December 31, 2013: Eau de Cologne

After the Bonn experience I was pretty excited that the hostel in Cologne was first of all, not in the ghetto, and second of all, actually open.  After a bit of a rest, it was time to hit up the chocolate museum.  Yes, you heard me right and you should be jealous.  It is as awesome as it sounds.  Although there was the usual “boring” stuff associated with museums like how chocolate is produce (and of course along with that came the guilt trip due to the poor working conditions, but they at least got that out of the way early on).  There was also a place where you could taste the chocolate in the different stages of productions, which if you know how I cook, you’ll know that I found this particularly interesting.  Then on the second floor we were able to see how they actually produced the chocolate as well as its cultural significance through the years.  My favorite part of the second floor was, of course, the chocolate fountain where we got to try some fresh chocolate.  My friend actually yelled at me to stop reading about the machinery that I couldn’t eat, and get my butt over to the chocolate fountain, or the real reason we paid 6 Euros to visit the museum.  On the third floor they had some older advertisements and commercials, which was pretty cool.  Oh, and there was an old vending machine that we got to use.  Sadly it wasn’t free, but it was worth it.  The shop was also pretty awesome, heh.

After that and a bit of a rest (and only a bit more chocolate) we walked around and found a nice little Irish pub to have dinner in.  It was kind of weird how empty it was, I guess only because it was the night before Christmas Eve, but there were only a couple of other people in there.  The food was good and the beer was a bit strong, and the old cook kept talking to me in a strong dialect of German.  I just always laughed it off and nodded.

The next couple of days were a bit less adventurous, due to the fact that Germany was closed for the 24th and the 25th.  No, that wasn’t a typo, when it is a holiday here, only the most important of goods and services are open.  Sadly we were not able to make it to the store in time to buy the ingredients to make a decent dinner on Christmas (there was a kitchen in the hostel we could use), so Christmas dinner consisted of cheese sandwiches and beer from the vending machine downstairs.  There were gummy bears and some chocolate for dessert, but let’s not get carried away here.  Not to say my Christmas was bad.  We walked around the city and went into the cathedral, which is pretty breathtaking to say the least.  Its intricately carved facade towers over the square below.  I’m just amazed at the amount of detail that went into it.  The inside was equally impressive, most notably the stained glass windows.  They were so intricate and detailed.  It was an impressive feat of architecture made even more impressive by the fact that it was built before modern machines.  We also happened upon an archaeological dig site with the remains of what must have once been a house.  After seeing much of the city (albeit a much deserted looking city) we called it a day.  I think that night I ended up watching the Matrix in German (and also my first time all the way through.  I know, shame on me).

The next day was much the same, walking around and eating college kid food.  We found a nice little park and just sort of relaxed there for awhile.  Then we chanced upon a cafe that was actually open.  This meant we got some nice warm food and drink, even though it was a bit overpriced.  It was really nice considering most of the trip we have not really had the chance to cook our own meals, and thus relied a good bit on nutella and sandwiches.  Then we decided to take it easy and managed to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas on my kindle.  Sadly this was the only real Christmas special I was able to watch because for some reason, there is an appalling lack of Christmas related program on German television.  Oh well, I did also watch Jurassic Park in German that night.

 

The next day we got up a bit early so that we could see if the National Socialist museum was open, and luckily for us, it was.  Not to give anyone the idea that it was a happy fun experience, but it was very informative and something anyone who has any sort of interest in German culture should experience.  The building itself was used as a headquarters for the S.S. (If I remember correctly) but the basement was used as a prison and even worse, as a means to torture said prisoners.  There was writing all over the cell walls, which were mostly packed full of prisoners until they were either let go, sent away, or killed.  The stories that these writings told were often heart breaking, and several people were holding back tears, if not openly crying.

 

The upper floors had more to do with the history of the National Socialists.  It was also pretty informative, but owing to the fact that there were no English translations written like there were in the basement, I didn’t dwell too long.  My friend sadly had to rely on me to know what anything was saying.  This is sad not because he doesn’t know German, but because I often forget that he doesn’t know it, or even better, I don’t realize that it’s German anymore.  I can’t tell you how many people have asked him a question in German and I’ve just stared at him like, well are you going to answer her?  Then after about five seconds of this painfully awkward silence, it clicks that that was German and I need to translate.  I am a potato.

 

But I digress.  At the end of the museum we met an old man who worked there.  He was… interesting to say the least.  After he realized we were from America, and more specifically Alabama, he started talking about the Civil War and slavery.  It was quite impressive how many of the details he knew, and embarrassingly enough, he probably knew more than I did.  Of course after awhile the topic turned to Hitler and the Nazis.  He had some very interesting facts, despite saying some things that were bordering sympathy towards the Nazis.  Apparently the National Socialists were somewhat obsessed with old legends like Atlantis and finding the Holy Grail.  They even sent people to go and try to find these things.  Also, the “old” part of the city of Cologne, which everyone thinks was rebuilt according to their original plans before the war, was actually rebuilt according to the Nazi plans for the area because there were no records prior to that.  Several of the traditions during Carnival were also changed/created by the Nazis according to this man.  Before Hitler men used to be the dancers, but because that was considered too homosexual, they changed it to women dancers.  He also said they started the tradition of wearing costumes while viewing the parade.  Oh, and the founding of the city was apparently based on its own “Holocaust” (his words, not mine).  Before Caesar converted to Christianity, he took over the city and had all of the original inhabitants killed.  So he was pretty interesting to talk to.

 

And that about wraps up Cologne.  I’ll have to post the pictures for it later, seeing as my camera is now completely dead and I have to get the pictures from my friend.

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