|Some might say that a weekend at the Christmas markets with seven women sounds like either:
a. Some sort of bizzare mormon holiday; or
b. Hell on earth for any normal male with an aversion to shopping.
Nevertheless, this is the situation I found myself in on the weekend. Korina and I jumped on a discount plane to Cologne for the weekend, and met Meghan and a few other dietitians from New Zealand and Scotland. Luckily there were at least a few of them that were more interested in the mulled wine than the thousands of craft-type xmas decorations on sale in every one of the five or so markets that we visited.
In line with similar trips with groups of dietitians, sampling the local fare played a significant role in proceedings, not that I was complaining! In terms of Germany, this meant pretzels, spicy sausage, strudel and various other types of local food, washed down with Gluwhein (mulled wine), Alpenpower (alcoholic punch) and beer (being cheaper than water or juice!).
We also got a bit of snow, which was nice in terms of adding to the xmasy feel to the whole trip.
Aside from the shopping and the xmas festivities, we managed to wrap in a few other activities such as climbing to the Cathedral roof (which was similar to the one in Milan, except having no lift and being covered in graffiti). From this I took that religion had played a far less dominant role in the life of the average German (as compared to Italy). 509 steps up and it was a chilly outlook over Cologne from 100 metres up.
A great view, but what really struck me is quite how much of the city needed to be reconstructed after WWII. Apparently 95% of the town was levelled, meaning that there are almost no old buildings except for the Cathedral.
It was quite trippy as Grandad was a navigator in WWII, so in all likelihood directly responsible for at least some of the devastation that this city must have had. Germans are still not particularly well liked in England, but the feeling tended to be reflected by the Germans who seemed to believe anyone speaking English must be from England.
That aside, Germany was a pretty easy place to travel around as most things are signed in English and in German, and a lot of the people speak a little of both. We were particularly helped by a friendly German at the train station that directed us onto the correct train into town - which was greatly appreciated due to our complete absence of ability to speak/read any language other than English!
It was also a little strange as Bruce, my father was born about an hour north of Cologne following the war. Although he only lived there for 2-3 years, it was interesting for me to imagine what it must have been like back then. This was the time that my Granny used to carry a hand-gun on her at all times to fend off the local Germans and protect her and her son (as the country's economy had collapsed).