...I went to Köln (Cologne), the fourth-largest city in Germany. (Sidenote: I have now been to three of the top four! Berlin, München, Köln. Next up, Hamburg? No, wait, I'm going to Munich next. If not to a tiny town in the Schwarzwald, but that's another story.) It was just for the weekend, and I kept having the feeling that I had no idea what Köln was really about. For some reason, we didn't use any public transportation, and walking everywhere got us pretty tired, pretty fast.
Not to mention all the museums. In Köln, I learned that I actually do like museums. I had a super long list of museums to visit, all of which sounded interesting, and in two days we saw four museums, which I think is kind of a lot. Especially if two days is all you have. That explains why we didn't see a lot of the city, or figure out how it all fits together. But I did get to know that cathedral. Our hostel was about six minutes from the train station, which is right next to the Dom, and we saw it by night, by dawn, by beautiful afternoon sunlight, by dusk, from the inside, from the outside, from across the Rhine, and during our layover in Köln on the way back home from Belgium, wearing my backpacking backpack.
Anyway, museums. And churches! Köln is full of old Romanesque churches. Everywhere you look, there's a steeple poking up in the distance. The Museum Schnütgen was a museum IN a church, full of medieval religious art. The tapestries and glass collection that I wanted to see were mysteriously not on display, but Maraia, Tabs, and I had a fun time looking at all the sculptures and things...although, godless heathens that we are, we didn't know what was going on a lot of the time. After three more churches, I realized I was getting sick of churchy things.
The first day, we went to a museum about the Gestapo in Köln and Nazis in general, and I learned that I was already getting sick of museums about Nazis and World War II and the Holocaust—and that was back in October. Mainly because it was an archive as well as a museum, and I couldn't read that much text auf Deutsch, especially not in that stupid blackletter font they used in the newspapers back then. (Edit: It's called Fraktur.)
Köln reinforced that waking up early to see the sunrise, although initially painful, is usually worth it. We walked into the cathedral before dawn and got to experience it almost empty and myserious in the dark. Waking up that early for trains, however, is not as worth it. Besides the whole not-missing-the-train thing.
I also learned, when I looked at Maraia's photos, that red tights with hiking boots look stupid.
After Köln was Aachen. There, I learned that gingerbread is delicious when you want to buy it, even if it has weird crunchy things in it. And things that look like they are covered in melted cheese are sometimes Reisfladen. And ordering four desserts for four people and sharing them is worth the disapproving looks from the waitstaff. Oh, and fancy mosaics are really, really cool. Also, there are a lot of pieces—no, little bits of thread—from people's loincloths in the most important ecclesiastical treasury north of the Alps. And by people, I mean saints. And gold! Lots and lots of gold!
On the way to Belgium, we hopped on a train heading in the same initial direction as ours, but leaving 40 minutes earlier. Why? I'm not sure. I got to use my terrible French and embarrass myself in front of everyone. But we still got to Bruges.