blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Remembering Köln

Die Severinsbrücke, May 2014
Being in Köln (Cologne) brought back memories. My first visit was in 1963 when I was a schoolgirl staying with a family called Kopka. I spoke no German in those days and they didn't speak much English. The daughter my age had two older brothers and a motherly mother. Her father was a milliner––he gave me and my sister a hat each, made of white rabbit fur, very soft. My own father was the music teacher at my school and had brought his English choir to Germany to form an alliance with a German girls' school choir. Around the cathedral, Köln had been flattened by the British/American bombing raids and was still being rebuilt. We gave our concert in the auditorium of Die Brücke on Hahnenstraße, the cultural centre of the British Council in postwar Cologne. I sang my first solo in public at this concert, Schubert's An den Mond, accompanied by my father on the piano. After the concert our school party took a cruise on a Rhine boat to Sankt Goarshausen, disembarking there to stay at a romantic hotel on the shore. As we pulled away from Köln the German girls and their families waved goodbye from the bank. We passed under the Severinsbrücke, then brand new, and further upstream got together on the deck and sang some of our concert items in three parts.

I have visited the city three other times between 1963 and now, so my memories become overlaid. Köln has changed, but the postwar concrete blocks and museums are still there and river cruises still depart from the wharf near the Alter Markt. The Severinsbrücke is close to the Novotel where we stayed this year and in 2012.

On Monday evening May 12th Chris and I met his colleagues Karsten, Emil and Yí in the hotel bar and then went out for supper with them at a nearby pub (the Rheinau) in the Severinenviertel, a fried supper with asparagus, of course, mit Kölsch zum Trinken. This draft beer is served in 0.2 l glassfuls costing €1.40 or less, but topped up over and over again. The total is totted up on the beer mats in case the waitress loses count. We learned the word for the froth on top––die Bierblume! When you've had enough, you put a beermat over the glass. Then you go out and watch the barges sailing up and down the moonlit Rhine.

On Tuesday I gave myself blisters by walking so far, past the "art 'otel" and Schokoladenmuseum, along the Holzwerft and Frankenwerft to the Hohenzollern Brücke (railway bridge), then across the river to Deutz. The fence on the bridge's footpath was covered with locks enscribed with lovers' names, their keys thrown to the bottom of the Rhine. Then I went into the Rheinpark past the Tanzbrunnen, beyond which the Seilbahn was, that swings you over the Rhine and drops you at the entrance to the zoo. On that showery day I had one of the cable cars to myself. Next to the zoo are the Botanical Gardens through which I happily wandered for more than an hour, not worrying about the thunderstorms because I could shelter in the tropical greenhouses. I took a tram / underground train back to the central station, then walked another few km back to our hotel along the Hohe Straße / Waidmarkt / Severinstraße, in a straight line. If that weren't enough I went for an evening walk with Chris as well, to a trendy riverside area, the Rheinau-Hafen, seeing the Kranhäuser there and some seriously long barges moored beside the Agrippinawerft.

Wednesday morning I returned with my camera and took the tram from Ubierring to the Hauptbahnhof whence I caught my train to Aachen. We were also near the Ubierring for supper with Chris' colleagues that day, finally finding a restaurant that had room for us, the Bona'me, serving delicious Turkish food. You order your chosen dish at the counter and when it's ready, a hand-held device flashes and beeps for you to come and get it.

Thursday was the rainy day when we escaped in Karsten's car, crossing the Mülheimerbrücke and driving east. We came back to Köln on Saturday in time for one more chance to explore––saw inside the Cathedral and found a way through the crowds outside, groups of them wearing identical silly hats, to the Alter Markt, where a jazz band was in full swing, nine men and a girl. It looked as if finding somewhere peaceful for supper would be difficult. But walking along the the Konrad-Adenauer Ufer downstream of the railway bridge, we supposed that the parallel streets away from the river would be quieter, and so they were. We found the Gaststätte zum Köbes on Thürmchenswall which served good food with our Kölsch and being early diners, we had this cosy pub almost to ourselves. As we sauntered back to our hotel, the Ibis am Dom, the churches began to ring their vesper bells. We lingered outside St. Kunibert's church––all the churches are huge––to admire its decorated doors, before mingling with the crowds in the Hohe Straße again and watching a busker at an outdoor piano laden with beer glasses.

St. Christopher in Cologne Cathedral

The doors of St. Kunibert's church

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