Saturday, 6 August 2011

Brussels to Cologne

In which Catherine comes to save me
Starring grumpy German cyclists

From Brussels I got an early morning train to Cologne which I'd chosen not on the grounds of extensive research but purely because I'd been to Berlin very recently and there was an overnight train to Poland from Cologne Hof that sounded nice.

So concerned was Catherine about the limitations of what Cologne had to offer by way of 'attractions' that she drove all the way from Brussels to spend Saturday with me.  I had, by that point, pretty much exhausted all options (chocolate factory with Lindt wrapping machine, beer halls) other than the cathedral which Catherine had specifically expressed an interest in and so spent the morning sitting in the rain on the stairs outside the station, reading and feeling very pleased she was on her way. 

We made the sweaty climb to the top of one of the towers for a, um, view, of reconstructed Cologne.  Pretty much every building in the city was destroyed during WWII and the reconstruction thereafter was both hasty and frugal. The Cathedral stood through it all - opinion remains divided on whether this was due to God’s protection or the Allied's need to retain at least some landmark around which to drop their bombs.

The best way to explore Cologne is apparently by bike and having found a tour that started within in minutes, I arrived slightly out of breath at 15:02 to join a tour that started at 15:00. By the time I caught up with the all German group further down the river they were all bristling with disapproval at my a) late arrival b) being English.  Everything now needed to be explained in twice.

We quickly exhausted the notable landmarks in the centre of town and set out for the suburbs cycling past a media park and eventually landing up in an old Firestation for an uncomfortable drinks break with everyone making an 'effort'. 

On the upside Cologne does have some wonderful bridges (weighted down with now ubiquitous padlocks of love)

Say it like it is!

and I did a go on a boat trip up and down the river to view the full extent of the industrialisation of the valley.  In total I think I crossed the Rhine about 15 times - a lot by bridge, once by boat and once, at a complete loss for how to fill the rest of the day, by cable car with Catherine. 


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