Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Archaeological Museum in Cologne

We have learned to choose a few things we really want to see, and set our priorities on seeing them well. Cologne was easy in that way; the Hotel Ernst is centrally located and you can walk anywhere. It is also near the railroad station, and there are always taxis in front of the hotel.

 

We were there when it opened, and shared it with just five people for an hour 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the view of the mosaic from two flights up; you will see it closer up a few photos down.

 

 

 

 

 

I love this graphic, showing how Cologne is at one of the oldest Roman crossroads in Europe. We used to live near a “Romerstrasse” or Roman Road in Germany.

We had lunch at Peter’s Brauhaus, and then headed back to the hotel for a quick nap before time to be picked up to go to the boat.

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March 17, 2019 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Germany, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Wandering the Christmas Markets in Cologne

We slept well at the Hotel Ernst, and wakened early, early enough that we could make the first service in the Koln Cathedral. We had checked times the day before, and as the cathedral is just across the street, all we had to do was to roll out of bed, get dressed and out the door.

 

I truly love cathedrals, and I love them best of all, churches, cathedrals, holy places, when they are quiet and empty and serene. The cathedral at zero-seven-hundred (as military types might say) was spectacularly beautiful, full of shadows and light, and a very few people, I would guess all local, heading toward a side chapel where mass was held.

We are Episcopalian, a liturgical bent of the Christian religion, and once you know the liturgy, you can follow it in any Catholic church in the world, no matter what the language. My heart was thankful just to sit and worship. I had visited The Three Kings (Drei Konigen) cathedral first on Epiphany in 1989, when the relics were carried around the church and children acted the parts of the three kings. It was powerfully moving. Sitting in worship, knowing it was a dream come true, my heart was full of uncontainable happiness.

We were bundled up, as was everyone else. There was heat, but the cold pervaded. People kept their heavy coats on during the mass, even their gloves, which made it hard to turn pages in the missal. We left just before communion, playing by their rules.

This casket contains relics of The Three Kings.

We headed back to the Hotel Ernst for a gorgeous buffet breakfast in their famous Excelsior restaurant.

 

 

 

Forgive me, I was HUNGRY! I didn’t take photos of the restaurant or the buffet. I will tell you that I particularly loved their coffee, strong and rich, served from an individual silver pot on our table, with fresh cream in another little pitcher. The breakfast was delicious, included a huge variety on the buffet, and you could order special things you wanted, eggs to order, etc. I found smoked salmon on the buffet, with all the trimmings, and my little Scandinavian heart was content with that.

We went back to the room, packed quickly, cleaned up and headed back out to explore the Christmas Markets early in the morning before the crowds arrived – and before they opened. We had the city to ourselves, early on Sunday morning.

Yes, I look very elegant until you get to my shoes. The surfaces vary. One minute you might be in the middle of the road, as in this photo, and the next, you will be on ancient cobblestones, or steps. When I was young, I heedlessly wore high heels everywhere. I no longer can do that, and it is misty and slick, so I am glad I have my faithful walking shoes. So faithful in fact, that we noticed that they are falling apart, and we threw them in the trash as we left Basel.

More early morning Christmas Market photos in Cologne:

 

 

 

 

 

The original Cologne water, everyone was buying 4711.

We had lunch at Peter’s Bauhaus. It looked so inviting, all decorated, and people were waiting in groups outside to be allowed in. It paid, in this instance, to be just two people; they took us right away and sat us at a table with another couple. We chatted a little – and then just had our own quiet conversations, sharing space but enjoying our own company.

 

 

 

 

AdventureMan had a schnitzel and house fries, with a salad and a beer. Kolsch, of course.

 

 

 

I ordered a salad with trimmed with bacon, but what I got was bacon with a little salad, and the dressing was very bacon fat. I’m sure it was delicious, but I can’t eat that much fat. AdventureMan was kind and gave me a couple bites of his schnitzel.

March 17, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Germany, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Markets on the Rhein

Horrors! I haven’t written since pre-Thanksgiving?? That’s the way my life is going, and I just have to take a minute when I can find it and keep up.

 

You may all think of aging, retiring grandparents as people sitting in rocking chairs on their porches, just waiting to die. The truth is very different. Retirement, at least early retirement, can be one of your most active times of life.

 

It is in our case 🙂

 

We made a choice. We have our grandchildren every day after school. It is delightful, and it is hard work. For me, it means having to carve out time for the things I want to do early in the day. AdventureMan picks up the grandchildren, brings them to our house, makes a healthy snack, supervises their homework and manages their time and experiences. I support AdventureMan, and specialize in hugs, intensely personal discussions, and rough-housing. I can make them laugh uncontrollably. I can cry with them when the world is dark and incomprehensible. I can help them have faith in themselves. I can encourage them to try, try again.

So, from time to time we run away and play, AdventureMan and I.

 

One of our favorite things we get in the mail are travel brochures. Most of the time, we don’t care, but the really good thing is that from time to time we get one that ignites our imagination, and we are both all in.

“Here’s what I want to do,” I said to AdventureMan, thrusting a Tauck tours brochure into his hands. “I want winter food. I want to wear winter clothes. I want to see the Three Kings Cathedral in Cologne again, and that glorious candelabra in Aachen. And look! It goes to Heidelberg! Strassbourg! Colmar!”

Here’s why we are still married after all these years. AdventureMan reads through and his eyes light up and he looks at me and says “You want to do this?” and I say “Yes!” and minutes later he is on the phone and we are committed. And we are dancing for joy.

Although we tend to be frugal by nature, history and habit, we are also pragmatic. If the flights are domestic, under four hours, we go economy. When we go overseas, we go business, and we make sure the seats go flat so we can sleep.

Our flights go smoothly, and we arrive relatively rested and excited. AdventureMan sends me off to change money while it is convenient, and I come back to discover I’ve kept a growing group waiting for me. Yikes. I apologize profusely and then just keep a low profile. Tauck is a little plusher than our Viking trips; we have a limo that we share with one other couple from Dusseldorf to Koln. The trip is quick, and we arrive at the Hotel Ernst efficiently. Our baggage is already there.

 

People check in, and we discover that everyone has a room except for us and one other group, and as things happen on these trips, the other group and us had a special relationship for the rest of the trip. We were both independent travelers. Our room was unlikely to be ready for a couple hours.

I’d like to tell you that I was a good sport, but I was not. I wanted a shower. They offered me to shower in the spa and I was not happy with that. They were really trying to please me, and I was trying, but I was not happy.

 

AdventureMan, who knows me well, said “I think we need a walk,” so I gave the hotel people the number of my brand new International-equipped iPhone, specially bought for times like this, and out the door we went. Out the door of the Ernst looks like this:

This is the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. The Hotel Ernst faces the Cathedral. 

 

The world looks new and fresh. I take a deep breath and smile again, it smells like home. We find our German comes back as if once again, we lived here and spoke it regularly. We walk, I take pictures, and when we find the Fruh, we know it is time to have our first meal back in Germany.

 

There is a method to our madness, when we choose a travel destination. This, for us, isn’t about Christmas Markets, although those are beautiful and fun. This is about feeding a need deep in our souls, a need for winter, a need for winter food and walking in the cold air wrapped in our heavy German coats. No, it isn’t rational. Yes, it’s the way it is.

Walking into Fruh is like walking back in time. We could be in Heidelberg, or Mannheim, or Wiesbaden, or Kaiserslautern, or any of the German towns where we have been so blessed to live.

Cologne is very proud to have it’s own beer, and you find it everywhere. It is served in tall thin glasses. I don’t drink a lot of beer, but I can drink a small glass of Kolsch. AdventureMan says the Bavarians call the glass a “test tube” because of its long, thin shape.

At first, we didn’t know. When AdventureMan tried to order a Pils, the waiter said in a loud, brusque voice “Kolsch! Kolsch! We only serve Kolsch!”

Cologne is not so much a tourist town. The tolerated u with grace; we speak German, but they treated us as outsiders. We know the difference. We didn’t mind so much; we are outsiders now.

I wanted you to see the menu, also known as Tageskarte, or daily menu. I also like to look at it and sigh; these are not foods you find in Pensacola. They are not foods you find, for the main part, at restaurants in the United States that call themselves German. Brusque loud voice and all, we are delighted to be at Fruh. They are all the winter foods I was hungering for so nostalgically, deer medallions, goose, heavy winter cauliflower soup . . . ahhhhhhh. . . .

We know we are in the right place. The locals fill in, with their shopping bags, meeting up with friends, we feel at home.

I had Hirschmedallions for my first meal, little deer steaks, with broccoli. This is new to me. I don’t remember food being served with broccoli before.

AdventureMan had Schweinesteak, pork steak, and a big bowl of home made potato fries. This is more the heavy, vegetable free cooking I remember.

As we ate, the hotel called to say our room was ready. On our way from the Fruh to the Hotel Ernst, the Weinachtsmarkt, the Christmas Market by the Cologne Cathedral, was beginning to open, and I saw my first vendor of roasted chestnuts.

We all sing nostalgically about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” but the truth is, no matter how much my French and German friends rave about roasted chestnuts, I don’t like them. I don’t like their texture. I am sort of intellectually delighted to see my first chestnut vendor, but not really excited to eat any of them.

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Germany, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment