Sunday evening Dirk messaged me to inform me that the DeutscheBahn train conductors were going on strike Tuesday morning through Sunday, the longest strike in history, and my travel plans may have to be adjusted. I had not booked a round trip ticket when I left Dusseldorf but I had to go back for the rest of my stuff. So we watched the news and checked the train schedules and took a chance and booked a 2nd class ticket to Cologne for Tuesday at noon. Apparently about 1/3 of the trains were running, as 1/3 are regular employees and not in the union that was striking (or something like that). I overpaid and didn’t even use my reserved seat bc I’m too polite to kick someone out of it, even if they are a Gen Y asian playing a really annoying ping pong video game on his phone that will surely result in some arthritis of the wrist. But it was a fast train so only an hour to Cologne where Dirk informed me the sun was shining. I had gone for a lovely run before packing up and was in a good mood (minus the annoying Asian kid in my seat). But Cologne wasn’t so welcoming. The locker situation was bizarre – 4euro for 2 hours or 7 for 24. Once you put your money in, a window opens and you put your bag in then it vanishes under the floor to some general storage facility and is retrieved later. So I couldn’t put the open shopping bag in it and I really didn’t want to put anything remotely valuable in it either since someone else would be handling it. I put in 7 euro bc we were going to be there for about 4 hours, but it spit back out 3 and gave me a ticket for only 2 hours. UGH. I knew I needed food bc I was cranky.
Cologne is kind of strange. Admittedly I didn’t investigate it much since I was meeting Dirk and Hiltrud and Werner but stepping out of the train station you are immediately standing next to a gigantic church, the town’s main attraction. I mean, gigantic. Looking up at it made me dizzy. There was also some bizarre wind tunnel effect in the plaza on two sides of the church so all the tour groups of asians and teenagers were literally being blown around trying to take selfies in front of it. We crossed the plaza to a biergarten for some Kolsch and I enjoyed a giant bowl of homemade pesto and macaroni. Then we split up and Dirk and I wandered over to the German museum to peek in the window (another Rick Steves suggestion) for a free look at their prize possession, a mosaic tile floor from Roman times, restored in its original location, around which the museum was built, glass windows and all. Saved ourselves a couple euros and saw it anyways. Then we went in the Dom. Now I expect a cathedral referred to as the Dom to have a dome on it, but this one doesn’t. I guess that’s just how they refer to giant ornate churches here. It has to be one of the top 3 largest churches I’ve been inside. La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the cathedral in Siena Italy probably rounding it out. They removed all the art and stained glass during the war so they glitter beautifully having been installed in their original location in contrast to the dark and dingy exterior. We couldn’t find an English brochure and they didn’t offer a tour in English and we were unsuccessful at eavesdropping on the private English tour groups but we spent a good bit of time wandering around anyways. There was a big ornate gold arc inside the gated front altar area and we found a tiny pamphlet that claimed it contained the bones of the magi – hence the allure of this particular church.
I saw Dirk curiously walking through the iron gate into the front altar area so naturally I follow and before we know it we are being locked in with some formally dressed old folks and some very official looking church persons. We tried to quietly exit only Dirk couldn’t operate the door. A bunch of tourists were staring at us from the outside because they wanted in and finally a man in a black robe came and let us out, with a very loud clang! Oops! We thought about going through the treasury to see all the fancy gold and jeweled relics, but didn’t want to pay the hefty entrance fee so we exited back into the wind tunnel.
We didn’t really want to do any museums so we hit the pedestrian streets for some shopping, eventually ending up down at the riverfront. Again, I wasn’t really impressed. There were some quaint buildings, and a short promenade, but then we were back at the art museum and the Dom/wind tunnel.
It also started raining. yay. So we just found Hiltrud and Werner and sat down for some more Kolsch before boarding the train back. Since there were only 1/3 of the scheduled trains running but no lack of tourists, it was full. We did not reserve seats but it was only a 20 minute ride so we split up and I had an adorable little pup under my feet who snored the whole way back.
Getting off at the main train station we were already downtown, so to save ourselves another trip the next day, Dirk and I went shopping, some more. I found a Steiff store for cute niece and nephew gifts and a sports store for some sweet futbol jerseys for my soccer loving LeDoux boys. We took a tram back to Gerresheim for dinner but first met Archie for some goodbye hugs and a memory stick full of marathon day pics. Dirk took me to the Fox Hunt restaurant he enjoyed a few nights before where we had some seriously bad service, mysterious seat kicking, good wine, strange potato souffle things, and my least favorite schnitzel to date. It was stupidly hot and reeked of smoke. Pretty much a fitting end to my day.
1) first class train tickets are worth it, most of the time.
2) if you don’t like the weather, don’t worry, it changes about every 10 minutes
3) if you wear a skirt (or shorts prob) that shows bare skin, people will stare at you (unless it’s July, I hear that’s the only month Germans wear shorts)
4) you are not allowed to walk across the plaza built over the philharmonic’s concert hall when they are rehearsing or performing. (one might ask why they would build a concert hall under a public plaza, but to that I have no answer)