Sat 18 Jul 2015 - Sat 18 Jul 2015
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!!
This Saturday was our first outing as a group, with all of the students of the Fort Hays State University English Department's 2015 Summer Study Abroad program. After lunch...
Again, I tried the local brew. Verdict? I didn't care for it... too much like American beer.
...we headed to an archaeological site that includes a huge Roman praetorium and a tour through Roman sewers.
I snapped a few photos like this for my oldest son to play with--he's had three years of Latin.
The Praetorium, residence of the Imperial Governor of lower Germania. It's hard to perceive the actual scope of this building from this perspective. The "room" we stand in houses only the very bottom portion; the original building was constructed around the first century, with the "step" in the front wall indicating where the ground level was at that time. The columns in the back are from later, fourth-century construction, and are only the very bottom of the columns. (Visit the website for aerial shots that give a better idea of perspective.) This building met its end from a huge earthquake in the eighth century, and suffered further damage in World War II. As you walk around this giant "room," you can see cracks and damage from both events.
Moss/mold/mildew/gunk from the old Roman sewer. I didn't get any better photos because I was busy staying focused on repeating my mantra of "You're not trapped down here, you're not trapped down here, you're not trapped..."
Most of the day--as, indeed, the city itself--centered around the incredible Cathedral. It took over 600 years to build and is so massive, with so many Gothic architectural elements that it is constantly being "cleaned." The scaffolding on it just revolves around and around, doing its thing... by the time the building has been completely cleaned and maintained, it's time to start all over.
At one point, Kay and Traci and I decided to visit the belfry. It was only a few euros, and the views should be great, so why not? What we didn't fully realize was that it was a 328' climb to the top--most of it a nonstop trek up a thin, winding, medieval stairway that was originally intended for no more than a couple of monks going about their business but now has to accommodate hundreds of stinky people going up AND down.
Kay needed a faster pace, so she went ahead. I plodded on while Traci kept pace with me. We eventually made it to the belfry and paused for this photo in front of St. Petersglocke, the largest free-standing bell in the world.
Little did we know that we weren't done yet. We went back into the graffiti-covered stairwell for more climbing, occasionally blindly taking a shot out of one of the open windows.
When we reached this room--blissfully furnished with benches along the wall--we hoped we were done. Then we realized that the metal monstrosity in the middle of the rotunda was actually... more stairs!
Calves and quads screaming (mine were, anyway), we finally made it to the top--100 meters up. That's 328 feet of very vertical climbing to be rewarded with these views of Cologne's Colonius Tower, the Rhine river, and the cityscape:
My legs were shaking for the rest of the day! Did I mention my sandals had heels?
This is a shot straight up, through the mesh "ceiling"... my attempt to show how close we were to the top, but I don't think I succeeded. I was too weak in the knees to stand firm against the riptide of tourists long enough to frame a decent shot.
Here's a better perspective. We climbed to the equivalent of the top of the scaffolding box.
Cologne was heavily bombed during World War II; the Cathedral took fourteen hits, but its spires remained standing. This article has some incredible photos: http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/cologne-cathedral-stands-tall-amidst-ruins-city-allied-bombings-1944/
At its base are city squares; on this beautiful summer Saturday, they were full of people. We saw several bachelor/bachelorette groups--in Germany, this means seeing a group of people dressed in bizarre costumes and doing strange things.
Blog post with good explanation of this tradition: http://blog.young-germany.de/2010/02/something-borrowed-something-blue/
Funny photos of this tradition: https://www.google.com/search?q=german+bachelor+or+bachelorette+party+traditions&biw=1366&bih=681&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0CAgQ_AUoA2oVChMIxLTvhN_RxwIVhzqICh1J8wfi
And, of course (you knew this was coming) there were musicians in the squares. This guy remains one of my favorites from the entire trip; in my mind, I've named him The Happy Piper. (I really want to write this book!)
The climb in the cathedral took much longer than we thought, and by the time we came back down, it was well past time to go; we went straight back to the hauptbahnhof, and headed back to Essen.