Thursday, August 11, 2011

Colognee - the Dom, the art, the past.

Wilkommen to Germany! It's been a little while since I blogged and I apologise. I am on sabaitcal this week in the Bavarian countryside you see, but I did visit Cologne last week and recognise that I have an obligation to blog! 
On a more serious note, it appears I left the UK just before all hell broke loose. As an outside it is hard to comprehend how this just broke out. I know the government isn't so popular and has been making a lot of spending cuts, but from my understand the employment situation, at the moment, wasn't too bad. So now it seems a state of lawlessness has arrived and well, I have a lot of friends in the UK. I can only hope they stay safe.
Cologne is an interesting place. It is without doubt a big city, and along with that comes all the things that big cities contain. I was especially taken aback by the homelessness I saw there. Europe is struggling at the moment, but Germany is supposedly doing the best. So it was a little surprising and confronting because it was very clear and visable in Cologne. 
Typical square in Colgne.
 On the other side of the coin, it's a city with a lot to see and do. Many churches, inlcuding the 'Dom', one of the tallest churches on the planet if I'm not mistaken. Then there are lots of little squares and places for a meal out in the sun (ok, not so much when I was there, out in the rain?). Many people walk the street with a beer in their hand, this seems almost the norm in Cologne, even at 930am. There is no law against it.
So plenty of tourists in Cologne, there is also a series of Galleries and Museums as well to keep anyone interested for days.
The face of Colgne, the exterior to the Dom.
 And here we have the grandest of all churches and attractions in Cologne, the 'Dom'. The present building dates back to around the 12th century and has a lot of medieval and gothis influences. And it is really really tall! Inside are some beautiful stained glass windows, altars, small chapels dotting the far end, an organ that perches precariously some eight to ten metres in the air above the pews. I did a self guided tour and that took me over an hour. There were throngs and throngs of tourists yes, but wow, what a building!

Amazing windows in the Dom.
 Other churches were interesting too, including and espcially that of St Gerome, a Catholic church. There also is a grand bridge over the Rhine River. This was totally destroyed during World War II. The bombings devasted Cologne, however they dilberately kept the Dom untouched.
Bridge over the Rhine.
I also visited a museum for ecclesiastical artifacts including windows and statues. Very interesting, as was a gallery/museum to KatheKollwitz. Her art is a collection of sculpture, charcoal and etchings, with a very sad, sombre nature to them. Much of the work was done between the two world wars, and is very bleak. The lack of colour does not help, but at the same time her expression of pain and loss is very very moving. I was very glad to see this exhibition, I felt a connection not experienced with much of the modern art I have viewed on this trip. The time between wars was esepcially bleak for Germany, and this is certainly shown in Kollwitz's moving works.
El de Haus - basement/prison area in the Museum to Documet National Socialism.
Finally I visited something even darker, the Museum to Document National Socialism, or to the time of the Nazi Party. It is housed in a former gestapo building and prison, and the cells are as they were in the late 1930s through to the end of the Second World War. The prisoners' writings are still on the walls and translations are on display, it's very well done, creepy, moving, and add your own superlative here.
Upstairs is almost exclusively in German and documents the rise of the Nazi party and life in Germany under them. So with out the translation a fair bit is lost, the provided pamphlet was only basic.  Confronting but worth a visit. Full credit to Germany, they don't ignore their past and pretend it didn't happen.

So now only a short time in Europe is left, on Sunday I travel to France. Just over a week there and then I will be returning to Japan, so stay tuned!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy, It was great fun meeting you in Cologne and having your share your humor and extensive knowledge with us. We enjoyed it a lot and are also enjoying your blogs. All the best to you! Jo & Bob & Ros