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Published: February 5th 2007
I am back from a weekend in Cologne visiting my friend Jeremy. Two of the guys I work with (Phil and Jim) came along, so it was a bit of a ZPro reunion. Although I had been to Cologne in the summer, it was really fun to go back at another time of year to see how the city changes with the seasons. We were very lucky in that all of Europe is in a warm spell, so we were not subject to freak snowstorms or bitter winds off the Rhine. Quite a relief. And sorry – no photos of this trip. I frankly just didn’t get around to taking any.
So – first things first. I arrived late Friday evening, about an hour after Phil and Jim because Zurich has these crazy rules about too many people from the same group being on the same flight. They have no problem, however, with the entire ZPro management team on one train, but I’ll save that for another rant. The boys picked me up at the hotel and we went for dinner at an amazing French brasserie. I had escargots, which for those of you who know me best, started the weekend off on just the right note. While we’re on the subject of food, I had liverwurst at a German beerhouse and octopus at an Italian trattoria. I ask you – does it get any better than that? Pure ambrosia in Chrisbyland!
But we did more than just eat. Jeremy and I went to the Museum Ludwig – Cologne’s modern art museum. It was amazing – lots of really good early 20th Century stuff, including Picasso, Dali (I thought of you, Miss Lynn!), Miro, Pollock and Matisse. Then we got to the floor of the newer stuff and Jeremy and I lost the plot. Someone needs to explain to me how a pile of dirt in a plastic box is art. My favourite bit is the complete lack of help from the artists. More than once, Jeremy and I looked at the title (hoping for a bit of insight!) only to see that it was “Untitled”. I must admit that the more we saw, the more childish we became until we were in fits of laughter and decided that the prudent thing to do was to exit gracefully.
Jim joined us and we did a tour of the cathedral. Truly one of the most beautiful I have ever seen and certainly one of the largest. For a time, it was the largest building in the world until Mr. Eiffel decided to build his tower. It is still, however, the tallest church spire in the world. One can get to the top, if one is willing to climb 509 steps (no, I didn’t count them!). Deciding that “when in Cologne”, up we went. Jeremy and Jim are much more fit than I, so they bounded ahead. I got to a landing in the end, winded but excited, only to be told that there was still a bit more to go. What Jeremy, bless him, failed to tell us is that this part is open and one can see where one is. To say that my abject terror of heights kicked in is putting it mildly. I got to within thirty steps of the top and lost my nerve. Jeremy was at the top and Jim had headed back down, also a victim of vertigo. I finally decided that I was not going to get so close only to wimp out, so I took a deep breath, clung to the railing for all I was worth and made it to the top. Thank God for Jeremy – there he was to grab me as I stumbled out, my legs shaking and my breath shallow. A few deeps breaths, and I was back to normal. Jim finally made it as well – we have not stopped congratulating each other.
Was it worth it? You bet! The top is completely enclosed in a strong wire cage, so I felt completely secure. Unfortunately, the day was a bit gray so visibility was down, but one could still see for miles. What I find so amazing about these buildings is that they were built by hand, stone by stone, over centuries. I pity the poor men who had to carry stones up those steps! Not to mention the poor bloke who sits in a booth at the top selling postcards that say, “I climbed the spire of Cologne Cathedral”. Of course, I bought one. The other thing I find amazing is that these buildings seem to survive anything. Cologne was leveled during the war – nothing was left standing, except the cathedral. There are photos from 1945 in the postcard shops that show you just how devastating it was. The original plan was to rebuild the city ten kilometers inland, but once the town fathers saw that the cathedral was more or less intact, they rebuilt where they had fallen. Don’t you just love stories like that?
After the climb, we decided we needed some refreshment, so we wound up stopping into two Irish bars so the boys could watch England trounce Scotland in the rugby. Guess that’s what happens when you spend the weekend in Germany with Englishmen!
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