Saturday, October 8, 2011

Koln, Germany

Went to Koln today, a field trip with Michael’s history class. Technically, he is taking U.S. History, but that seemed to be beside the point since a German national is teaching the class. (Yes, a German teaching U.S. History. It’s a good thing though, because without the bias he can actually get the facts straight). 

We arrived at the meeting place a little late (okay, more like an hour late), but still managed to meet up with the others. Our first stop was the Koln cathedral, although we didn't see much of it because we didn't take the paid tour. After that brief walk-through, we walked down to the stadt-museum which showcased the history of Koln. Michael’s instructor was our guide and gave us brief overviews of all the exhibits. From there we walked down to the Gestapo headquarters and explored the prison used by the Nazis during WWII. This was pretty interesting. The cells were very small, but often had 20-30 people crammed inside them. People were jailed for all sorts of reasons like speaking out against the Nazi’s, being foreign nationals (one guy was from Ohio), or hiding their Jewish friends and neighbors. Many never found out the reasons for which they were jailed, and their confusion is reflected in preserved writings scratched or penned onto the walls, conveniently translated in modern exhibits. Among these were poems, manifestos, insults, curses upon Nazi Germany, names, dates, or even just a count of the days they were jailed for. I couldn't possibly read them all, but the ones I read made these people’s stories come alive. 

For lunch we scored a table at the Fruh, an old brewery famous in Koln. It was so crowded we almost didn't get a table, but then the instructor talked to them again and they got us a table in the basement. The food was good, but the beers came in small glasses so Michael was a little disappointed… until he learned that in the restroom there are three stalls: one is a regular toilet, one is a urinal, and one is a puke trough at chest level with a bar above it to hold on to. After that, he was fairly enamored with the place. His instructor had much more to tell about the history of the brewery, including a discontinued tradition involving being polite to the wait staff and possibly becoming inebriated for free (I missed the exact details).  Michael was both dismayed and delighted when we emerged from the building into throngs of people waiting to go in and his instructor pulled a stolen beer glass out of his pocket and handed it to Michael. Free souvenir, heh!

After lunch we made our way to a large bridge overlooking the Rhine. All along the fence line were padlocks engraved with lovers’ names. The tradition is that young lovers buy padlocks and get them inscribed with their names, lock them on the fence, then toss the key in the river. *Aww.* As Michael and I discussed the merits of such an idea, and ultimately which of us would later be required to dive in the river looking for the key, it just so happened that high above us on the bridge’s arched struts, a large bird let loose a mammoth-sized poop that drifted slowly downward, ever downward, all the long, long way towards where I was standing, blissfully unaware of my impending doom. This was not your typical, fist-sized bird poop, mind you. I seriously thought eight birds had simultaneously released their poop in some joint effort to smite me. Even after diving out of the way, poop continued to rain down upon my head, my jacket, the diaper bag, and the ground around me. It was seriously a lot of poop. Luckily there was an art museum nearby with working facilities, so I was able to rinse most of it out of my hair and off my jacket. Grrr. 

After a quick break to feed Midori, we headed down the river walk towards the chocolate museum. Free chocolate! Not so free cheesecake and iced coffee at the cafĂ©! Got a little lost on the way back trying to find the correct parking garage our car was in (17 euro for the day –ouch!), and then we got a little more lost trying to navigate out of said parking garage (the down stalls were blocked so it made us go up, up, up to the roof top, where we found a ramp over to an adjoining parking garage, which finally let us go down). Now we’re home again, Midori’s in bed, and I’ve had a nice long shower to purge any remaining bird poop from my hair. Fun times.

I have to give the little one credit though. Midori was an awesome traveler for once! She was absolutely adorable all day (I’m not the only one who thought so!) and only fussed when I went too long between feedings. Said “Mama” a lot too, showing off her new skills. :) Great day over all, and tons of fun. Michael gets extra credit for his class too, so everybody wins!

Pictures up on Facebook!

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