I don’t need an excuse to neglect this blog and not update for months, because I evidently do it all the time, but I recently discovered that Photobucket (the free photo-hosting service I had been using to host all our photos for the blog) changed their terms of service, rendering all the photos in my old posts unviewable. Manuel helped me upgrade our WordPress account to accommodate more photos so the blog and photos are now all hosted on one service, and I’m in the process of editing all our old posts so that the photos are viewable without a 404 Error. Yes, it’s just as time-consuming as it sounds. Luckily, I have lots of experience in mind-numbing projects from my time as an accountant in corporate America, and I’m just chalking this whole exercise up to job training while I continue to look for work in Germany. So while I slog through that project, here’s a new post about our weekend in Cologne!
One of the most recognizable landmarks of Cologne is the cathedral (or Dom, as the Germans call it). This magnificent piece of gothic architecture has been under construction/restoration for nearly 800 years now, and is normally quite hidden under layers of scaffolding and green tarpaulin. There was just a small scaffold over the top of the left spire this time, and it was such a sight to behold.
We celebrated the unfettered cathedral view AND a temperate German summer day by enjoying brunch at Cafe Reichard (sorry, the website is in German but the photos are amazing and don’t need translation). Their brunch menu was insanely delicious, and the restaurant’s Cake Buffet is on my radar for things to try next time I visit.
Ok, so “Funk” is the German word for radio, but it still makes me giggle a little.
We also visited the Chocolate Museum, which is housed in a former customs building in the middle of the Rhine River. The museum hosts a mini chocolate factory, several exhibits about cocoa production and shipping, and a historical section with old fashioned chocolate wrappers and tins – and an old fashioned grocery store. A large section of the history portion also talks about Dr. Hans Imhoff, a Cologne-born man of modest origins who went on to run the Stollwerck chocolate empire and eventually establish the Cologne Chocolate Museum. Because corporate takeovers are the way of 21st century business, the museum is now owned by the Swiss Lindt & Sprüngli Corporation, and Stollwerck Chocolates is now a private holding of the Belgian-based Baronie Group. Based on my accounting knowledge of mergers and acquisitions and my love of chocolate, I have now begun scheming on ways to achieve my new goal: to sit at the helm of a chocolate production empire. It might be a multiple year goal, so I’ve tentatively penciled it in for my 2020 New Years’ Resolutions.
The sun came out briefly enough to require sunglasses. We spent most of the day exploring the Altstadt. Since Manuel grew up in the vicinity, many of his school field trips were to Cologne, which makes him a great tour guide (which is amazing to think about as someone who grew up in North America, but it’s all relative to what’s geographically feasible. Our class went to the local zoo and newspaper headquarters a few times, and there was one big trip to Washington, D.C.)
On an earlier visit to Cologne, Manuel and I stopped by Früh for a kölsch beer. Früh is probably the best known kölsch brewery, and thus is a little touristy. This time, we went to Gaffel. It’s still pretty crowded, despite being difficult to find. The service was stellar, and the food was delicious. We ordered a Halver Hahn, which is a rustic rye roll served with Beemster Gouda, lettuce, onions, and a pickle… and not a half chicken, as the name would suggest.
We happened upon this fabulously retro Bauhaus-style hotel, which is centrally located and has crazy afforable rates. I’m adding it to the list of things to do next time we visit Cologne.
One of the highlights of our trip was the Basilica of St. Ursula, which I didn’t take any exterior photos of. I had seen a recommendation to visit the church on Atlas Obscura, noting that a chapel of the church was a reliquary filled with thousands of bones. So, like, OF COURSE WE HAVE TO GO SEE THIS.
The lady inside the chapel didn’t know too much about the history of it, and so all of my questions went unanswered. I kept asking questions, out loud, and Manuel basically told me if I was that curious, I needed to go look it up. SO I DID. Basically, the church itself was built in the 15th century on a Roman cemetery, and the bones from the cemetery were enshrined in the chapel and tied in to the legend of St. Ursula. What is the legend of St. Ursula?
So, Ursula was a princess from the south-west of Britain, and before getting married, she told her father that she intended to take a pilgrimage across Europe with 11 virgins. Europe was not a very safe place to take hosteling bachelorette tours in the first century, so her father suggested she take 11,000 virgins with her instead of just 11. Anyone who has ever tried planning a bachelorette party will know just how impossible it is to coordinate activities that 11,000 women would enjoy doing, but nonetheless this is how the legend goes. The bachelorette party is set upon by the dastardly Huns, and everyone is killed in the year 238, 283, 383, 451 or 640 A.D., depending on the text. For her patience in dealing with eleven thousand other travelers, Ursula is canonized.
I have taken a lot of liberties in this re-telling of St. Ursula.
Regardless of who the remains actually belong to, the bones have been arranged into shapes and words along the walls, the busts of the saints are filled with partial and small bones, and the skulls have been covered with velvet and embroidery and are placed on decorated pillows inside individual sarcophagi. I feel like morbid arts and crafts is about the only thing that would have made me join a celibate religious sisterhood. I’m wanting to do more research about which orders were responsible for the development of reliquaries, because this is fascinating.
Me: Where do you think the fabrics came from? Who do you think built those little boxes? Like, would you be a regular jeweler or metalsmith, and sometimes take commissions from the church or would that be your full time job?
Manuel: Let me show you how to get a library card so you can go and look up all the answers you seek.
Important discovery: THEY HAD SEQUINS IN THE 15TH CENTURY. I hadn’t thought too much about it, but basically I somehow believed that sequins were invented by Diana Ross and the Supremes or maybe even earlier by flappers… But 15th century?
So I still have a lot of unanswered questions, but that’s ok, because I can start looking them up, which gives me a chance to work on my German while reading texts on subjects I care about. I still need to work on grammar using drills, but I’m about sick of simple Duolingo type sentences.
Before heading back home, we stopped at Maki Maki Sushi Green, a vegan sushi restaurant. Having been a vegetarian for over a decade, I’m used to having a section of the menu or asking the waitress if substitutions are possible, and it’s always disorienting when there is a WHOLE menu to choose from.
After a long deliberation, Manuel and I decided that we couldn’t decide, so we just ordered one of the sampler plates. I also ordered some kimchi rolls, because I can’t resist kimchi. The only item that disappointed was the imitation shrimpy/lobster thing, which was a little bland and rubbery. All the other items were really flavorful – the vegetables were fresh and well seasoned, and the sushi rice was super fluffy and soft. The service was a bit slow, but we weren’t in a hurry. I can’t wait to go back again!
So that’s the update from Cologne. For a life update: the weekend before last, we were in Bonn for a beer festival and Neuwied for a French festival, and next weekend we are starting our week-long participation in the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (or GISHWHES, for short). During the weeks, Manuel is in Stuttgart for a project, and I’ve been working on my German and looking for work. Thanks for taking the time to read about our adventures, love to all.