Posted by: Shanna Germain | 07/10/2009

Pg. 101: Bookends of the Day


It was just me and this lone biker at the Cologne Cathedral this morning. Less than twenty minutes later, the bells chimed, long and high, and then the square was filled with people.



  • Weather: Stormy and windy and wet. A very blustery day.
  • Mileage: Lots. Yes, that’s my very exact version of record-keeping.
  • Food: Ribs and wedges like only the Germans can do.
  • Discovery: Because I am on a yogurt kick due to the continued Doxy, I have been eating yogurt up the wazoo. I am so sick of yogurt I could cry. Still, I’m eating it like a good girl. The discovery? All the yogurt here tastes like melted vanilla ice cream. That sweet, that texture, that taste…it’s a bit cloying.
  • Media: I. Have. Internet. That’s all.
  • Worst Thing: Spamalot is playing live in Cologne! But only in German.  -cries-
  • Best Thing: Woytons — Germany’s version of Starbucks, only with better coffee, faster wi-fi and yummier sandwiches.
  • Word of the Day: Today’s word is actually a gesture. In Germany, if you tap your forehead with your index finger in someone’s direction, that means you think the other person is an idiot. Apparently, this is punishable by a fine if a policeman sees it or someone (like the person across the square who was having a bad morning and thought you flicked them the ‘you’re with stupid’ sign when all you were really doing was itching your forehead, thank you very much) files charges.


One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to get up in the wee hours of the morning (by which I mean, say 7 am, not 4 am), and go out and see the city before it wakes up. There’s something so still about a place that bustled with tourists and late-night drunks revelers and go-go dancers women in really really short tight skirts and stilettos doing their tilt-a-wheel walk across the cobblestones just hours before. Morning-time boasts hardly any people, even in a city this big. All the doors are shut and shuttered. The only noises those of the birds and the delivery trucks and the bicycle wheels over cobble stones. Even the big attractions — like the Cologne Cathedral — are still and sullen, devoid of the usual hustle and bustle, marinating in their grandeur like cobwebby old wedding cakes, just waiting for the world to kick into gear and remember them.

This morning, I found myself wandering the streets at 7:15, long before most of the world was out and about. The cobblestones shone black with last night’s rain, the doves cooed their love songs to each other from windowsills and the only people moving about were delivery men on bikes, dropping off their wares to various cafes and restaurants on their way by. It is a contemplative, quiet time and one that makes me feel as if everything is ahead of me, just waiting to be opened like presents or flowers.

I like the evenings too — and tonight was perfect for strolling along the Rhine. It’s Friday, which means a hustle and bustle of languages and lilts. Girls in hot pink mini skirts with huge taffeta bows in their hair heading off in a gaggle that can only mean bachelor party, no matter what language you speak. Men in hunting herds, smoking and watching the women. Halfway down the river, a Bier Bike sits, six men on either side, their feet on peddles, drinking beer and laughing. Nearby, a huge, cruise-sized boat is docked, blaring dance music and flipping colored lights. People are lined up by the hundreds on the shore, drinking and moving to the beat, waiting to get on the ship, the required security guards standing careful watch at the gate. I can only imagine the chaos as everyone piles on, laughing and shoving. Does the boat leave the pier and sail down the Rhine at night? I’m guessing it must do just that, carrying its dancing, drinking occupants as though they were precious cargo from some past life.

Tomorrow, there will be fireworks at the Cathedral, the kolner lichter. Or, Cologne Lights. I can’t even begin to imagine that experience, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to end my day by watching the festivities from some vantage point near the river, eyes wide, mouth hanging open as the lights stream over me, glorious, unending, sending another day to sleep with a wash of color and an impossible cacophany of sound.

Far and fast, s.



Another early morning view of the Cathedral.


“He who has seen one cathedral ten times has seen something; he who has seen ten cathedrals once has seen but little; and he who has spent half an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all.” ~Sinclair Lewis



  1. This Cathedral rocks. I would like spend all day and night there if I could. I love the old buildings with character, and possibly a ghost or twenty ;p

    Seriously, gorgeous pictures – and I’m the same way (though I get up a wee bit eariler) I love to watch the world wake up.. well I love to watch part of the world stumble off to bed, then that moment when it’s just nothing and then folks staring their day.

    Fun stuff 🙂

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