Two Days In Cologne

Each day I go outside and sniff the air and say, 'That way smells bad,' and that's where I go.
—Some firefighter from Canada

I have free access to a computer in Cologne, so I thought I'd write more specifically about what I'm doing for once.

I took a train from Amsterdam to Cologne and got in late Thursday afternoon. At the station they told me there was a backpacker's hostel right around the corner, and it was. I could see the trains come in from my room on the fourth floor, and the wind carried German announcements form the station floor. The hostel has a sign next to the window that says not to throw things at the restaurateurs below, and they set up a net like the one at a driving range just in case people forget.

After I checked in I found a donor kebab restaurant and ate there. I went back to the bar at the hostel and talked to some people from Japan who spoke a little English and something that no one could mistake for German. You meet strange people in hostel bars.

I met a student from Frankfurt named Adrian, a translator from Paris named Audrey working on her German, a food chemist from Munich named Niclas, and a firefighter from Montreal who spoke five languages and got a six month vacation after a house fell on him. He went to the airport and said, "Give me a ticket. I don't care where it's going. Just give me a ticket somewhere. Do you speak English? I said give me a ticket!" and ended up with a ticket to Frankfurt.

On Friday I did laundry in the sink, secured my bed for another night at the front desk, and got a pastry and coffee from Back Werk down the street plus a sandwich for lunch. I wandered around Cologne, using the spires of the cathedral as a reference point. It's a huge gothic mess of buttressed terror that you see right as you come out of the central station. I walked around the shopping streets and the market squares, then went to the Museum Ludwig of modern art and tried to understand the Picasso paintings and the ones that are just solid colors with a line through them.

The clouds cleared late in the afternoon, so I walked around the parks on the Rhine. On my way back to the hostel I watched a street show by a German jackass named Theo Teabag, who after a ten-minute buildup demonstrated his talent by juggling torches on a unicycle while the German punks behind tried to topple him by popping balloons. I made dinner in the hostel kitchen and ate with a cute Bulgarian couple, Christine and Martine.

Yesterday Adrian of Frankfurt invited everyone to an electro club in downtown Cologne. Niclas wanted to leave at 10, but Adrian said he had to sleep until at least 11 if he wanted to party until 5 am. So tonight I'm going to check out the German techno. You really have to play it by ear when you travel this way.


  1. Hi Jonathan, Another interesting blog, I really enjoy your versions of travel. Bet you saw lots of the name of Van Duesen in Amsterdam. somewhere along the way we are related to some of them.
    Rene' is sorry the "rehpersbahn" area of Hamburg made you back off from going there. That is where he was born, coming to the states when he was 10. A friend he met in Kindergarten still keeps in touch with him, he had sent him an article about his grandfather a year or so ago. He is the head of some museum. Which reminds me, please let me know when you are going to Israel, and if you will go to Tel Aviv. Rene's niece goes there often and she will be there in the fall. I have talked with her and she is ready to introduce you to people She designs Web Pages. If she is not there, a friend at work has a shirt tail relative that lives there.
    Things are normal in Seattle, rain today and tomorrow. Love ya GA Pat

  2. Katy McDonald15 March, 2009

    i am so very jealous of you. i read your blog as a study break from finals. and while you are in germany going to dance clubs and meeting interesting people and wondering the sunny cobblestone streets. i am here. in rainy corvallis. pulling all-nighter after all-nighter so that i can ace my finals. just know that. as you spend another amazing day across the streets. your sister is here. dying.


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