Tales from the River – Cologne, Germany, Oct 01, 2011

We actually woke up in time this morning to get breakfast and, since we were sailing this morning to Cologne, we actually had time to sit and read and write a bit. That was good, as it turned out, because this afternoon and tonight we barely had time to relax at all.

While I was posting a blog this morning, they called a fire drill. Yep, leave your book (grab your laptop) and convene on the top deck in your groups. We are in the green group so we met up at the very back of the ship. They handed us life vests at the top of the stairs, which we donned as we were walking to our group. Our tour guide, Tineke, explained that if it really were an emergency right then, we could probably just jump overboard and walk to the bank. The water apparently wasn’t that deep at that point in the river. Everyone in our group arrived but that was not the case in another group. One was missing, probably taking a nap, but how you could sleep through that jangling horn, I don’t know.

We could, at that point, go back to what we were doing, so I went back to posting blogs and Ed went back to reading his book, Killing Lincoln, which must be good because he can’t put it down! There is information in that book that we never learned in any history class!

At 1:30 pm, we all gathered for our first walking tour. Our leader Tineke, led us from the ship, through the train station, around the Koln Dom (the largest building in Cologne, I think!) and to the Roman Germanic Museum. They have this guided tour process down pat, let me tell you. We had headsets and a receiver; Tineke had a microphone. No matter how much we lagged behind, as long as we could see her, we were never lost.

She explained pedestrian rules as we walked. Unlike in Amsterdam, where the bicyclists had the right-of-way and WOULD run you over if you got in their lane, pedestrians and bicyclists seemed to have to bluff each other out on the sidewalks. There were no bicycle lanes. You couldn’t cross the street anywhere but in a crosswalk. If you had a crossing light, you had to wait until the “little man turned grrreen” and cars stopped at their red light, otherwise the cars had the right-of-way if your “little man was rrred.” However, if there was no light, pedestrians had the right-of-way and the cars HAD to stop for us.

The Roman Germanic Museum was fascinating. They had uncovered a Roman tiled mosaic floor and, instead of moving it, they built a museum around it. Our museum docent was a talker! Three floors of Roman artifacts! After 2 floors, we decided it was time to leave her behind, look at the rest on our own, and go sample another Germanic pleasure … Cologne beer! It was hot today and the museum wasn’t air conditioned. I know, I know, it wasn’t air conditioned when the Romans were here either but it was cooler outside in the breeze, sitting in front of a restaurant, having a cold drink. Somehow I never thought we would be sitting in front of the Chicago Steakhouse in Cologne, Germany, drinking a Cologne beer that they have been producing for centuries!

We wandered their shopping district and I have NEVER seen crowds like that. First, it was Saturday. Second, they were having a festival in the area. Third, it was a national day of pilgrimage to the Koln Dom cathedral. All of this was from the cathedral square to the river. It was a wonderful walk but my feet hurt tonight from walking on the cobblestone streets.

Finally, time to relax! We arrived back at 4 pm and it took us a while to rehydrate in the ship’s bar. There was nothing until 5:45 so it was back to the room to collapse for a short while.

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