Saturday, May 19, 2012

Vacation 2012, #2: Cologne

(On the train in FRA about to head out for CGN.)

Today: Cologne.  I've been coming here for work now for three years, and I've been dying to show the place to Susan since my first visit. She's heard me extoll the virtues of Germany now for all this time, and here's a chance to see how great my exaggeration has been.

Yesterday we walked past all the closed stores due to the German Father's Day holiday, so today was our chance to take in all that we saw yesterday but were unable to partake. Susan noticed a cute little trolley that was carrying tourists around town, and we checked it out and discovered one of the two routes went North to the botanical gardens, or "Flora," as it's called. So that was on today's agenda, but first we headed over to the train station for a currywurst (naturally) and then, just behind the Hauptbahnhoff, the fabled Love Locks on the Hohenzollern Bridge.

I've written about these a couple times. I stumbled upon the phenomenon on my first visit here three years ago, not having heard anything of it beforehand. Indeed, it took me a while to figure out what was going on. At first, it looked just like a couple people had forgotten to take their bike locks with them when they departed, but that explanation quickly became nonsensical when there were more and more of them.

That was three years ago, and what seemed like a lot of locks then seems utter child's play now. Now there are 100,000 locks on the bridge--easily that many. Susan was shocked at the sheer number, the one side of the bridge being pretty constantly festooned for its whole 1,300 feet. There's just something so moving in this spontaneous and overwhelming expression of public affection. Most of them are mundane, but mixed among them is a still-sizeable number of creative and even wacky expressions. It's impossible not to photograph them. AND… we came prepared! I was able to find a shiny Master lock in ATW and found someone to engrave it for us: "Hunny Bunny Loves Sweet Pea 10/3/98."  Isn't that cute?  So we found a spot where we thought there was some small chance of finding it again and locked it in with the zillions of others.

We both decided we loved best the ones that had some kind of group membership, some of whom had not yet made it to the spot to mark their claim.

After this we took the trolley up to the botanical gardens and spent an hour walking the grounds. It's a really lovely spot and a tremendous amount of work for somebody--but we saw no workers while we were there. There are quite a few acres of ground and several greenhouse buildings, each made to a theme or ecosystem. The grounds were relatively sparsely attended, and but for the traffic noise it was quite a relief from the crush of people downtown (alas, a major freeway abuts one side of the property, so it was noisier than would have been ideal).

After that we took the trolley back and intended to have a little nap at the hotel--between screwed-up sleep schedules and, well, being old we do enjoy an afternoon nap. But we got sucked into the swirl of shopping and the wine festival across from the hotel. We found a booth making little cracker-crust pizzas, and we sat there eating one of those while Susan had one of the best glasses of wine she'd ever had--a Bacchus Spätlese from the G. Waller winery. We sat there people-watching the crowded festival for an hour or so before heading back to the hotel for a swim and a movie.  Really, a perfect day.

(At the Flora, the botanical garden.)

(Susan's handiwork. Not bad for an iPhone photo!)

(Too many love lock photos. A fella could take a thousand photos here.)

(West end of the bridge, with Hauptbahnhoff and dom.)

(Super-secret location!)


Tomorrow, more knocking about CGN until our train for Amsterdam at 5:45 PM.


Mike said...

That all looks like such an absolute blast! I hope to some day take Mandi over there and show her some of that cool stuff. You are very lucky to be able to do it! Enjoy!!

wunelle said...

It's such a treat to be able to visit these places at all, let alone to be paid most of the time to do it. Now to bring Susan over here and share the experience with her has been fantastic. We liked Frankfurt, but we LOVED Cologne. There were thousands and thousands of people out and about, wine festivals, the crazy scene in front of the Dom, and the crowded shopping areas. Seems the economy in Germany is doing fine. A couple of perfect days.

dbackdad said...

Very jealous. My wife's best friend just visited Europe last month and took some pictures on that same bridge.

Enjoy your trip!

Vancouver Voyeur said...

We will be flying into Munich tomorrow. Wish we could see a little bit of Germany, but we fly right back out to Tallin, Estonia. I'll be taking pictures of the old medieval city and posting them every chance I get.

wunelle said...

I've a post coming about our short visit to Tallinn. We didn't know what to expect, and it was really captivating! I hope to see Munich someday. Take pictures!

Vancouver Voyeur said...

I just took a picture for you and posted it on my blog.