Saturday, October 8, 2011

Barcelona: Day 45 : Köln .

Well it was basically our last full day of the trip and we were headed to Köln. Düsseldorf had basically been a place for us to stay at night, and since they are right next to each other we could just go from city to city seamlessly. There were also some serious conferences going on and so all of the places in Köln were either booked or super expensive. Not to worry though, everything worked quite smoothly.

Upon arriving at der Kölner Hauptbahnhof, we walked outside and immediately were engulfed in the presence of der Kölner Dom. This cathedral is basically the symbol of Köln (in English it is spelled Cologne) and is absolutely gorgeous. More on this later... we'll start with a little history of the city.

 The city of Köln was originally Roman, and was eventually taken over by the Franks. It was really an important asset to have, mainly because of the Rhein River. This city was right on it, and offered lots of opportunities for trade and ocean access. Köln houses the first public university that Germany ever had, as it was founded here. In 1424 there was an expulsion of the Jewish population, similar to what happened in many other cities. Henry Ford even tried to start an automobile factory here, but it ended up falling through due to the strict regulations of the Nazi Party. During WWII there were 262 air raids that passed over the city. Turns out there were quite a few Nazi installations here, and thus Köln became a giant red target for the Allied forces. The last thing is kind of funny; in 2010 the Gay Games were held in Köln, as there is a very strong homosexual community there.

And now on to the Kölner Dom. This place is a huge monument for Catholics, especially German Catholics. It took from 1248 to 1880 to construct the church, and it towers a whopping 575 feet tall. For four years in the 1800's, it was even the tallest structure in the world. This church houses the archbishop of Cologne, which is why it's a cathedral and not just a church. This church regularly brings lots of Christian pilgrims, as it can truly move those who walk inside it. This new Gothic style is based on the French design, and the dark color is dirt, though in my opinion the darkness makes it that much more spooky and ominous. I am a huge fan of Gothic architecture.

In WWII the church was bombed, and I happened to find a picture that shows what the surrounding areas looked like afterwards. Literally, the area is leveled. It's honestly a miracle that the church was not completely destroyed.
It was so pronounced on the skyline that it was often used as an aerial landmark for pilots in the war. In 1996 it was added to a sort of world heritage list that would protect it as a historical landmark and cultural site. I have to say... walking inside was a moving experience. I would imagine that part of that is because I am Catholic, but regardless, this place demands respect and even walking around with tons of tourists snapping photos inside is humbling. Probably the best part was going and walking up to the the belfry and beyond -- you could see out so far and even though the bitter wind ripped through the tower, it was still a sweet view and an even sweeter experience.

The city center of Köln was completely destroyed during the war; they basically had to rebuild the entire city. Rudolf Schwarz played as important part in this rebuilding of the city. He helped design a complex of buildings that would then have a medieval city hall and other things. One building in particular was the one that he worked on, which he wanted to work on because it represented the heart of life. Lots of buildings were rebuilt, but this one would be a combination. In addition it contains a monument to the fallen men of Köln during the war.

One of the last and coolest places that we stopped at during the day's activities was a museum that also incorporates a chapel at the same time. It was a museum for a collection of religious art that would also include the presence of the ruins. It was opened in 2007 and took 1- years to build. The goal was to bring the chapel back to life, and at the same time bring the building into a different time. It is a place for reflection nothing is organized chronologically, it is all just placed just so. You are immersed in memories this way, and pieces of art are able to be juxtaposed. The designer was Peter Zumther, and although I've never heard of him, I definitely am inclined to check out some more of his stuff.
the small chapel built right into the wall of the new museum

a room in the museum

another room in the museum
We met back up with Kathrin and the others, and had our last dinner all together in Germany. I can't believe that it's pretty much over already... the days went so fast! We spent some quality time reminiscing and going over the past week's activities -- and then we headed back to the hostel for our last night in Deutschland.

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