After Mannheim, we spent a few days in Zweibruicken, on the French border, with Ursula’s parents. Supper on the back deck was the perfect end to summer, with a big moon floating above, passion flowers blooming, and Marvelous German Wines from the Mosel valley.We were invited to join Berbyl and Dieter on a hike to celebrate a friend’s 70th birthday – what an adventure that turned out to be! It began with coffee and cakes at 4:00 (eat dessert first… we’re pretty sure it’s German law!), then a scenic drive through the German and French countryside. Finally the hike began at 5:30ish accompanied by an earthshaking thunderstorm, so we arrived totally soaked at a French inn an hour or so later, where we were expected for a 5-course meal involving the best mushroom soup I have EVER tasted, tender steak, five different types of potatoes, and way too much food in general. During the hike/feast, we met roughly 20 new friends, and came away feeling that THIS is definitely the way to celebrate your 70th birthday! Or any other birthday for that matter…
The next piece of the journey involved exploring in and around Koln (the German spelling of what we spell Cologne) with Dieter, who is an unmatched tour guide – he is a geography professor of international renown, so we learned firsthand about history, industry, culture, and all of the things that give regions thier unique identities. One of our first stops was the Cologne Cathedral – talk about visual overload. Ohmigod. And I’m sure that was the very response designers had in mind when they schemed it up: Oh. My. God. From this artist’s perspective – an artist who is very easily distracted by color and detail – the stained glass rose windows were completely overwhelming. The cathedral is immense, and my architectural nomenclature isn’t up to describing it, but suffice to say, my neck hurt terribly and my jaws ached. There are several places where dazzling modern glass art has been added, and the proximity of a simple pixelated patchwork of squares to a medieval orgy of embellishment is something that would require several days to fully appreciate. I loved it.When we left the cathedral, I sat across the square with a “wheat beer” (hefeweizen?) and began to scribble. There was a tree above the restaurant so I couldn’t see the famous cathedral towers, which forced me to focus on things like the street lamps, the entrance arches, some tiny details… I swear there were three pig heads in one spot that looked just like the muppet pig gentlemen in “Muppet Christmas Carol”, and one cat face that was clearly from something Maurice Sendak drew, and the longer I looked the more I saw odd faces… what fun! I wonder what might have been sculpted into those elaborate tops, way up there where no one can ever really see what the artists were up to?
One of Dieter’s specilaties is “industrial culture”, which involves among other things converting old abandoned mines and manufacturing areas into useful human spaces, without forgetting what the original use was all about. The sketch above was made at an old “blast furnace” of a coal-fired iron plant, which now is a recreational center that features wall climbing, rock concerts, huge slides, light shows – very cool.
Love, love, love your take on the Kölner Dom (cathedral) windows!