Saturday, January 12, 2013

COLOGNE, GERMANY, PART 2: A Walk Around the City and the Antiquities Museum

While the immense Cologne Cathedral certainly dominates the skyline, there is a lot of life elsewhere in this beautiful city.  For starters, the square in front of the cathedral had a lot going on in spite of the somewhat inclement weather on the day we were there.
At least three painted, costumed, and posing people were waiting for tips.  I was one of those sneaky people who took a picture without leaving a tip:


A man playing this wonderfully resonant alphorn wanted tips too.
I regret not having stayed around to film a few minutes of his unique music.

Facing the cathedral from across the square is the 4711 Building.  Our mother often wore 4711 perfume, and I'm guessing she purchased some of it here.  According to legend, the 4711 fragrance was created in 1792 and is the original Eau de Cologne, or "water from Cologne." It takes its name from the street number of the factory where it was made.

This building had a small perfumerie on the main level, and in addition to 4711, they sold Tosca, another fragrance our mother sometimes wore.  I don't wear perfume very often, but it was hard to resist the power and pull of memory. Several of my sisters and I bought some small bottles.
Our cruise provided a German guide who lead us on a walking tour around the city.  He pointed out many picturesque churches and buildings:
The Romanesque Great St. Martin Church, completed in 1250, badly damaged in the War, and restored in 1985. 


I loved this fountain topped by four substantially-built women, each with a different expression on her face:


The wonderful Gothic Town Hall, built in 1569 to 1573:

Our guide also pointed out this very unique monument.  Look closely and you'll see the name "Neil Armstrong" enscribed about a third of the way down.  The monument was erected in honor of the 1969 landing of Apollo on the moon and Armstrong's first step thereon.  The exact distance of the column from that footstep on the moon is noted (389,944 km and 100 m), and the last lines bear the words: "Neil Armstrong, Werner von Braun and NASA have gratefully acknowledged this column and inscription."  Clearly, the people of Cologne have a sense of humor.

A more somber memorial are the many stolpersteine, or "stumbling blocks" that are found around the city embedded in the cobblestones.  Each one bears the name of a victim of the Nazi regime.
The name stolperstein comes from the pre-Holocaust German tradition of saying, when stumbling over some small protuberance in the ground, "There must be a Jew buried there."   These stolpersteine are found in many other German cities, and we have also seen them in Berlin.

However, Cologne is a city in which light-heartedness seems to prevail over doom and gloom. Everywhere we turned, there was something else whimsical and delightful to look at.

After the cathedral, the next most important destination in Cologne is probably the Romano-Germanic Museum.  Cologne is a very, very old city.  The original settlement on the site was built in 38 B.C., and not too many years later the area came under Roman rule.  It is said that no hole can be dug in Cologne without an artifact being discovered.
The museum is built around a Roman villa that was discovered in 1941 during the construction of an air raid shellter.  Part of what was uncovered was what came to be known as the Dionysus Mosaic, a floor dating back to 220 A.D.  Because of the difficulty of dissembling and reassembling a mosaic comprising over a million pieces of limestone, ceramics, and glass, the floor was left in place and the entire museum was designed around it:
Close-ups of floor sections:
I was a bit puzzled by the anatomy of this statue of a sphinx, which, according to an adjacent sign, "was believed to have the power to protect the dead from demons."
All of the artifacts are from the Cologne area, including this beautifully reconstructed sepulcher of the legionnaire Poblicius, dating back to 40 A.D.

The museum has a sizable collection of heads, each with a wonderful personality.


My favorite piece was this depiction of a river god, depicted as an old man:
I also liked this face-off of a wild boar and a dog.  An adjacent placard quoted the philosopher Diogenes as saying, "A small dog may bring a boar to bay and the weak may overcome the strong."
Boars are apparently the whipping boys of the Roman era.  The caption for this sculpture read, "A boar being slain by a lion, symbolizing death, is a frequent motif that has oriental roots."
Yes, it was all very fun, and there was yet one more memorable location to visit.

Coming: Judy and the Chocolate Factory

1 comment:

  1. I have loved having the perfume--I think of Mom every time I use it. Definitely one of my favorite things I brought home from Europe.

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