I arrived in Cologne, Germany after a long and stuffy bus ride from Berlin. Considering the stench I had to endure for seven hours, I was relieved to finally arrive in the city where Eau de Cologne originated.
Cologne is best known for the Cathedral Cologne, a beautiful example of Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture. Outside, the cathedral is a bit menacing (especially on a stormy day), but inside it is beautiful and awe-inspiring. Colorful stained glass windows surround the main chapel and mosaic flooring depicts mythological themes.
Fun Fact: The Cathedral was hit by 14 bombs during WWII but the building did not fall. It is believed that it was not completely destroyed because it served as an easily recognizable landmark for pilots.
In the shadow (literally) of the Cathedral of Cologne is Museum Ludwig. It includes a collection of Pop Art, Abstract and Surrealism, and has one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe.
I don’t typically get excited about art, but I was really giddy about the Picasso collection. This was my favorite, Tete de femme. Dora Maar was Picasso’s most famous muse and served as Picasso’s model for several portraits and statues.
After wandering through the Surrealism and Abstract art exhibits, you will find a few rogue artists who indulged in complete artist freedom (my favorite kind). Martin Kippenberger is one such artist – he was an attention-seeker and refused to adopt any specific style. Here’s his piece called Sympathische Kommunistin, (The Sympathetic Communist). He painted this in the midst of the Cold War as a satirical joke since this is exactly the type of painting that Soviet state authorities would have demanded from Eastern Bloc artists.
The Museum itself has an interesting history as well. In the 1930s, the National Socialists removed most modern art from German museums in their “degenerate art” campaign. The lawyer Josef Haubrich, who had collected works of Expressionism and the New Objectivity, did not allow himself to be led astray by the National Socialists’ concepts of art. In 1946, he donated most of his collection to the museum to give people an opportunity to see what was withheld from them during the 12 years of coercion.
The very best part about Cologne is that it also happens to be the home of an old friend from high school that I haven’t seen or spoken to in nearly six years! Bjarne was an exchange student at Rock Bridge and is now studying and working in Cologne. We got some excellent Lebanese cuisine (have I mentioned that I LOVE Lebanese?) and explored a bit of the city. He told me a what he knew about Cologne and shamelessly made up stories about the things he didn’t know. (As if I would know the difference.)
Since my hostel is booked up, he has kindly offered me his couch this weekend. So, I’m off to couchsurf… and perfect my shameful cooking skills as a thank you.