Cologne

Early this morning, before dawn, I was up working on this blog and I sensed the ship turning around. I drew open the curtain of my cabin to discover that the ship had reached Cologne, our final stop in Germany. I managed to grab a couple of blurry shots of one of the cathedrals and the bridge in the gloomy light.

Cologne, or Köln as the Germans spell it, is a very old, important commercial and trade centre. The Romans were here, dating back to around the time of Christ, and they created infrastructure, some of which is still visible today, such as roads, water storage tanks and city walls.

Because of its position on the Rhine, many trading ships used Cologne as a port, which brought great wealth to the city for a time. A huge Gothic Catholic cathedral was erected here in the mid-1200s, dominating the city skyline. Up to 90 percent of the city suffered damage during the Allied bombing raids of World War II, including the bridge, which was destroyed by the Germans when the Allies were closing in towards the end of the war. Thankfully the cathedral remained intact, possibly because the Allies used it as a reference point, rather than making it a target.

Marg stayed back on the ship, hoping to shake a bad cough, but I joined a walking tour of the city. We passed through the old fish market before reaching the town square. When the town hall clock was constructed with the sculpture of a man poking his tongue out at the citizens below, a joker created another sculpture of a man baring his bum and erected it on a building on the opposite side of the square, directly adjacent to the town hall.

Approaching the Catholic cathedral, I stopped to admire some of the chalk drawings of a number of street artists. The police came along and gave one of them a hard time. He was agitated, but eventually allowed to continue with his work. Perhaps he hadn’t paid a licence fee that would allow him to create street art there.

Being Easter Monday morning, a mass was being held in the cathedral, but we were still permitted to enter and take photos from the rear of the interior. The priest spoke calmly in German, and I understand enough of the language to hear that he was speaking about the destruction of Notre Dame in Paris and the impact of the tragic fire on the ‘brothers and sisters’ of the Paris congregation. His voice carried well to the rear of the cathedral, and when the organ played, the acoustics in the vast enclosed space were crystal clear.

The interior of the cathedral was superb. Huge towering vaulted ceilings and massive stone columns were features. Stained glass windows, which had been safely removed and stored during the war, lit up with bright colours as the sunlight streamed through them. The congregation sat on wooden pews in silence as the priest delivered his message. One can only imagine how magnificent the cathedral must have been in medieval times when it would have dominated the city from every possible viewpoint. Even in today’s modern world, when humans have the knowledge, materials and technology to create remarkable buildings, the Cologne cathedral remains an awe inspiring structure.

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