Saturday, January 19, 2013

Kings bones & Roman ruins

First full day in Cologne and our first stop after some breakfast was a guided tour of the Cologne Dom.  UNESCO World Heritage listed since 1996 it is massive!  … and then some more massiveness.  Germany’s largest cathedral was begun in 1248, stopped in1560 (they ran out of cash) started again in the 1830s and was finally finished in 1880.  It survived WW2 relatively unscathed.

Our first view of it was yesterday when we stepped out of the train station, and our first view this morning was equally as jaw-dropping … we walked over the bridge and into the main part of town.  You come around a corner and up a short flight of stairs and wham! There it is – right in front of you –the west portal.

Around the corner, past flying buttresses and huge statues adorning the walls and you come to the main entrance.  Step inside and the first thing that hits you is the space … there are 5 aisles but nothing but tll columns dividing them and everywhere you can see are stained-glass windows.  Unbelievable!

I joined a guided tour (Tony declined – he hates paying for things).  There is too much to describe so I’ll just stick to the really impressive stuff.  As I said, stained glass windows everywhere (and today we had pretty good light so they were just lovely) – the ‘biggie’ is the one built very recently (and hugely controversial by German artist Gerhard Richter.  NO ‘picture’ just 12,000 3” pieces of glass – 72 different colours – it’s like a kaleidoscope – I loved it!

Then on to the main draw-card.  Cologne Dom has been a pilgrimage cathedral since the 1100’s when they ‘acquired’ (read stole during a war) the Reliquaries of the Magi.  This massive gold sarcophagus is said to contain the bones of the 3 wise men who visited Jesus.  Whether it does or not is irrelevant – the sarcophagus is incredibly impressive, about 6’ long, 3’wide and 3’high it took 40years to make and is utterly stunning!

Then there was the Cross of Gero, a wooden crucifix from about 950AD, a 15th century altar piece, and tombs of all the bishops since the cathedral was built, gilt altars, a priceless statue of Mary decorated in pearls & crucifixes (put there by the faithful).  Do yourselves a favour and put Cologne on your bucket list – and put the Cologne Cathedral as your #1 stop .. this place is like nothing you will ever see!  I’ll try and get some photos up on facebook (and my photos absolutely do NOT do it justice I can assure you)  We studied it at school in Yr 9 (along with The Dom in Aachen and Angkor Wat) so I have waited a very long time to see it with my own eyes – and so worth the wait.

After the Dom & some lunch we headed for the Roman-German Museum.  Cologne was named by the Roman Emperor Claudius after his wife (and niece!) Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippina (now there is a mouthful!) and the museum is chock-full of stuff from the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD.  From sacrificial altars & tombstones through to cloak clasps, pottery of every kind, combs, jewellery, shoes, busts of emperors, and several wonderful floor mosaics (one of them was found some years ago and the museum was actually designed & built around it).

They also had a temporary exhibition called ‘The Tunnel’ which showcased all the wonderful archaeological stuff (mostly Roman) that was found from about 2003 during the digging of a new railway tunnel. Lots of photos of the dig plus masses of stuff now on display.

It was quite extraordinary standing within touching distance of household items that are 2000 years old. 

We got home about 4.30 stopping on the way for ‘coffee & cake’ … a very German tradition, then headed out again about 7 to find some dinner.  This time we grabbed the tram and then walked from Neumarkt back towards the Dom down Cologne’s main shopping strip.

We had dinner at a fantastic little Thai place just a street back from the river in an area that looked like it was probably merchants-ville during the 1600s.  Home again to find the ‘club’ next door pumping out doof-doof music … hope it doesn’t go too late!  And our only English language TV station (CNN) is going all spazzy & pixelated on our gigantic (not!) TV.  We do however have the choice of Spongebob Squarepants, Braveheart and World Championship Snooker + about another 15 stations in German!

Tomorrow I’m planning on visiting the Ludwig museum and then we’ll do a spot of shopping!

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