On Saturday we went to Köln (Cologne) with a group from the Goethe Institut. It took us just half an hour (and 4 Euros round trip per person--woohoo!) to get there on the train from Bonn. As soon as we walked out of the train station we saw this looming above us:
(Okay, not quite from this perspective. This is actually the opposite side of the cathedral. But you get the idea. It looms.)
The towers are 475 feet tall. We climbed up 533 stairs to get to the top of one of them. We felt pretty pleased with ourselves for being non-fat Americans. We were actually much faster than many skinny Europeans. The stairwell and even the walls of the tower were covered in graffiti. How can people be so stupid? We don't understand. Tower pictures:
All the original stained glass was destroyed in WWII, and the windows have been redone by many different artists. Some are cool and some are kind of ugly. I found the overall effect a bit chaotic (although that's not apparent here).
Here's the tower of the old town hall. You can't really tell from this picture, but each of the statues' names is written underneath. I was pleased to see that there were quite a few women included.
This is the front of the town hall. The scene tells the story of a legendary mayor of Köln who got into a power struggle with the bishop. The bishop invited the mayor to dinner in the cathedral, where he kept a lion locked up in one of the rooms. After dinner he took the mayor to admire the lion, shoved him into the room, and slammed the door. The mayor (who just happened to have a sword on him) killed the lion, symbolically asserting the freedom of the people of Köln from the dominion of the church.
Here's another local legend carved in stone. The people of Köln used to be free to laze about, drink, and sleep late, because little elves came every night to do their work for them. The elves baked bread for the bakers, butchered animals for the butchers, etc. But then a woman ruined it for everyone (bah). She wanted to see the elves, so she set a trap, and in the middle of the night came out with her light to get a look. The elves took off, never to return, so the people of Köln were doomed to doing their own work forever more.
These statues represent the characteristics of the two sides of Köln (which are separated by the Rhein). The short fat one is the good side of the city--he's the peace-loving worker, while the tall skinny one is the conniving business man. Touching the fat one's nose is supposed to be good luck (although both noses look like they get their fair share of rubbing).
All this was very nice, but perhaps the highlight of our trip was the first thing we've eaten in Germany that has amazed and delighted us: the Nougat Brezel. Behold:
I'm not sure where the nougat comes in--it's made of pastry dough, chocolate, almonds, and icing. YUM. If you're ever in Köln, go to Merzenich Bäckerei and get one. Or several.