Thursday, 8 May 2014


Today on the ship was rather about planning disembarkation tomorrow; lots of colour coded luggage tags and all very organised. Kudos to our tour director who has done a fabulous job. Turns out it was her first river cruise as director.

After lunch we docked at Cologne, a city with a skyline of churches. Unfortunately cold, damp weather was set in and was to remain with us for days after. But off we went on a walking tour. It seems the city has been plagued with floods and the old flood wall no longer managed to hold out the waters, with two massive floods in three years submerging large parts of the city, so much so that people have taken to flooding their own basements with clean water to keep out the filth of the dirty river waters.

So a new barrier has been erected where upright metal poles are dropped in and horizontal panels slotted into place. Whether it will stand the weight of a big flood remains to be seen.

Much of the city has a patina of grime, not helped by the dull, wet day. The city hall has impressive spires and porches to demonstrate the city wealth; the cathedral was the highest building in the world before the Eiffel Tower and is in the perpetual process of being cleaned and renovated, a job for life. But it all just looked a bit miserable and grey.

cathedral and train_edited-1
Cathedral spires and train. The king dictated that the first thing one should see when alighting from the train was the cathedral. And it was done
town hall
Town hall spire. A modest little thing.

We were introduced to the original Eau de Cologne which is not 4711. Apparently the original was by a Mr Farina and there was dispute over the use of the name, eventually solved by the second company adopting its street number as a name. I tried the original Farina product and found it quite musty smelling, though many famous persons had used it and still do.

There are a few quirky sights around Cologne.

Bubble man
Bum; it seems to be pointed at the town hall
UPS, big or little parcels our speciality
After leaving our guide Nick and I visited the cathedral. It is too tall to photograph without distortion from the outside. It has great Gothic spires and a soaring interior, literally lifting the gaze heavenwards, as intended. Unusually, it has hanging tapestries down each side of the nave and the ambulatory behind the altar has amazing mosaic floors (which for some reason I didn’t photograph).

The high point is the golden reliquary of the three magi, supposedly holding their bones. The reliquary is indeed beautiful, though I see the contents as a bit akin to current internet scams “Have I got a deal for you!!!”

There was a magnificent Maesta (Virgin in majesty) and a particularly beautiful crucifix with a very lovely face, as well as several typical German gold altars which could be folded and carried.

Side of the cathedral
St Christopher_edited-1
A beautifully robust St Christopher
The ancient crucifix
The Three Magi reliquary behind the main altar
On one of the altars a lovely annunciation diptych
annunciation 1annunciation 2

Nearby was a museum of Roman remains, built there because an almost intact Roman mosaic floor had been uncovered. There is a deal of Roman archaeology throughout the town which is being uncovered and restored. It seems to really bring home just how large their reach was across Europe.

For us, back to the ship and the farewell cocktails and Captain’s dinner. He is a very young captain to be in charge of so much boat, but he did a magnificent job, steering safely through the Loreli where legend has it sailors were lured to their deaths by her seductive singing (actually a very narrow and shallow part of the Rhine with sharp bends) and rarely bumping the sides of a lock despite almost no room; the blue is the boat, the grey is the dock, photographed from above.


Tomorrow: Amsterdam and the final day of the cruise

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