Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Cologne for Connoisseurs

Two weeks ago on Saturday Red Baron attended a wedding at St. Apollinaris*, a small church near Düren, a city in North-Rhine Westphalia. Why was I there? Well, I am the uncle related by marriage to and the godfather of the groom.
*Apollinaris is better known as a somewhat high-browed glass-bottled sparkling water.

The subsequent fest was a big affair with about 300 young and youngest guests, me being the oldest. On the vast terrain belonging to the bride’s father, he had organized the wedding party. We, the guests, were treated with sparkling water or wine, Kölsch*, and finger food served at various service points. The host had even a toilet van installed for the people to get rid of their liquids.
*the local beer from nearby Cologne


The fest tent seen in the back was equipped with tables and chairs for all those eating their barbecue buffet. I only present one photo of this family affair showing in the foreground the young husband chasing his wife (?) and children playing in the meadow with some of them flattening the molehills.


I had already arrived in Cologne at noon the Friday before by InterCity Express (ICE). It took me only three hours from Freiburg into the heart of the city; the central train station is just a stone’s throw away from the cathedral.


I know Cologne well for Elisabeth had lived here before our marriage and we visited my parents-in-law frequently. Being alone in the city, I took a guided bus tour for the first time.

The problem for the guides is that Cologne’s inner city is a pedestrian area. So I was driven through unknown suburbs called Niehl and Riehl and had an extended trip on the right bank of the Rhine that real Cologners pejoratively call the Schäl Sick (the wrong side of the river).


Here are a few photos I took on the ”right” side. The old Malzmühle (malt mill) nowadays is a brewery and pub for Kölsch. It is little known by tourists because it is located off their usual trail.


Det hillige Köln (Holy Cologne) had already nine big churches and a cathedral all built in the Romanesque style before the construction of the Dom started in 1248 in the Gothic style. Most of the old Romanesque churches were destroyed during the Second World War but reconstructed except for St. Alban's. The ruin now accommodates a memorial for those who perished during the war in particular in the bombing raids that destroyed Cologne to 90%.


Here is a place to visit, the new Wallraf-Richartz Museum of Art. The outside walls show what paintings you will find in there. On this side of the building are marked the names of Van Dyck, Murillo, Munch, Bruyn, Piacetta, Feuerbach, Morisson, and the less known Van Henessen.


Following the bus tour, I went to one of the Merzenich bread outlets where I noticed the first plum tart of the season.


Well, for the self-service stamp-sized tart and a cup of coffee I paid more than for two packages of Merzenich’s famous Schwarzbrot (coarse rye bread). This bread thinly sliced is cult for many Germans and possibly only digestible by them. My grandchildren even don’t look at me when I savor it for breakfast spread with Pflaumenmus (plum jam).



When I left my hotel the following morning, the steeples of the cathedral standing against a blue sky invited me. On my way, I passed the fence of a building site decorated with some banners presenting historical views of Cologne.


The panorama shows that a pontoon bridge still existed in 1900. It was opened at intervals for ships to pass.


Before the present cathedral was started in the Gothic style in 1248 a Romanesque bishop’s church the Carolingian Hildebold Dom, and an episcopal palace (marked in blue) existed.


All building activities came to a halt between 1524 to 1828. Here is the famous view of the unfinished cathedral in the 19th century. The new bishop’s palace is located in front of the already finished church choir that for centuries has served as the place of worship.

Inauguration and consecration in the presence of the Kaiser on 14 August 1880
The Catholic Kölner Dom was eventually finished in 1880 using French reparation payments following the French-German war of 1870/71.

Since Kaiser Wilhelm had some money left, he served his Protestant subjects too by having built the Berliner Dom around 1900.


My first action when I enter the cathedral always is to light a candle in front of the Schmuckmadonna. Since the end of the 17th century, the faithful have come to the small figure of the Madonna of the Jewelry placed in front of the left northern transept. The believers offered their precious gifts to the baroque, partly painted, partly gilded wooden statue of Our Lady.


Since December 2013, the Cathedral has a “new” relic. It is a scrap of cloth with a drop of blood of Pope John Paul II. The relic is contained in a silver reliquary depicting Karol Józef Wojtyła leaning on his Ferula.


Sideward of the doors of the northern transept, I discovered the statues of St. Mary and her “husband” Joseph. It was always my impression that the Church is not at ease regarding this special relationship. Here Joseph and Mary even look in opposite directions confirming my point of view.


To replace some broken windows the cathedral chapter mandated German artist Gerhard Richter in 2006 to fill the opening of the southern transept. Richter worked without pay.

Although one doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth Cologne’s Cardinal Joachim Meisner - not a member of the cathedral chapter - started a controversy about the Richter-Window, "It rather fits into a mosque or another house of prayer. If we already get a new window, it should also clearly reflect our faith. And not just any."


While the tourists started streaming into the cathedral, I stepped out into the bright sunlight heading for Brewery Früh just a stone’s throw away from the Dom.


Before I started on my trip to Düren, I had to strengthen myself with a Halve Hahn and a few test tubes of Früh Kölsch.


In the meantime, groups of tourist with their guides were continually passing by. My second breakfast attracted many an envious glance.

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