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DAYS 258 -260

Noordwijkerhout to Cologne, Germany

September 12-15, 2000 

A bus ride to Cologne wasn’t in the original itinerary but had to happen because we were unable to fly from Amsterdam to Australia as had been planned. I think we were told that it was because the airport was so busy there was not space or time for one more plane.

The whole of Day 258 was spent getting to Cologne. Our departure was delayed because the busses and big truck to cart the bicycles had been caught in the highway blockade against high petrol taxes. Rumors began to fly including that we would be detained overnight or longer and we would have to camp meaning we’d have to clean and dry our tents again. Anything but that! But the rumors came to nothing. The busses did arrive and after we were all loaded the bike truck arrived, too late though for us to help in loading the bikes. It was an unremarkable bus ride and about 4 hours later 120 of us were delivered to the hostel in Cologne, the remaining 80 went to the Etap Hotel 40 km. outside the city. I was at the hostel. There we stood in long lines to get our room assignments, 16 to a room, but dinner was ready early and we had time to go for a walk. With me were ‘Dr.’ Sharon, Judy B. and Gudrun.

There was an amazing and mesmerizing exhibit in Cologne of 1000 nearly lifesize photos of 1000 different families from all over the world. One German photographer had the idea, raised the support and traveled for three years to find and photograph the families. We had intended to cross the Rhine River and walk in the city, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the photos and their informative captions. They lined the approach to the bridge and stretched the length of it and onto the walkway on the other side. By the time we reached the bridge we had already been looking at the photos for an hour. We vowed to walk straight across the bridge with not a single stop but of course it didn’t happen. The pictures were just too wonderful, the theme being that the family unit is the oldest human social structure and that it is alive and well all over the world. Finally we did get across the bridge, and stood in Dome Square, craning our necks to see the top of the ‘Dome’, Cologne’s cathedral that required 600 years to build and seems to be as high as a skyscraper. We found an ice cream shop and stopped for huge extravagant sundaes, topped with whipped cream as always. Even the ice cream cones are topped with whipped cream, in fact the mound of cream can be larger than the scoop of ice cream.

The second day in Cologne I had a headache so stayed behind to rest and write for the web page. Finally driven from my bed by hunger I ventured forth and bought some fruit and headache tablets suggested by the pharmacist but new to me, dissolving aspirin for migraines, which did eventually lessen the pain. I felt so much better that in the middle of the afternoon I set forth to visit the Chocolate Museum and revisit the cathedral. The Chocolate Museum was educational and entertaining. I learned that there is enormous effort and numerous steps involved in producing edible chocolate  from the chocolate bean as it grows in the jungle. I have realized why excellent chocolate is so expensive and will have less reluctance to pay the price in the future. It was more than a museum, it was a chocolate factory as well so one could watch all the steps involved in making chocolate bars, bon bons and hollow chocolate items like Easter bunnies. There was also a chocolate shop where I would almost certainly have enjoyed shopping, but I had to run to catch the Shokolade Express instead.

The little, bright yellow motorized train made half hourly trips between the chocolate factory and the cathedral. It was the easy way to traverse all those blocks to the cathedral. Once there I stood, craning my neck to see the top of the towers,  and became dizzy because of the clouds drifting by. How tall is it! I don’t know, but it is certainly by far the tallest cathedral I have ever seen. I tried to find a way to take a photo but it was far too tall to fit into a picture. I could take pictures of only half its height. In my opinion, the cathedral is beautiful from the outside but disappointing on the inside. In spite of its massive size it manages to look dainty and ethereal from the outside, but inside the massive columns required to support the enormous weight of the building are revealed, giving it a heavy chunky appearance and taking up half the floor space. There were a few pretty stained glass windows and some fine floor mosaics, but there were also unattractive examples of each (in my opinion). Restoration or maintenance is being done as it often is in cathedrals. I have to wonder whether the 600 year effort to build it was worthwhile, and if there were ever plans to finish or enhance the interior, why they were scrapped.

There must be other interesting sights in Cologne but I was out of time. I had to get back to the hostel, have an early dinner, and get set to leave at 8:45 p.m. by bus for the airport. We were going to Australia!

Goodbye, Alice

Today's Music



Cologne's Cathedral

The Kölner Dom, overlooking the Rhine, is the largest Gothic structure in the world and is considered one of the finest. Begun in 1248 on the site of a 9th-century church, the massive cathedral was not completed until 1880. The city of Cologne was settled nearly 2,000 years ago and for centuries was famous for its many old religious buildings. During World War II, however, Cologne’s industrial and shipping facilities were prime targets for Allied bombing. Most of the city was destroyed, but the cathedral suffered only minor damage.

Botanical Gardens in Cologne

Cologne has many parks and green spaces, including zoological and botanical gardens. Although the city was badly damaged by Allied bombing in World War II, postwar planners managed to retain some of the city’s historic atmosphere. Cologne is perhaps best known for its colossal Gothic cathedral, begun in the 13th century. With the unveiling of many restored churches in recent years, and the attractions of many fine museums and theaters, Cologne has reemerged as one of Europe’s foremost cultural centers.

  France   Switzerland


Paella for Dinner


Yvoire, France - Medieval City  (Day 238, Page 68)

   Odyssey Riders and Staff    


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