A German tale…

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Step out of the train station and into a fairy tale…


Hallo und Willkommen nach Deutschland! I’ve made it here to Germany, the land of Riesling, bier and brats. Of course there are many other things to focus and comment on, but let’s make sure our priorities are in order. Before we head into the areas of food and beverage, however, a thought or two on this city.

I’ve been here for a few days now, and I’ve been meaning to write, really I have. But the Kölsch is so good! And after a few of these and a brat or two, my fingers (not to mention my brain cells) get lazy. A sincere danke is in order to MDW, who was good enough to set us up with a fantastic home base here in Cologne/Köln– I know you hate me for being here when you’re not, but you’ll have to trust me when I tell you I’m drinking an extra kölsch for you every time we’re out.

In Bill Bryson’s book, Neither here Nor there, he describes Cologne as “a dismal place”, grim and even seedy. When one of your heroes, whether they be artists, politicians, athletes, or writers– and Bryson, an incredibly funny and cerebral man, is definitely one of mine– says or does something that you strongly disagree with, it stings. It’s also a good reminder not to put anyone’s ideas or actions up on too high a pedestal. With all due respect, Bill, you must have been either hungover, in a piss-poor mood, or just seeing things in a very dim light when you were here.

Since I’ve arrived here, there has been an odd feeling that I’m stuck inside some type of live-action fairy tale. It began when we got off the plane and wandered into the terminal, slick, polished, and efficient. It was like being caught in the German version of The Matrix. The fairy tale took an odd, unhappy turn when I was sent to the ticket machine to buy our train tickets to the city center. Two tickets should have set us back about five Euros. Another number is thirty two… Yet another number is zero– which is exactly what my IQ score would be as a result of this purchase.

But that’s all right! Life is a series of lessons, no? And this tale gets much, much better. There are many places one can wind up when traveling, some nicer than others. But how someone could not want to be here escapes this pea-brain of mine.


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You see, I want to be in a place where the street-crossing chimes are little, German melodies. Where the face on the historic town hall clock sticks out a wooden tongue when it chimes on the hour. And I want to be somewhere where merry men, beer in hand, ride on the shoulders of monks.

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I want to be in a place where the fresh, local ale (kölsch) is served in beaker-like glasses, brats grow to weirdly large sizes, and random group singing (usually in conjunction with the imbibing of the local ale) can strike up at any given moment. I want to be in a place where all the taxis are polished Mercedes Benz’, even if I don’t want to pay for the fare.

I want to be in a place where I can see ancient Roman ruins being excavated while enjoying coffee and cake. I want to be in a place where there is an embarrassing amount of Gothic churches, including the world’s largest- the Cologne cathedral. And I want to be in a place where pigs really do fly.

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I want to sleep next to the “Puppenspiel” house. And I want to see an old man sitting outside our flat, made of smiles and copper, where scores of people come to say hello and have a picture with him.

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I want to see giant ice cream cones fall from the sky and splatter, upside down, onto the corners of city buildings. And I’ll hope it doesn’t all melt before I get there.

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I want to see a dozen people sit, drink, and make merriment on a “bier bike” (and God, I hope they save room for me…).

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I want to walk am ong throngs of locals and visitors alike, the Rhine to our right, bier hauses and cafes to our left. I want to have bins of bright candy at my fingertips as we wait for the “Köln Lichter” festival to begin, where blaring, symphonic music fills our ears and fireworks illuminate the sky.

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I want to stroll lazily through these ancient streets, and listen to its many, many stories. They might be in the form of a song (more Kölsch, bitte), a musical chime, or even a blog post.


I want to wander into that massive cathedral in the early evening, absent of the afternoon crowds, and let the overwhelming scale and space inside envelop me. I want to sit there a while, inhale deeply and savor this.

I understand where Bryson was coming from; cities, especially older ones, have a dark underbelly, full of trash, gratuitous commercialism, and sorrow. But there are two sides to every story and Cologne’s brighter side really is like a storybook. You just need to turn the pages…

The End.

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Prost!

Jared

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~ by Jared on July 13, 2009.

7 Responses to “A German tale…”

  1. Well, until now I never really wanted to visit Germany, despite my ancestors come from there. Now I have to add it my my list. Please have a beer for me!

    • I most definitely will. Do you prefer Kolsch, Pils, Lager, Bock,…

      What’s that you say? One of each? You got it.

      Prost!

  2. Where in the World is Jared Germain!!!

    Hiya Jared! Have been greatly enjoying being invited along your journey and sharing the thoughts, emotions, pictures and perspective that you’ve been passing along – thanks for that (and sorry for the alliteration)! While I’ve been missing your presence at Zup’s, it is a small price to pay knowing what a fantastic journey you both are undertaking, and getting to share it through your updates.

    Keep sharing, and know that you are in our hearts and thoughts “at home.” Here in ole PDX, as we lift our glasses we are offering cheers to you, sante, Topa, Salut, Prost and, especially, Zum Wohl – as you are to us wherever you are!

    Best,

    Heather

  3. …….Here I am!

    Hi Heather! So good to hear from you, and thank you for all the kind words, especially about being in your hearts back in PDX. -sniffs-

    The feeling’s mutual and I take you with me through all the good, bad, and “that’s just weird”. I think of Owen Roe often in the U.K. Still haven’t been to Ireland, though. Hmmm….

    Hope you’re great and enjoying the summer.

    Prost!

    Jared

  4. RAD!

  5. WOW I realize you’re an excitable boy but Cologne has tweaked you up a notch. Can’t help but want to go there now. Love the pictures. (beard?)
    gman

  6. I’m with gman, Cologne sounds magical. BUT…… OK….the tour de france is nearing epic, fabulous, nail biting proportion and then there is LANCE!!!!!!! I bid for a short leave to experience Paris for the final day of the race, a TRULY amazing experience, TV just does no justice to the excitement, thrill, rush of it all. Plus Paris is one of those cities, magic. OK now that that I have made a plea for a short plane hop…….
    🙂 you would never regret….. OK

    Love the photos and the post.
    gmans girl

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