Ich bin in Deutschland! The flight was long, but smooth and uneventful. The girl seated next to me on the flight is also in the program. Her name is Julia, and we had a chance to chat and get to know each other on the way over the Atlantic. It turns out there are about twenty five of us in the program, which is small but that's fine with me. There are more girls than guys, but what else is new.
After meeting up, we hopped on our bus to go to Cologne, where we made our bedraggled and jet lagged way to the youth hostel, and began our sight seeing. I must say, that the youth hostel is quite spiffy, although the food is not great. But it is large, clean, and has some green features, and is more appealing than most dorm rooms. And so we began our tour of the historic city!
Our first visit was to the Dom (Cathedral). It was once the world's largest, and is the best surviving example world-wide of Baroque architecture. In the reliquary it contains the remains of the three Magi; that combined with it being an archbishop seat, makes it a very popular and famous church. One of it's interesting features is a modern-design stained glass window installed in 2007 by Richter, a German artist. It looks sort of like a version of Joseph's technicolor dreamcoat, but I liked it. In the afternoon we were able to climb up (many flights of dizzying spiral stairs) to the top of a spire, where we had a great view of the city.
Next we were quick to learn that there are traces of the Roman Empire everywhere! Underneath the city hall of Cologne are the remains of the Roman Praetorium, or Governer's house. In the Romanisch-Germanisch Museum, they had a special exhibit on the jewelry recovered from the excavations, which was just beautiful! There was also a great deal of pottery, household artifacts, and a huge floor mosaic featuring the god Dionysos. We also got a peek of the sewer system, which was cramped and a little moist, but not gross.
In my free time, I visited two art museums: The Ludwig, and another focusing on classical art. I saw a number of great pieces by many famous artists, and many gruesome depictions of Jesus. I did get some sketching done, too, which was great fun. Also, Germany is cool, and the government actually PAYS artists to do PUBLIC art! Can you believe it? So even by just walking down the street, you get exposed to a number of great sculpture pieces, not to mention the architecture. 95% of Cologne was destroyed in the WWII bombings, so much of what you see for buildings is either entire recreations or post-war architecture. This style is typically kind of blocky, symmetrical, and simple, and quite enjoyable.
As far as food goes, the hostel has not provided any stellar examples of German cuisine, although I'm sure that will improve. For lunch, I headed to a pub with some of the other students. While they ate sausage and drank beer, I sipped apple juice (which rather resembles beer) and had a delicious salad, accompanied by goat cheese and honey on crunchy, yummy bread. It was quite good!
One more neat feature before I go: On one of the bridges over the river Rhine, it is a tradition for couples to lock a pad lock to the bridge with their initials or names on it. Then they throw the key in the Rhine, as a token that their love will last. The bridge is covered in thousands of locks! I suppose there are many happy couples living in Cologne.
The trip has gone well so far, although I must still catch up on some sleep. Even though there are not many other students, we still don't know each other that well yet. They like to go pub-crawling, and I...don't. But making the adjustment to a new culture, language, and surroundings will take a little while, let alone a new group of companions. I'm sure as the program goes on we'll get to know each other better!
Well, it's off to bed for the last night in Cologne. On the road again tomorrow to Bonn, Worms, and Heidelberg!
P.S. Photos will come soon!