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Cologne ~ Köln

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This post has taken awhile to get out as I've been battling off the German über-flu ever since we returned. I wasn't sure what to expect from Germany, but I ended up enjoying it even more than I thought. As an American it still never fails to amuse me how many countries I can pass through here in the same distance it takes to drive between states. We took the cross-channel ferry and spent four hours driving through France, Belgium, and a grand total of 14 minutes in Holland before crossing the German border (there is no border control between most EU countries anymore so we didn't have to stop). We even considered dipping into Luxembourg for a laugh, but decided we'd prefer to arrive in Cologne during daylight. Our hotel room had a view over the rooftops, Cologne is a city still under constant reconstruction which was evident by the many cranes dotting the skyline.

Germany feels masculine and serious at first, but once you crack the exterior there is honesty, humour, and a laidback straightforwardness to the people which I found refreshing. It was bitterly cold and even snowed, but I was okay with that as I prefer Northern European cities in winter over summer. I like bundling up and taking refuge in cafés where I get to people watch and meet the locals. Macsen remembers most of his school German which made getting by much easier and if they didn't know any English we could fall back on French. I picked up some German, mainly, "Ein kölsch, bitte." which is an important one. ;) I was surprised as to how much I could understand thanks to the German music I've been listening to. I believe Germany is experiencing a remarkable swell of artistic and musical talent right now; while we were waiting for our friends to arrive in Nürburg I listened to my mp3 player and I realized that nearly 50% of the music on it was German. This was unintentional, but it did make me think about how much good stuff is emerging out of that country currently and I felt happy to finally have a better understanding of where it was coming from.

Kölner Dom

all that was left

the controversial "pixel window", which was designed by a computer.

depressed goat

the light.

Früh Am Dom near the cathedral is probably the best known brauhaus in the city, it was destroyed by the bombings and rebuilt unlike the Päffgen which has remained virtually unchanged since the 19th century. The brauhauses are known for being loud and boisterous, but it was relatively sedate while we were there; however, it was after the Kölner Karneval (they say "if you were at the carnival and saw the carnival, you weren't at the carnival.") so perhaps everyone was still recovering. ;) The local beer in Cologne is kölsch which they serve to you in 200ml glasses called reagenzglas "test tubes" and keep serving them until you beg for mercy or collapse. The chap pictured below quietly knocked them back roughly every 5 minutes. For scientific purposes we tasted kölsch from several different breweries and we both preferred the Früh as it had a smoother taste than the others. The menu was entirely in German and as we struggled to decipher it a mustachioed man there with his daughter sat back with his arms crossed and chuckled at us, finally taking pity on us in broken English he offered his assistance. We asked him what the sauerbraten was like and he replied, "The opposite of sweet."

Früh Am Dom

sauerbraten with kartoffelklösse (a kind of potato dumpling) and apple compote ~ bratwurst

früh kölsch, apfelstrudel

Zum Spanferkel

The Museum Ludwig houses one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe, but we were itching to
explore the city further so we decided to leave something for next time.
The museum looks much more impressive from above.

another space invader to add to my ever-growing collection!

I will say one thing about the Germans and their pork product obsession, they know their favorite ingredient well. The pork I ate at Vintage was the best I had ever eaten. Perfectly cooked. The rest of the meal was good as well, although the pork with asparagus was so perfect on its own that it didn't need the manchego polenta with serrano ham. The basil yoghurt and the tart went well together.

herring three ways with rye bread, cucumber cream and freshly grated horseradish
~ iberico pork on a ragout of green asparagus with sherry, serrano ham wrapped manchego polenta

apple and cox orange tart on basil yoghurt creme, apple sorbet

Belgian Quarter

roman artifacts, most of these were uncovered by the bombings.

I loved the kolumba church more than the dom, the romanesque churches, or any cathedral built to impress. It was almost destroyed completely by the allied bombings, but on top of the ruins they built a modern structure and continued using it as a church. This fusion of gothic ruin and contemporary architecture gives it a unique appearance, but what I liked the most was the interior. It wasn't full of violent imagery unlike most European cathedrals, the artwork and stained glass were peaceful and there was a quiet stillness that instantly took you away from the noisy city outside.

I have never seen a bear gargoyle before.

the church ruins: "Its “filter walls” create air and light permeable membranes which contain within them the functionally independent chapel." - kolumba.de

excavating a roman wall

coffee and cakes at espressoperfetto.de (mine was fig and marzipan)

we woke up to snow

For Macsen's birthday meal I did my research and found Le Moissonnier, a two-michelin star restaurant in the outskirts, not somewhere you'd normally stumble across. It turned out to be one of the best meals we have eaten.

Some meals are too good to photograph; it just didn't feel right, so you'll have to live with the menu which I have tried to translate as well as I can.

Scallops with a paella jus, fricassée of calamari with lime and coconut milk,
crab and cucumber in aspic

Rabbit porchetta with pistachios and Crémone mustard, blue cheese, and shallots,
tomato and mozzarella, and Waldorf salad

Pigeon with foie gras and spiced cauliflower, harissa confit, vegetable and quinoa
couscous salad

Chocolate-olive macaroons and jelly candy, orange and pecan biscuit,
brown butter ice cream with popcorn powder

Brauhaus Päffgen

On our way to the Nürburgring we took a slight detour.

Berg Eltz

Current Music:
Mister Eden - The Quiet Sounds - Episode 18
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On April 8th, 2008 02:48 pm (UTC), asphalteden commented:
I really don't know why we live in the United States. ;)
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On April 8th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC), m00t replied:
I think I will echo that sentiment in duplicate and triplicate.
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On April 8th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC), nomi replied:
Move over before the American lira drops any further!

I'm working on importing friends and family; I think we've got Gael finally, just need to finalize that EU citizenship. ;)
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On April 8th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC), nomi replied:
I don't know why you live in the United States either, move to London! ;)

The longer I live here the harder it is to imagine living across the pond again, even everyday things like being reliant on cars again would feel, well, foreign.
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On April 9th, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC), humanoid27 replied:
... and, if nothing else at least the chocolate is much better over here...
(so i hear.. ;)
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On April 8th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC), sorrento commented:
Really excellent photos, as usual. i used to date someone who lived in Köln. Brings back memories. Did you make it to nearby Bonn? That's a gorgeous city.
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On April 8th, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC), nomi replied:
I did go to Bonn! We were only there for about an hour while the Nürburgring was closed due to snow so we weren't able to explore it thoroughly, but what I saw was beautiful. When I go back I'd like to check out Beethoven's house. :)

Edited at 2008-04-08 11:56 pm (UTC)
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On April 8th, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC), heuteistmeintag commented:
Ich <3 Deutschland
Funny, I haven't learned a damn thing from all the DE music I listen to...
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On April 9th, 2008 12:09 am (UTC), nomi replied:
Re: Ich <3 Deutschland
It's probably because I obsessively translate every German song title and lyrics, but I never thought I'd remember enough of it to actually have a clue about what I was reading in Germany. Fairly uselss at speaking it, though.. I'll stick to the beer phrase and "danke schön" for now.
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On April 9th, 2008 06:29 am (UTC), heuteistmeintag replied:
Re: Ich <3 Deutschland
don't forget Ich bin ein Berliner. did wonders for John
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On April 8th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC), ronaldraygun commented:
I keep looking at that photo of the stained glass window and my brain goes "Why isn't that loading fully?" and then I see the detail on the frames and think "Oh, someone's just pixelated it so you can't see what the actual window is" and then it finally hits me that it's just a random mess of pixels.

That computer has terrible taste!
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On April 9th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC), nomi replied:
Haha - It hadn't occured to me that someone might think it hadn't loaded properly, that is funny. I like the pixel window, in spirit it reminds me of my father's past "techno baroque" works. I think it would have fit in better in the Kolumba.
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On April 8th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC), dawaioser commented:
Is it ok to say that I have "envy" of your travels and foodie experiences? ';)

I also want to ride that pig outside the Zum Spanferkel.
Cute and strange!
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On April 9th, 2008 12:27 am (UTC), nomi replied:
Haha - yes, I think they went slightly overboard on the "pig theme" (particularly the demented schwein art). The ride was tempting, I might have had a go if I hadn't been wearing a skirt!
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On April 9th, 2008 10:41 am (UTC), yhancik commented:
The Moissonnier menu reminded me of what Bill Bryson wrote about restaurants' menus in German...

Because, indeed, as much as i love German, "Taschenkrebs-Aspik mit Gemüsegurke" and things like that don't always sound überyummy :p
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On April 13th, 2008 12:32 am (UTC), nomi replied:
haha yes it is true, just ordering "schwein" anything made me cringe a bit. ;)
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On April 9th, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC), humanoid27 commented:
lovely photos, i particularly like the first cathedral pic, it looks majestic! i wanna go there now...
until today i had assumed you were english. you'd think i wasn't taking notice... ;)
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On April 13th, 2008 12:33 am (UTC), nomi replied:
Well I have been living in England for 5 years, visiting for 10.. but they haven't completely assimilated me yet. ;)
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On April 13th, 2008 08:42 am (UTC), thetbear commented:
You wouldn't know me from Adam...
But I wanted to let you know, Nomi, that you have opened up the eyes of one State-sider to the wonders and joys of Europe through your photos. I have spent many a year asking the question, "What's so special about Europe? Why would anyone want to go there other than history?" No one had given me a good answer for that until now.

Through your transplantation, this silent person who has never met you, but has definitely followed your photography, has discovered a love for the majesty of the architecture and the sheer weight of age within the countries that you have visited. I also have to admit that the menus and photos of the meals have intrigued me to no end. I just mentioned to my husband, "We have to go to Europe one day."

"Why?" he asked.

"Come look." I showed him the photos in this posting and he knew as well as I did that one day, some day before we die, we have to be able to stand and see with our own eyes something as powerful as these cities that have survived for longer than our native country has been a country.

For that, Nomi, I thank you. May your life always be as genuine, beautiful, and awe-inspiring as your photography.
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