The past few days have been a bit of a mixture really. My 120th day, May 9th, involved me returning to a bike shop I had visited the day before. There had been a bike there that I had liked the look of, but it wasn’t ready to be ridden, so I returned on this day to give it a spin. Needless to say it seemed like a good ride. I gave it a going over and then left the shop, still strongly considering it. Trying to figure out what I would need as well as the bike and trying to see if I could get a deal. The way back I decided to pay another visit to the Melaten graveyard. I hadn’t given it SO much attention the day before. There had been a funeral going on, and even though the place is absolutely huge and they probably weren’t aware of my presence, I still felt a little weird about being tourist in such a situation. This time I stumbled upon some interesting graves, including one of a really well detailed and ‘life-size’ (?) grim-reaper. There are some other really amazingly crafted gravestones and sculptural pieces here, so if you are interested in these things I would say it is well worth the visit. There are so many trees that it would probably be ok in any weather except maybe the heaviest rainfall.
Day 121, I decided to head back to the Dom (cathedral) today, this time with my camera’s memory card safely installed! I went via the city centre where I was researching tents and compasses for consideration in my potential bike adventure. The day started out a little cloudy with the odd bit of rain, but it brightened up later in the day. I took Regina’s bike with me too, to try and figure out whether my yearning for bike travel was founded in anything. It seems it is…
The Dom looked quite good against the grey sky, it’s moody blackened facade contrasting quite nicely with the pale grey. I wonder if they will ever try to clean it? I hope not.
After that I took the bike down to the river bank and followed the Rhein for a little while. There I discovered a chocolate museum. Despite the temptation to pay the entrance, I decided to just visit the shop instead. The museum looks like it’s basically run by Lindt, so I’m pretty sure they couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know… The shop was pretty good though, and I might pay it another visit before I leave Cologne. For some weird reason, opposite the museum, on the river, is a huge representation of Noah’s Ark! Proclaiming to be Europe’s first Bible story theme park, the place looks mental, a huge Orangutan hangs out of the front, whilst Noah and his son are carved out of wood at the entrance. An impressively bizarre thing.
A little further along the river I tried to use my gallery map to find a photography museum, but failed, so I headed back towards home, I stopped off at a little bakery and bought a ‘Musli‘. Basically a bit like granola, a huge circle of oats, seeds and dried fruits dipped in dark chocolate. It was great! I munched it down pretty eagerly and headed back to the flat.
That evening I at long last tried the 12 year old mystery Pu Erh that I had been given such a long time ago in Tallinn, Estonia. The taste was really great, smooth, almost sweet and, for a Pu Erh, surprisingly delicate. From my experience of these teas so far I think they older they get the smoother and more refreshing they become.
The 11th, and I have to say one thing only, after all the umming and ahhing, the procrastination and trepidation, I finally made the decision to buy the bike…!!!
The 12th. Tomorrow will be Regina’s birthday. So today was spent preparing stuff for the next days barbeque and park party. We did some shopping, some cooking, Regina went and met a close friend in the evening and to see a gig and I did some work at the apartment and then met another of her friends, Boris, who had come from Berlin to see Regina for her birthday. When he arrived that evening we both went into town and met up with Regina after the gig. We planned to go into a bar called KGB bar, though this is a new name, it was formerly HoteLux. The place was completely full of people though, we could barely put a foot through the door. So we went for another place, the first choice was one that appears to have shut down inbetween Regina being away and coming back, so we ended up in a bar opposite. This was totally busy too, but a good atmosphere. I was wondering where all these people had come from, the city seems much busier and fuller at night time! After a drink there we headed to another place, a quieter one, where we could get a seat and have some good chat. On the way home we stopped at a place for Falafel, and I must say that this one totally beats any of the Falafel I had in Berlin!
The 13th arrived and Regina’s birthday! We woke up fairly early and prepared some more food for the barbeque. I was on vegetable parcels. Courgette, tomato, peppers and mushroom in little foil packages with oil, cumin, and some mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Regina made some really amazing looking, smelling and tasting pizzas. We then headed to a nearby park at around 2:30 and set up the stuff and people started to arrive from around 3. The weather was really really amazing, the perfect day for the barbeque, as well as for a birthday. We sat and chatted, cooked and drank until around 10pm. The sky was clear the whole time and it stayed warm pretty late, though eventually the last few of us that remained got a bit chilly.
Day 125, Monday. Regina had to wake up early again! She normally has mondays off from work, but today was a leaving do for a colleague, so she had woken up early to cook yet more food (Coconut pancakes) and headed out. She got back around 12:30 and we all (Regina, Boris and I) all headed out for a little jaunt into the countryside. We went to a place called Laacher See, a large lake near to the city of Koblenz. The weather was still perfect. When we arrived we walked a little way to a restaurant called Bockhaus and had a little lunch. I had a ‘German speciality’ called Toast Hawaii. Basically ham and pineapple on toast and totally coated in cheese. It was actually quite tasty and reminds me of when my mum puts a slice of pineapple on top of Gammon steaks (but with added cheese). After that we walked for a while trying to find the edge of the lake, which we did when we eventually found the end of the huge caravan park that seems to have a bit of a monopoly over this part of the lake’s shoreline. After that we headed back to Cologne, the sat-nav tooks us on a good route, that involved taking a ferry across the Rhein! As well as some lovely views of the hills, which are covered in vineyards, some of which seem so steep I don’t think harvesting can be the easiest job in the world, you’d probably need to pay me danger money! In Cologne we dropped Boris off at the train station, me off by Regina’s bike (which she had left in the city centre on saturday night), she drove home and I cycled her bike back. That evening she did yet MORE baking, raspberry tray bake cake thing. It looked and smelt amazing! But this was for her workmates to celebrate her birthday once again!
Tea 118, Apple Ginger, Cologne
Tea 119, Lavender & Camomile, Cologne
Day 117, Sunday. Actually managed a trip to The Netherlands! The day was spent with lazing about and walking the dog. We cooked a very good coconut curry, with courgette and peppers and black Soya Bean noodles. Sehr Gut! Then in the late afternoon we headed to a town in The Netherlands (which isn’t actually so far from Cologne) called Nijmegen. The purpose of our trip? To go and see a band that Regina really enjoys and had bought tickets for, called Dry The River. The gig was good, the town very very small, but there was a good atmosphere and we got some good fries with satay sauce for our pre-gig snack. Then at the gig I went for an extremely hardcore drink choice of an Ice-Tea with a nice slice of lemon and a stirring stick! The gig was good fun. The band played well. Then we headed back to Cologne.
Day 118, Monday. A bit of a disastrous day in terms of photos. I walked all the way to the Dom, Cologne’s Cathedral, took my camera out of my bag, switched it on to find the lovely message of ‘No Card’…. BRILLIANT! So absolutely no photos were taken on this day, including on the Agfa because I’d chosen to leave that at the flat instead of carrying it about. Anyway, I obviously walked to the Dom, enjoying the sunshine, then around and to the Rhein. I sat there for a while, mostly to eat a packet of onion rings (mmm a nice nutritious lunch!), and just to sit and contemplate stuff, as you do.
Dinner was mashed potato (white and Sweet varieties), onion gravy and these crazy ‘lupin fillets’. They are made from the seeds/peas of the Lupin plant. They tasted kind of cakey, but worked well with our home made onion gravy.
That evening me and Regina met up with a couple of her friends and we wandered around the town in the evening as the sun was going down, with a bottle of beer in hand and some chat. It was a fun evening.
Day 119, Tuesday, also the official end of WW2, or VE day. A bit more success in terms of carrying my camera with me at least! I visited Melaten, a large, neat and well kept cemetery. I wandered around it for a while, there was a funeral happening in one part. So this made me decide not to be around snapping photos for too long so I left and went back to the area we walked around the night before. We had seen a bike shop there that sells second hand bikes too. I checked a couple out and will head back tomorrow for a test ride of one they were in the middle of fixing up… we’ll see…
I came home for some lunch then headed back into town, though avoiding the demonstration that was meant to be happening at a nearby mosque… (I had been told that there might be some violence, especially from the right wingers) I just explored the quieter areas a little bit using Regina’s bike. It was good to use one again (though the seat is too low for me and so it wasn’t the most comfortable experience!)
The evening has seen me sit on the sofa and drink tea whilst Regina carries on unpacking boxes and sorting out her bookshelves! I also sneakily fed the dog (Lumpi) some peanut butter…
Thursday promised to rain in the afternoon, and so the morning I went for a short wander up the high street, mostly to see if the photos from my new old camera had been processed yet, they hadn’t so the delights of the Agfa are still a mystery to me. Then whilst it was still sunny I decided to help by starting some gardening, mostly ‘harvesting’ dandelions to try and prevent them from dropping too many seeds onto the ground. The person who had stayed in Regina’s flat whilst she was away was supposed to keep the garden clean and tidy, but it has turned into something of a jungle. So I spent a while doing that before the promised rain did indeed arrive.
That evening a few of Regina’s friends came for dinner, which lasted a good few hours, well past 1a.m. There had been a slight disaster with a savoury pancake mix that resulted in a last minute change of plan and therefore a bit of a delay in the food. But we did eat – Avocado with a raspberry sauce, then sweet potato with a coconut sauce and sesame coated asparagus, then a great ginger carrot cake with more coconut and fresh fruits. Tasty!
Saturday. Today we had a slow morning then headed into town to buy some tickets for a gig that Regina found online that she wanted to go and see. A band called Cursive, I’d never heard of them before, so thought I’d give them a go. We went and bought the tickets, then looked in vain for a particular bicycle shop. Then we stopped for a cup of coffee (sorry, tea sacrilege I know!). We left for the gig later in the evening, around 9 and watched the band play. The gig was kind of short, but the band seemed to be enjoying themselves. The bassist and lead guitar are pretty old and tubby, so I think these guys have been doing the rounds for a few years now. I can’t help imagining they probably work in Estate Agents or as salesmen during normal life!
After the gig we went back to the flat for a little while, I had a ‘power nap‘, then we headed to a club for a bit of a dance. The club was good, though the predominant DJ, (the one we had not gone to listen to) was playing pretty crap stuff. Someone informed us that he had been drinking solid for the past few days. I think he might of noticed my looks of disgust at some of his choices though as I caught him staring at my undoubtedly blank face a couple of times. The guy we had gone to hear ‘DJ Action Mike’ (ironic naming here) played some better stuff and we got some dancing in, though I didn’t manage to break into a sweat…
Tea 114: Sweet Chai, Hallmackenreuther, Brüsseler Platz, Cologne.
Day 113. My first day in Cologne, and quite a easy going one. Usually my first day in a place is spent having a short explore around the local area to get my bearings. I had a wander to the park just around the corner, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park. There were people jogging and walking dogs as well as a few rabbits hopping around munching on the damp grass. The air was heavy with misty rain filled clouds, but luckily it didn’t rain. I wandered part way towards the city centre and then back again, to the park first, where I decided to feed the ducks in the strange big square pond, with water that is a strange shade of turquoise (I later found out that I’m apparently not supposed to feed that ducks here, but luckily no one stopped me), there are carp in the water too, so despite it’s colour it must be capable of sustaining some life, although apparently a few years ago they had to totally refill the thing because the water had gone toxic and was killing the ducks.
Walking past the flat and along the little high-street. Then back to the flat I met with Regina as she had finished her first day back at work. We went and did some food shopping at the asian supermarket. We had thought about cooking this prawn, fennel, pasta dish (with fake prawns as Regina is a vegan), but we couldn’t find the fake prawns anywhere so that recipe quickly changed into a Pak Choi, Green Tea Noodles, lemongrass and tofu invented dish, which turned out to be very very good, if I do say so myself.
After eating we spent some time unpacking boxes from Regina’s basement, most of her stuff is still down there as she has only just got back from traveling around for the past year.
Day 114. Today I wandered further into the city centre. I found a few galleries, most rather commercial, but one quite nice space called Galerie Karsten Greve. This is a big space with about 4 levels, and very, very clean and tidy. The work on show at the minute is by Jean-Michel Othoniel. Glass sculptural hanging pieces. They are clean and sleek, but I’m not sure of the artists intent with them, I got the impression they are simply meant to be pretty objects.
After that I wandered back towards the flat, via a bicycle / sports shop. Then Regina arrived home from work again and we decided to head out to buy a few things and then went for ice cream at this good italian ice cream parlour near the city centre. I had a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of Pistachio, delicious!
Then we wandered to the ‘Belgian Quarter’. To a little square with a church called Brüsseler Platz, and we stopped at a cafe called Hallmackenreuther, and I had the above tea, a Sweet Chai, with fennel and liquorice and cardamom. It was good, though not amazing, possibly because I had wanted a different one, that they didn’t have, oh well.
We went home after that and cooked a traditionally German Asparagus dish. The asparagus is the same plant as I am used to, but they dont allow it to grow out of the ground and turn green, so it is yellowy-white in colour. We made a vegan bechamel sauce and potatoes to go with it, and it was very tasty.
After dinner we met up with Regina’s work mate in town and went to a gallery called ‘Museum Ludwig‘. This houses a large collection of modern art work, some huge names, and therefore a very expensive collection. Currently there is a sort of retrospective of the work of Yvonne Rainer. There is so much there that it’s impossible to do it all in a day, let alone two hours. This day was a special day where people who live in Cologne can get into the galleries for free, and due to the time we arrived I managed to get in for half price too! There is also Cosima Von Bonin’s CUT! CUT! CUT!, a show that has toured around and grown, and is now in its ‘final resting place’, at Museum Ludwig. I’m not too sure what I really think about this show though. I’m going to reserve opinion on that one for the minute.
There is also Henrik Olesen on show. Who’s work ‘Mr Knife and Mrs Fork’ has won the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2012. I actually saw this work for the first time a few years ago, when it was installed in a much rougher space in London. It was good to see it again, and quite strange to see it in a much cleaner and ‘official’ situation, with clean floors, and weirdly carpeted walls. The whole piece was set up exactly the same, except for the space and the way you enter the space. It was a kind of surreal experience to see it again!
After the museum we headed to a bar, a traditional Cologne pub where we drank Kolsh, the Cologne beer that comes in short 200ml glasses and is refilled until you signal by putting a beer mat on top of your glass. It is light and smooth, and pretty good.
After a couple of those we headed for a snack and then home!