharmed but it suffered major damage too.

But I'm getting ahead of my story. There were two cities I really wanted to see on this tour:  Cologne (for its magnificent cathedral) and Kinderdijk (windmill country, which we will see tomorrow).  But this ol' body is crying out after 2 weeks of city walks, so I finally decided to swallow my pride and sign up for the "leisure tour," an option I've had all along but was determined not to take.  As it turned out, it was probably the best decision I made.  First of all, Char decided she would join me, so she signed up too, then Mike decided to keep her company, so he signed up, then Walt decided he might as well sign up too, and finally Kitch decided that if the rest of us were going to sign up, so would he.  So our tour group was intact...and leisurely.

Second, we drew Erwen Resch as a tour guide, an older gentleman who has lived in Cologne all of his life and knows it like the back of his hand.  It was indeed "leisurely" but I'm sure he didn't eliminate anything.  We just had longer stops...and usually in the shade (for which we were grateful, since it got up to 90 degrees today!)

You won't find quaint narrow streets with historic buildings and those damn cobblestones (though there are new cobblestones, to give the effect!), but there were other details that were fun.  Like this figure outside the house of a man who refused to pay his taxes and mooned the tax collectors

Erwen explained that the humor of Cologne may not be the same as in other parts of Germany, and proved his point by showing us the statue of the designer of City Hall, a building covered with statues.

The statues are of people who are important in the history of the city, and so there is a statue for the man who designed this building, but the people didn't like him very much, so this is his statue.

Erwen pointed out several times that the figure under the statue was anatomically correct in every way.

We ended up at the magnificent cathedral.

I took lots of pictures that need to be cleaned up and posted to flickr eventually, but I loved their crypt area, with all of the sarcophagi of former bishops.  I did wonder what this guy was about, though.

After we left the cathedral, we wandered around a shopping area and tried to decide if we were going to eat in town or go back to the ship.  We decided to look for a place to eat.  As we were settling in to drink our Kolsch beer (specific to the Cologne area) and check out the market plaza, we saw our tour guide Erwen going into the place to get coffee.  We invited him over and he sat with us and we just had a delightful time chatting with him about all sorts of things.

He's a man of many hobbies, including being the author of several books about naval battles, an amateur pilot, tour guide, insurance salesman and some other things I can't remember.  He also has a wife and a 26 year old son.

It was 90 humid degrees out and I limped back to the ship, my feet and knees killing me, sweat dripping down my whole body, and I collapsed with my bottle of ice water and the fan Walt bought for me in China, which is always in my bum bag.

There was only one word that could get me to move from that spot: chocolate.  The ship is docked near the Cologne Chocolate Museum and we had made plans to tour it.

The flag is of the Lindt Company

Of course when we planned to tour it, it was about 200 ft from our ship and in the interim, the ship had moved from docking slot 10 to slot 4, a considerable way away.  It also had not been 90 degrees when we made the decision, before our tour.  But we decided to go anyway.  It was a painful crawl for me, I'll tell ya!  By the time I joined Mike and Char inside, I was drenched with sweat and could hardly walk.

But we used the elevator for handicapped people only and went to the third floor to start the tour, which was kind of fun.  I can no longer say "I've never seen a purple cow..."

We eventually got to the floor where they let you watch them work with chocolate.  I took this photo for Jim Brochu...

We got some sample chocolate from the famous chocolate fountain.

We did some damage in the chocolate store, what I had really come to see.  The chocolates were beautiful.

I was really reluctant to go back into that heat again, and was delightfully surprised when not only had the temperature dropped by at least 10 degrees, but that it looked like rain.  That was great until the gusts of wind started, so strong that it ripped bark off trees, sent dust clouds swiring into the air, and I held onto my glasses, for fear the wind would rip them off my face.

I felt like saying, "It's a twister! It's a twister!" I sent Walt on ahead with the stuff that could get drenched if the clouds opened up, which I feared they would do.  I didn't mind the rain and was actually looking forward to getting wet.  It was really a struggle to hurry back to the ship, while thunder and lightning kept the skies exciting.  But I made it without getting drenched.  The torrent opened up just minutes after I got back on board, and then just as quickly as it had come it left.

Tonight was the captain's cocktail party and captains dinner.  I had an hour to nap before the party, but when Walt tried to wake me up, I told him I was too sleepy and would give up the cocktails. I did however, show up for dinner.

Starting with some tubed meat in a flaky crust, then the most delicious soup of the entire trip, a roasted forest mushroom veloute with crisp bacon, mushroom chips and truffle sabayon.  Then came "Tournado Rossini," grilled filet mignon and pan sauteed foie gras.  I'm sorry, even if you give it a fancy name and fry it it's still liver to me and I gave my foie gras to Walt. Dessert was white chocolate and cherry pudding.

They did a lovely "parade of staff" in the dining room, introducing everyone who has served us visibly and behind the scenes on this cruise.  My camera battery had died, so I got no pictures, but it was surprisingly moving as various people were given standing ovations by a grateful group of passengers.

When dinner was over, we had entertainment in the lounge, 3 young men on clarinet, cello and piano who played light classics and songs like "Moon River."  They were OK,,,the clarinettest wasn't all that good, but he was definitely sincere.

We were supposed to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, and that is the operative word "watch."  It all looked exciting, but with no sound it definitely lost something.  Walt and I ended up giving up and coming back here.  I'm sure I will be able to catch it on line somewhere.

So...on to our last stop before Amsterdam.  Getting anxious to return home, though not looking forward to having to leave the ship at 4 a.m.!



The next to last dinner


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