Monday, August 27, 2012

Cologne, Germany

After leaving our friends in Holland, we took the train into Germany. We needed to travel to Cologne to visit the Institut fur Afrikanistik. It is the African Linguistics department of Cologne University. A certain German linguist had written about the Ik language back in the 1980's but he had never published this work and we could not get the text anywhere else but at this university. So we were off to Cologne in order for Terrill to complete his collection of texts written about Ik by other linguists. We arrived at this huge train station which was a bit overwhelming. Trains were constantly leaving in various directions and platforms were full of people and luggage. We had the hardest time figuring out which train left from which platform. Not only was everything in German...but when you bought the ticket, it did not tell you where to go. We had a few near-meltdowns in this station. But fortunately, we made every train we needed and got to the places we needed.
At the Institut fur Afrikanistik.
After getting the texts Terrill needed, we were free to explore the city. The most prominent building in the city by far was the Dom, an old church started in 1248 and not completed until 1842. Nearly 600 years of construction and the work is not finished. The church employs a team of 60 people and spends over 7 million dollars a year for the upkeep of the Dom. It must constantly be cleaned and renovated to keep it in pristine condition. It really is an awe-inspiring building and we could only stare at it when near-by. It was so big that we couldn't fit all of it into our pictures. One view is above showing both towering spires. Another view is below showing the body of the church. 
The church was originally built to house the bones of what Cologne people claim to be the three wise men. Back in the 1200's, a bishop had traveled to Italy and returned with these bones. Thus the church was sketched out and started. The bones rest in the golden coffin above. The tour guide did admit that a scan was done of the craniums to determine how old each person was when they died. One skull was in his 50's when he died, one was in his 30's and one skull was that of an adolescent. Wise men? Cologne people choose to believe it's still true. Everyone else must decide for themselves. 
The Rhine river runs beside/through Cologne. It has seven major bridges that cross it. Above is one bridge used just for the trains. The Dom is in the background. Below is a wall of the bridge that we were walking beside. In recent years, people have started a new tradition. When they get married, they attach a padlock to the railing of the bridge and throw the key in the river. By throwing the key away, their love is supposed to endure as you cannot unlock the locks. There are presently 40,000 locks attached to this bridge. 
Along the Rhine, quaint and colorful buildings are stacked side by side with old churches in the background. 
The city is also full of beautiful architecture and massive doors. Everywhere you look is a piece of art and history mixed together. It's sometimes hard to take it all in, especially since we come from Timu where they have not preserved art or history of this form. The two places are worlds apart.
We were enthralled by these small cars. Although we've seen them in movies, we had never seen one up close. It was impressive how advanced these Europeans are in environmental conscientiousness. The streets are clean and most people either bike or walk to work. It is clear that they are trying to leave a smaller carbon footprint. 
As we walked through the streets, we enjoyed the 'acts' that were put on in order to receive tips from the tourists. At first we weren't sure if we were actually watching levitation happen...but after a few minutes of watching these guys, we were pretty sure that the one on bottom is holding up the one on top with a piece of metal that extends up into the clothes of the man on top. We think he is sitting on something connected to that pole and the man on bottom is sitting on another support. Just our theory. 
One of the highlights of our time was visiting this Gestapo jail. It tells the stories of hundreds of prisoners who wrote on the walls and documented their thoughts/feelings during unjust imprisonment. It is a record of what happened in Germany during the 30's and 40's. The memory of those who were murdered in this place will not be forgotten and Lord-willing, nothing like that will ever happen again.
This is a sunset from our apartment window. The sun didn't go down until 10pm which really surprised us at first. We were used to the sun setting around 7pm every night, all year round. In conclusion, Cologne was surprising and fun. And a good re-acclimation into the western world. 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Terril and Amber!
I was just reading your blog and I am surprised that you are in Germany!
If you still have some time and would like to come to the South I'd like to invite you to my place in Bavaria. I am living near the Neuschwanstein Castle!

Sabine Wiedemann, ( Ik-Survey Team (-: )
s.wiedemann@vr-web.de

Rich and Sally Hoffman said...

Köln: KOENIG-Stadt indeed☺! And Heine-Stadt, if what you were searching for at the Uni was his 514-page manuscript "The Ik language" listed in her bibliography -- more on that when we meet. Don’t know if she, Heine, and Serzisko are presently there at the Uni, but if you should happen to drop in on them, please greet and thank them from us☺☺!!
Meantime, please do enjoy this beautiful city and the rest of one of our favorite countries☺☺.

The Reeds said...

Love it! This looks wonderful. I'd never heard that that's where the three wise men are... Good to know! ;) I'd better plan a trip. Glad you'll be this side of the pond soon...

Özer Utku said...

One of the cities in Europe to live in Cologne. I traveled for a week and liked it very much. I have written here.