Friday, July 29, 2011

COLOGNE Dogs and cash only

Yesterday’s rain gave way to an overcast morning and by lunchtime quite a sunny but humid day. Our hotel was only a few minutes from a rail station, a short stretch of unattended platform hidden in a back street. I wasted a good fifteen minutes fighting with the ticket-machine, partly because it resisted many attempts to switch the touchscreen interface to English but mostly because it kept choking on my debit card. It kept reporting some issue in German ( multilingual machines never seem to be multilingual in telling you what you’ve done wrong) and fellow commuters who tried to assist simply shrugged their lack of understanding of the problem. I eventually dug up some euro coins and got our ticket into central Cologne.
Cologne train journey
Munson seemed happy with this train than he had been with the frequently bumpy London Underground lines, and sat quietly by my side for the twenty minute journey, occasionally checking the view or sniffing passengers who came to say hello. We surfaced at the Neumarkt station, and after checking my bearings located the Schildergasse, Cologne’s main shopping street, supposedly the busiest in Europe, blandly dominated by internationally identifiable shopfronts. I resisted the temptation to breakfast on berliners or any of the other sugary pastries weighing down the cafe counters by the thousand. I’m learning from farm-life to get some proper protein down the hatch at the start of the day to ensure a slow-burn through a long day.
Schildergasse WDR Arcades

Properly fuelled, we turned north towards the big sightseeing draw for the day, Cologne Cathedral, whose huge mass and double spires were seen as we crossed the Rhine river on our train journey.  Taking over 600 years to complete, it was briefly the world’s tallest structure in the 1880s until overtaken by the Washington Monument. Kölner Dom’s front façade is still the largest of any church. First seen on foot as it looms over the commercial centre, I’m reminded of the start of Star Wars as the gigantic cruiser passes overhead. The smog of industry and proximity to the central railway station haven’t been kind to the cathedral exterior, making it seem more forbidding than awe-inspiring: gothic horror in stone.
Cologone Cathedral

However there is no sombre façade that can’t be enlivened by sticking a handsome malamute in front of it. In fact you can even improve many otherwise attractive structures in this manner.
Cologne cathedral   Munson  Munson at der Kölner Dom
None shall pass! - Gandalf and Charlie Chaplin stand guardThe default decorations in the cathedral square are an assortment of living statues, a painted Gandalf and Charlie Chaplin who rarely stood still, somehow defeating the point of their roles. It would have been great if “Gandalf” had stood before the cathedral doors and waved his staff around, declaring “None shall pass!” but a little too much to hope for on a weekday morning.
Mike explains religious iconography to Munson  so this is Narnia...
Lunch at Cafe Rico
As we wandered around the city, no shop, arcade or cafe was closed to Munson – dogs were just unremarked companions for people going about their business. I did belatedly find that almost no place would accept credit or debit cards – if you didn’t have a special German debit card, it was cash only. I spent nearly an hour in one store buying some bits for my camera only to be rejected at the cashier, and I didn’t want to hit my daily cash withdrawal limit on non-essentials, so bought nothing but food and fuel during my stay. I belatedly realised why I couldn’t buy my train-ticket earlier – foreign plastic wasn’t accepted (even if from the eurozone). Rather surprising when even parking meters across Europe will often take any card and stores in Cologne were running huge sales to attract customers.
Cologone 4711After lunch we walked a short distance along the Rhine, possibly the first time I’ve been by this river in all my years of travels. Munson got to rest his paws on some grassy stretches and I met two young Aussies, David and Melanie, Queenslanders like Munson, who were spending a few months in this city.

We passed the home of the famous 4711 eau de cologne commemorating the street address of its maker.  The original eau de cologne was developed by an Italian expat living in Cologne 300 years ago. It was a remarkable sensation for being the first successful attempt to blend many plant oils to get a completely new fragrance.
On our last pass of the Schildergasse for the afternoon, we sat to watch some street musicians on cello, violin and drums playing rock music. Munson rolled onto his back to invite the crowd to a belly-rub, which made at least two of the musicians crack a smile mid-song.

Stilbruch play for Munson

Random sights and silliness
tired Munson

This has been Munson’s biggest day out for the year; he crashed out quickly on the train ride back to Vischeringstrasse.  As we left the station, rain started, a sharp wind not far behind. Just after we reached shelter in the hotel, the sky really unleashed everything: torrential rain, Donner und Blitzen, Sturm und Drang. A perfectly timed exit from sightseeing.

I sat in the small hotel lobby for an hour or so, updating the previous days’ posts and pruning email. Munson made lovey-eyes at everyone entering or exiting the place, which was universally reciprocated. The duty manager came over to say hello to him occasionally: “he’s just a teddy bear isn’t he?”


  1. Anita5:32 pm

    The first picture of the cathedral is fantastic. ...and I do love me some 4711.

  2. Munson really is a cutie and so well behaved. Cologne is excellent - and the cathedral is quite something.


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