Noilly Prattle: Alien Invasion in Cologne

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Alien Invasion in Cologne

beam me up Scottie
      An extraordinary thing happened while we were on the right bank of the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany gazing at the left bank skyline. In the overcast sky there appeared a UFO that seemed attracted by the gigantic twin towers of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) and hovered over them as though it were going to either beam the cathedral up or hoist it up, perhaps to the mother ship and load it into some unimaginably enormous hold and then jump across the parsecs of space at warp speed to their home planet whereupon they would deconstruct the building stone by stone to figure out how it was built. It's one of those questions that inevitably arise when you're looking at a huge pile of stones like a pyramid or a cathedral, to wit, how did they do it? Although you might think that a race of aliens advanced enough to beam up an entire cathedral could intuit how something that primitive was put together, especially if the beam was cohesive enough to prevent the entire cathedral from falling apart while trying to lift it in one piece.

      It might have been a vision or a hallucination or too much science fiction reading or maybe one too many? At any rate the hovering UFO began moving away from the cathedral and heading in our direction while it seemed to decrease in size and a buzzing sound like a mechanical bumble bee increased in volume as it approached the square where we were standing. Turning around I saw man in a yellow shirt and blue jeans holding a remote control unit and focusing on the mechanical monster as it gently approached and hovered in front of him, seemed to bow and settled gracefully to the ground. It turned out to be a remote controlled camera that could peer into the most unexpected and otherwise inaccessible places. Cool as a detached ice floe in Antarctica, I thought.

space ship navigation bridge? --
or high speed train engine controls
       After spending a relaxing 12 days in Amsterdam we took a train to Cologne to look at the big pile of stones known as Cologne Cathedral. The Gothic cathedral is the biggest tourist attraction in Cologne. The second biggest draw is, naturally, the thing that has, with a small c, become a household word for mostly, though not exclusively, mens' fragrance, eau de cologne.

       Cologne, where we rented a car, was the first of a series of one-night-stands as we drove along the Middle Rhine and the Black Forest on through to Zurich, Switzerland. We arrived at Cologne Hauptbahnhof in mid-afternoon and checked into our hotel, which was very conveniently located practically next door to the cathedral and the Hauptbahnhof (main station) where we picked up our rental car the next day. Everything that is to be seen is within walking distance in Cologne. The farthest destination was along the railroad bridge over the Rhine to the right bank to get a long view of the cathedral.

 Cologne Cathedral - south facade
west facade
       After checking in at our hotel it was still mid afternoon so we roamed in and around the cathedral. Massive twin steeples dominate the west end of the building and soar above the pavement. Unless you hover over the cathedral in a helicopter, or use one of those drones referred to in the first paragraph, it is difficult to get a clear overall picture of this incredible pile of stones. Other buildings crowd in on the cathedral on three sides. The least obstructed view is from across the Rhine to the east. In the interior, colossal pillars uphold the soaring Gothic vaulting of the nave, apse and transepts.  The church was designed to house the relics of the three wise men from the East who, according to legend, attended the nativity of the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. The cathedral's greatest work of art, the Shrine of the Three Kings, is a large reliquary purported to contain relics of these three wise men made of gilded bronze and silver and decorated with enamels and gemstones. Notable as all that is, I was most impressed with the exquisite mosaic flooring that adorns parts of the cathedral. 

vault and pillars
medieval statue of St. Christopher

Shrine of the Three Kings

mosaic flooring
mosaic design symbolic of
king, bishop and knight
detail of mosaic on the left

Great Saint Martin's Church showing
two of the three trefoil apses
       I don't consider the overly ornate Gothic Cologne Cathedral an especially attractive building. It rather looms and almost broods darkly over the city. The nearby Romanesque Klosterkirche Groß Sankt Martin (Great St. Martin's Church), however, is another matter. Much smaller in scale and more graceful in outline it, to me, is a really lovely building. Its rounded arches are echoed in the trefoil or triconchos design (resembling a three-leaf clover) of the apses. Seen from the ground they resemble half circles protruding from the north, east and south end of the building. The nave is squared off normally at the western end. 
trefoil 3-leaf clover

       After walking through the clover and around the eastern end of St. Martin's, we then strolled along the Frankenwerft, a park on the left bank of the Rhine where there was a festival in progress. It was some kind of children's day festival and the park was crowded with people, young and old alike. There were food stalls, rides and all kinds of amusements for children—and lots of balloons—very animated and colorful. By then we were hungry and found an outdoor cafe in the park and had some beer and wiener schnitzel.

       The next day we had the entire morning before our scheduled rendezvous with Europcar, the car rental agency at the station. We checked out of the hotel and stored our bags with the reception desk and went off in search of the popular store that sells 4711 Eau de Cologne located at Glockengasse,, No. 4711. The 4711 brand has been in business at this location since the 18th Century and is “one of oldest still produced fragrances in the world.” We bought a small bottle of “4711 Portugal” spray cologne with a hint of orange.

padlocks along walkway sealing eternal love
            With more time before our rental car rendezvous we decided to cross the river to get a more panoramic look at Cologne Cathedral and discovered that the railroad bridge composed of several steel trusses in the form of semi-circular arches also had a pedestrian walkway for foot traffic. There is an interesting custom in Europe that we first encountered in Prague. Couples who are starry eyed in love attach padlocks inscribed with words of enduring and eternal love locked onto a chain link type fence. The bridge was covered from end to end with millions of these padlocks. And, here and there, the thoughts of the disillusioned, whose love proved to be less than 'til the end of time were--well, not exactly--"inscribed". 

And, yes, shit happens!

1 comment:

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Thanks. Ali