Köln revisited

Köln just feels wrong. I don’t know why exactly but it just does. Could be history has stained it to damnation, could be the infuriatingly confusing array of roads around the train station, could be the locals’ bad breath, could be anything.
I was about to write it off completely, add it to my ever-growing list of cities to be avoided at all costs. I’d taken a wrong turn coming out of the train station, found myself in a neverending tunnel hugging the wall as cars roared past. I kept going. I didn’t know at the time it was neverending. I just wanted to get through. I found an emergency exit with stairs leading up to safety, but the hatch on top was locked. What’s the point in an exit that’s locked?! So I’d to keep going, bracing myself every time another car zoomed by, cursing the trucks that pressed me against the wall with their tailwinds. I came out eventually, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing this.
It took fucking ages to find the hotel, and I was already late because the train was held up outside Wuppertal for an hour. Wuppertal is a great name. I have to visit it someday. From what I saw from the train, it’s an industrial orgy of a city, no doubt with loads of abandoned factories just waiting to be explored.
But back to Cologne. I didn’t hang around to explore that any more than the accidental exploration I took in on the way back to the train station from the hotel.
There’s a Nazi vibe about the place, as if they were still in charge. The concentration camp gathering centre across the river at Deutz doesn’t help, nor do the football hooligans, nor all the Polizei always swarming about the Bahnhof. They had one of the passages sealed off when I was leaving, a line of them standing in front of tape stretched across to prevent passengers accessing trains. Some poor fucker must have been murdered.
At least Cologne doesn’t bury its Nazi past like other cities do. (I’m looking at you Munich.) It can’t. (I found myself in an excellent museum on my last visit to Köln, full of Nazi stuff and stories. I wanted to write about it but never found the time.)
All the seats on the train out were facing backwards, just to exacerbate the feeling of unease as I was leaving. It was raining too, though that should have made me feel at home as an Irishman. But it didn’t.
Radiohead, the reason for my brief visit, were fantastic once again, but I won’t bore the arses off you by writing more about them. They bookended my trip home and I still need to write about that….
I wasn’t lying when I mentioned the Cologners’ bad breath. It’s the tooth, I gagged on more than one occasion. Et Kütt wie et Kütt, they say. Laissez-faire can go too far sometimes.
There was a bad vibe from Cologne this time, but I’m not writing it off. Far from it. It ain’t Bonn, Leverkusen or Minden. It warrants a fourth chance. The third didn't reich.

Comments

  1. Reading your blog makes me depressed.

    Germany seems to be a pretty good screen for the projection of personal frustration. Katherine Mansfield did it, too. A hundred years ago. Or it is just the well observed truth, after all. Or your blog is just a good projection screen for my personal frustration. I have to think about it.

    I just miss the "raving reports" among all those "roving rantings". But I very much enjoyed your report about Beelitz-Heilstätten.

    PS: Cologne is quite ok, actually. Try Brauhaus Päffgen on Friesenstraße instead of that tunnel next time. But no reports about unfriendly waiters afterwards. You have been warned and this still is Germany after all!

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  2. I'm sorry to hear you get depressed from reading this rubbish. I can assure you it's the last thing I wanted to achieve.

    Cologne is among a few German cities not to have made a great impression on me. In contrast, I fell in love with Berlin straight away. Perhaps the other cities suffer as a result. I'm still very happy living in Berlin and appreciate everything that makes it a great place to be. Perhaps this makes me more sensitive to any perceived threats to that existence, or to any moves to make it any more like the other German cities I've been to, and thus my rantings focus more on the negative than the positive deserves.

    I'll try that Brauhaus the next time I'm in Cologne. A Brauhaus certainly sounds much better than a tunnel.

    And thanks for your comment! Musings and criticism are always welcome.

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    Replies
    1. Well, after reading this article I must say: You are a very, very bad observer. Cologne is one of the most unique towns in the world with a very special attitude. It's a melting since the first days, and one of the most important thing is ... tolerance: That's the reason why cologne is the most important town for Germany's gay community e.g. My advice: read a ggod book about Cologne before you visit it - you know NOTHING about this amzing city. Reading your article was one of the most time wasting moments of my life.

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    2. Haha! Nobody asked you to waste your time. Evidently it was such a waste of time you felt compelled to waste even more by following up with a comment!
      I didn't think much of Cologne, but I'm happy you like it. Each to their own opinions. Thanks for sharing yours.

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  3. I quite agree with your view on Cologne. Never had the stinky breath experience, but apart from that I have the same uneasy feeling everytime I am in that city. Just not my cup of tea and I'd probably avoid it altogether if I needn't go there for the occasional gig - like Radiohead. I just hope you haven't been the English speaking fuck who pestered my sight by looking for his girlfriend's mobile for the first 15 minutes of the gig. She found the mobile in her bag later.

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  4. We had a bloggers' meet-up in Cologne that changed my mind about the place. I can hardly recall the weekend, which means at least it was a good time. I loved the flea market lining the river on a warm autumn Sunday.

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  5. Daniel, I can assure you I wasn't looking for anything nor anyone except Thom for the duration of the gig.

    Ian, I'll definitely have to check Cologne out again. I know it can't be as bad as I the impression it gives. But then, you could have that bloggers' meetup in Leverkusen and make it seem good. Just don't ever attempt it in Bonn.

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  6. Totally agree - even the HBF in Köln leaves me feeling uneasy and just wanting to get the hell out of it. I keep thinking I should give it a chance but never do seem to get around to it - most people seem to fall into a "Love Düsseldorf, Hate Köln" or "Love Köln, Hate Düsseldorf" camp and I'm really happy I ended up here rather than there.

    Wuppertal is a funny town really but worth a visit, I think. It's a bit of a dump but somehow interesting for such a boring place. It's a really long town in a valley, with the main area along the floor of the valley beside the river, the Schwebebahn(monorail) above the river (get someone to tell you about the elephant in the Schwebebahn sometime) and everything else going up the sides of the hills. They do have a gorgeous concert hall, what seems to be hundreds of churches and due to the hills, you get a nice workout just from wandering around a bit. The Polizeipräsidium was the Nazi headquarters during WWII and they've preserved most of the murals etc.

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  7. I'm another random here...posting anonymously. I just read the first comment and laughed but then felt bad afterwards because the person is being serious. Blimey. I read your blog and laugh. That's a good thing ;) And yes, Köln is quite eerie.

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