Friday 16th December – Gloom in Germany, Beers in Holland

I was offended by the alarm this morning. Sabrina had to be at university for an 8am class so we were up early. When I eventually dragged my arse out of bed, I felt lethargic, sick with a sore throat and in a foul mood because of stupid dreams that had been interrupted. On our way in to the city, the dark and foul weather did not improve things. It had been six days since I’d seen the sun and it was starting to have its affect on my I think. At uni, Sabrina jumped out of the car and went off while I found parking in the already full lot. I had some luck eventually when someone left.

I didn’t really enjoy the walk into the city. Not only did the clouds remain hanging in the sky, it was now windy, sending a chill through me and down my already sore throat. I planned to visit more museums today, but 10am was opening time so I had an hour or so to kill. I went to the Maccas at central station and sat down with my laptop at a window seat to blog. The world went by in front of me with packs of school children off on their field trips, people everywhere getting to work in all different ways and pigeons making the rounds of the cathedral, constantly flying on and off its towering spires.

Sabrina finished class just as I was ready to head off to my first museum so I waited for her at central station. When she met me, I asked if she could help me find a coffee shop that would give me a cup of hot water, some honey and some lemon. It’s MIkey’s cure for a sore throat that I’ve been using for a while now, but there was no way I could ask for that in English. Eventually we found a place that helped me out and my sore throat was happy to feel the warm, sweet liquid.

After some morning tea from a pretzel bakery, we went to the Roman-Germanic museum, the one Sabrina was most excited to see. The main displays focussed on the roman city of Cologne back in 3-4th century when it had a much more impressive name. The museum itself was located where a great roman’s house once stood, the centrepiece of which was a huge floor mural. Aside from the roman artefacts, the museum had collections of tools, kitchenware and househould items that went through the ages, all the way from 8,000 BC to the early 19th century. Sabrina and I contemplated the development curve, seeing that it took hundreds of years to go from something like stone to copper, yet in the last hundred years, our development has been exponential.

We spent a good two hours here, then our rumbling tummies lead us to a ramen place on the west side of the city. Daikan was a place wedged into the wall of a street where no tourists roamed and the barman that met us kindly spoke English and spoke fondly of Australia where he’d just returned from. We ordered the lunch special that got us a ramen bowl each, some edamame, spinach with sesame sauce and some gyoza. Everything was absolutely delicious. Even more so because both of us were feeling sick so a soupy mixture was exactly what we needed. Because we’d been missing the chicken from our ramens, they gave us a free pot of peppermint tea, which tasted like nothing to me, but the warm water was nice for my throat. After treating ourselves to chocolate gyoza (yes, it tasted as good as it sounds), we were off to find out next museum.

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It took a while to navigate there, but eventually we were in front of the National Socialism Documentation building. Inside, we fit our coats and bags into a locker, picked up an audio tour and went off. The audio tour was very helpful, especially for me since there was no English written word. Each exhibit had a number that matched a short audio guide. The museum focussed on the more recent history of Cologne, from about 1200, with a bit of emphasis on the Nazi era. The propaganda directed at children wasn’t surprising but it was alarming. They had a couple of cars there too, the oldest from 1901, with a four-speed gearbox! While there were many of impressive exhibits, one of my favourites was a giant statue that had been sculpted in the early 1900s, then opened to the people for “nailing”. Thousands of Germans contributed to the artwork by hammering a nail into the statue.

We left that museum at closing time (5pm) and while we did have to get on the road to Tilburg to meet Alex, there was one more museum close by that closed at 6pm so we planned to make a quick stop there. After walking in circles trying to find it, we went into the National Socialism Documentation museum, Sabrina asked about an English audio tour for me, but the man said it would take three hours and everything was written in English anyway. Turned out he was completely lying, there wasn’t a shred of English in the whole place. This museum was all about the Nazi period. The building it was housed in was a place where thousands of Jews and Gypsies were tortured and killed.

The numbers were shocking, along with the images and propaganda of the time. Sabrina wandered much slower than me since she could read about the exhibits and I did my best to make interpretations based on the pictures, a bit like a kindergarten student. When I caught up with Sabrina, she translated some for me and the scale of the decimation became cruelly more clear. The ignorant prejudice and cruelty that they exercised towards people really was astounding, you can’t imagine anything like it ever happening today. I held a book that listed the name and birth/death information of every Jew from Cologne that had been a victim of national socialism. It was a huge book, I can imagine you would need numerous volumes to list the names of every Jew in Germany that was persecuted.

We stayed until closing, then ushered out, we were straight on a train back to university where we got in the car home. We were only at Sabrina’s place for twenty minutes doing a quick pack, then out again to drive to Tilburg in Netherlands. I ate some left overs in the car as we got going then after stopping for bread and some petrol, it was nothing but straight, fast roads all the way. I did my best to keep out of everyone’s way, but people come up so fast behind you in the fast lane that it’s hard to keep everyone happy.

It was 9:30pm when we arrived at Alex’s place. We walked through two doors, took an elevator six floors up, then through another door and the front door and we were in! Alex wasn’t there, he was out with friends, so we head out to meet them, walking twenty minutes through the deserted streets into downtown. After wandering the strip up and back looking for the place, we ran into Alex, Sho, Anna and Ryan. They were all Tesla folk from California so we had plenty in common. Inside the pub, we had two rounds of beer and chatted away. At some point, a Dutch man came over and, wanting to show Anna his tattoo, he took his shirt and undershirt off to display the naked woman and car along his arm, shoulder and collarbone. Weird, we moved outside since the music was getting too loud anyway.

Another round outside, we continued talking until past midnight amongst the smokers. When we were ready to call it a night, Anna and Ryan retreated to the hotel while the rest of us went to a kebab place for after-alcohol food. The chicken kebabs Sabrina and I had were brilliant and I experienced the good English of Dutch people.

We witnessed a drunk bike accident on the bike path where the perpetrator took a very, very long time to get himself up and disentangled form his bike and the other rider. After that excitement, we escorted Sho to the train station where he was going to catch a train to Amsterdam for his flight home the next morning. Once there, thanks to the help of a local stranger, we discovered there would not be another train until 2am and because of delays, it would not get to Amsterdam until after 5am. After much musing about options to avoid this experience, Sho came back to Alex’s place with us where he would sleep on the couch, then set off early the next morning to catch his flight.

Back at Alex’s place, we had a glass of wine then eventually were all in bed/couch/air mattress at 2:30am.

German fact #7 – The German word for “men” is “Herren”. The German word for “women” is “Damen”. And yes, I found out the hard way by walking into the men’s bathroom.

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