Cologne is one of the two cities we visited that I had seen before -- back in 1968 when I was studying in Germany. I can't say that I remember much from that time -- just the overwhelming size of the cathedral.

This was our first stop in Germany and we immediately were introduced to the distinction locals made between themselves and "the Germans," i.e., the Prussians. We were told that the Rheinlanders think of themselves as easy-going (and perhaps not especially reliable) -- the antithesis of the uptight and dogmatic German stereotype. The early inhabitants of the area were Franks and we were to travel through Franconia for most of our visit in Germany.

During the morning we had a lecture on the history of the Netherlands. It included a delightful video explanation (opens in new tab) on why it is properly called "the Netherlands" rather than "Holland," which is the name of only two of the states within the country. It gets more confusing because the people (and the language) are called "Dutch" rather than Netherlanders.

My favorite snippet in the lecture was the final war between the English and the Dutch in the 18th century. Both were naval super-powers. The Dutch Navy successfully sank many English ships -- all of which were insured by Dutch financiers. Oops! It may have been a naval victory but it was a financial disaster and the beginning of the end of the Dutch "golden age."


Rhein River

Before and after the lecture, however, we had ample opportunity to watch the folks out for a Sunday stroll on the riverbank. The runners to the left of the picture matched our pace for quite a while as our upstream progress was stately against the current.


Bayer Plant

As we neared Cologne we passed several enormous chemical plants, including this one owned by Bayer. The crane was scooping up some kind of white powder from the cargo ship and unloading it into a holding tank. It may now be on the pharmacy shelf as aspirin for all I know.

Cologne, as a center of the chemical industry, was almost completely destroyed during WWII. Since that time notable historic buildings have been reconstructed, but the primary focus was getting the city back up & running again, so there is a lot of variety.


Cologne Cathedral

As I noted above, my primary memory of Cologne was the enormous cathedral. I was frustrated at the time by not being able to get a picture of it. I bought a postcard. Well, it's still enormous and I still couldn't get a full-frontal image, but this is the river-facing view.

The oddly shaped roofs between here and there belong to the Ludwig Museum of modern art.

It's an amazing fact that the building, which was begun in the 13th century, was not finally completed until 1880!

Unfortunately I was unable to get any pictures of the interior.


Leaves

No explanation, just a nice pattern of leaves on the pavement.


Church

Great St. Martin, a Romanesque church that was initially built starting in the 12th century. It was originally part of a Benedictine abbey, which was secularized by Napoleon in the 19th century and later demolished.

The church was heavily damaged in WWII and its rebuilding was controversial. At present it has been fully restored and is now an active church. The first service in the reconstructed church was in 1985.

The location of the church was originally an island.


St. Albans Church, Cologne

St. Albans Church was almost totally destroyed in the WWII bombing and the decision was made not to rebuild it. The ruins currently stand as a memorial. The sculpture, called "Grieving Parents," was created by German artist Käthe Kollwitz.


Cologne City Hall

The Cologne City Hall complex dates in part from the 14th century. This tower was erected by the town's guilds as a symbol of their victory over the nobility.

We received quite a presentation on the guilds by our city guide, but I confess that I no longer remember the details.

We were also told a story of the brave 13th century Mayor, Herman Gryn. The minions of the ruling Archbishop plotted to feed him to a caged lion, but the mayor instead killed the lion and executed the Archbishop's functionaries. The legend illustrates the struggle between civil and ecclesiastical government. A relief of the heroic mayor and the lion is part of the entryway to the town hall.


Virtual Reality

From the sublime to....

At one point we passed this virtual reality concession. It was eerie to watch the participants lollygagging at, from our perspective, nothing in particular. Based on online reviews it is really a great experience. See more at the link.


Cologne Cathedral

The transept of the cathedral overlooking a nascent Christmas market.

Also in this area is the Romano-Germanic Museum. This would have been our choice for the free time exploration, but it wasn't open late enough. We could look in the windows and see some pretty impressive mosaics at least. Were we ever to return to Cologne, this would be our first stop.


Cologne Train Station

As we walked back to the ship after our tour and free time, we passed the railway station. I found the building and train sheds quite beautiful.


Emperor Friedrich III

This statue of Emperor Friederich III is one of four that were part of the Hohenzollern bridge across the Rhein. Friederich had liberal ideas and education and hoped to bring Germany together in a progressive alliance. Unfortunately by the time his father died, Friederich was already suffering from cancer of the larynx and died only 99 days after assuming the throne.

His son and heir, Wilhelm II, was much more conservative and militaristic and is largely credited with starting WWI. It's tempting to wonder what if...


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