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Published: September 10th 2013
The tower we went to the top of.
We've just finished five days in Cologne. We're now in Münster for a couple of nights before we head to Frankfurt where Lyn has an International Student Fair to attend and do her promotional thing for HVHS, which she is very good at.
We arrived in Cologne Thursday 5 September and Nan's funeral was on the following Monday so it felt as if we were in a holding pattern somewhat, Lyn especially. The family stuff back home was what she wanted to be involved in and it weighed hard on her not being there even though it was a completely rational and sensible decision.
We traveled by train again and although I've been a champion for rail travel in Deutschland I may be reviewing my recommendation. We got on to find we were in a compartment. Most off you will probably have seen these in movies or on TV if you haven't traveled in them. So what's the problem you may well ask?
1. No choice of who you share the six seat compartment with;
2. You might end up sitting facing the back of the train - I hate that!
3. It makes for personal
Leafy, quiet streets.
conversations to be rather stilted;
4. You might end in a compartment with noisy children.
Numbers 3 & 4 applied. I have to be fair - the little kid, a three year old was really well behaved for the four hour journey but was he noisy! He talked constantly and his mother talked constantly back at him. Lyn says I'm being too hard on them - I did have a headache - as he was a good kid but not what we needed right then. So the rule is, when you book your seat specify, "Not compartment".
Cologne; the Dom (cathedral) dominates the sky. It never fails to awe. Its sad fate however, is to be smack in the middle of a very large train station precinct, surrounded by roads and constant traffic, with heavy industrial complexes not too far away up and down the river. The last time I was here I thought the preservationists were making great strides in bringing the stonework back to its original glory. This time I thought they were fighting a losing battle. Very sooty, dark grey film over most of it except where the workers were doing their best and
A representative mansion.
exposing the creamy-white original colour. What a tragedy.
Our hotel was an easy 13 minute walk to the city centre and in a quiet area. I can't remember if I've mentioned that I lost my glasses in Albania. We tried to get some made in Cologne and it looked promising until all the opticians we went to said it would take up to 10 days to have them done. Bugger! They were going to be much cheaper than at home as well. Oh well, Tokyo's only a couple of weeks away.
Next day and Lyn had an appointment in Bad Godesburg near Bonn. This smallish town is a suburb of Bonn and is apparently known as the posh part of Bonn. While Lyn went to her appointment I wandered the streets rubber necking and taking a few photos. The houses were mansions. I suppose that when Bonn was the German capital most of the politicians, the Government Ministers anyway, made their homes there. Many mansions with Greek columns, massive porticos, fancy gardens. I also noticed a Paul Klee Kindergarten. Not sure if that means they specialise in art at a young age. Also an architecture kindergarten - ditto.
Once Lyn had finished we wandered around the place. Many elderly people in the streets but well-off looking types.
We found that our hotel had a pool. It was hot so we used it. The days followed with us looking at the sights of Cologne, Lyn organising her next appointments, and a back of the mind constant focus on home. We mucked up on the Saturday as we were going to go on a boat trip down the Rhein and see the world heritage site, castles etc. it was spotting rain as we left the hotel and we ummed and ahhed before deciding not and going to an Irish pub to watch the All Blacks v Argentina instead. Dumb decision as the weather improved and we had no other time to do the river trip. To punish ourselves we walked about 15 Kms along both banks of the Rhein. Not punishment actually as we saw lots of sights we hadn't on previous visits. It was a stroll. We were a bit footsore though so it was a slow afternoon after that.
Skype is wonderful. Matt, Pip, Tim, Shannon and Riley-Jean were staying at our place before the funeral
The "crane" office and apartment buildings.
next day so it was five in one go. Great! Riley-Jean looks so grown up already. The weather had broken here. Autumn was sweeping in and we had the first heavy rain and a major drop in temperature since we left home. A good day for a museum - the Rautenstrache-Joest Museum of Ethnology which was much more interesting than it might sound.
Later that afternoon we were met by the family of a student, Nina, who'd been at HVHS last year. They had also been to our house for dinner. So Ollie, Sabine, Nina and Lena took us out to dinner and afterwards we walked over the Hohenzollernbrücke across the Rhein and took an elevator to the top of a very tall building where the vista of Cologne by night was glittering. They're a really friendly, welcoming, hospitable and generous family. Ollie's photography made me appreciate what a novice I was.
But dominating our thoughts was Nan's funeral which we would be video linked to at 1.00am. At 12.30am we started to follow the instructions to hook in. At that stage I almost had a melt-down as I couldn't get the thing to cooperate. A quick phone
Black, sooty, forlorn but majestic.
call to NZ and all solved. The magic of technology. We could see and hear the first two rows in the chapel and all the ceremony happening at the front. Family came up to the front, before the camera, prior to the service and waved. We felt a part of it but wanted to call out, "we can see you, we can hear you". It was a moving experience to be part of it and appreciate all the effort family had put into making it happen for us and the lovely service that Nan would have totally agreed with. At the end we Skyped Matt on his iPhone and were able to speak to all the kids and a few others, briefly. Despite being so far away we felt a real sense of being there.
And then calamity. The next day, our last in Cologne, Lyn had an appointment. I hired a bike and went riding - and got lost. I'm not very fit at present. Four hours in the saddle and closer to 50ks than 40 left me stiff, cranky, head achy, feeling my age and also thinking how could you lose a giant river like the Rhein
Hmmm...I think I prefer the one on the right.
and end up k's away in the countryside? Well, just ask me.
But wait, there's more. Out to dinner that night at Apostel, an elegant restaurant in the old town but not overpriced. I paid, put my wallet back in my man bag and we set off for the hotel. Nearly there....S.....! Where's my wallet? I raced (relatively) back to the restaurant while Lyn carried on. No sign. No one had seen it. I don't know if I dropped it from my bag or if it had been pinched. To the Polizei to report it and then hot foot to the hotel to cancel all my cards and drivers license. You know how one feels when the only one who can shoulder the blame is oneself?
Waking in the morning (today) and Lyn found that her promotional material for the Frankfurt Fair on Saturday was in Hamburg, held up at Customs. The thought of having to spend a whole day on a stall at the Fair with no material was too much.
We were leaving for Münster in a couple of hours. Will fill in the rest of the saga next time.
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