So I’m still stuck in Germany here, when really, I made it home this weekend, jet-lagged and happy, finally, to be back in Connecticut. Two months was long enough for our renegade compost squash vine to take over the back yard, encircling all the luscious pink Brandywines and orange sungold orbs that awaited my arrival. One day soon I’ll post a picture, but for now? I’m planning a wedding — yes, James and I got engaged (yay!) — and things are a little hectic right now. But back to Cologne.
It’s a small city with a gorgeous Gothic cathedral that sort of sprouts out of the city center like some ominous, scolding priest. It’s hard to take the message seriously now, with the constant stream of tourists and the monumental toilets that they seem to be erecting in front of it at the moment, but I can imagine being impressed a few centuries back. Architecturally, it’s rather thrilling, especially when you consider it took something like 6 centuries to complete. It is very much the center of town, near the water, where you can stroll through and hear organ music reverberating throughout the structure before heading to the waterfront for a Kölsh or two and a little dinner, or perhaps a little nap on the waterfront.
You cannot experience Cologne without drinking beer. You see people with beer in their hand literally everywhere — on the street, near the Neumarkt, by the waterfront, along back alleys and in parks. At least it’s relatively weak stuff (well, some might say that’s a bad thing — but it’s cheaper than water, so no one complains), and fairly tasty, depending on the brand. I wish I could recommend one, but really, it’s better to just find a local and ask them to take you to a beer hall. Just remember to put your coaster over your glass when you’re done — they keep on pouring otherwise.
Food-wise, delicious bread is easy to get everywhere. We’re talking huge German ryes, pretzel bread with huge cubes of salt affixed to the surface, delicious rolls and pastries, and anything else you could possibly want. Even generic bakers weren’t bad choices — I had some of my best pastries at a local organic supermarket. And kebab-lovers are in for a treat here. The local Turkish population is very much a part of the restaurant scene, and the doner kebab is uniformly awesome. There was one place near where we were staying (by the university, which is a great area for cheap food) that we returned to for dinner on a couple of nights. We first went in the place because it was packed full of people (many in purdahs, and mostly local), and it was dirt cheap (3 euros for a huge sandwich), and I swear, I’ll probably dream about their kebab sandwiches for years … We definitely can’t find anything so good here in New Haven. I only wish I remembered the name.
Another place worth visiting is the Chocolate Museum on the waterfront. It’s basically a Lindt factory attached to a museum that covers the production and history of chocolate around the world. If there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to know about chocolate, this place is likely to cover it. And once you get to the far end of the museum, the air smells like molten chocolate (which you then get to taste). Definitely not a bad way to spend an afternoon.