DAY 4 – Cologne, April 22nd
It’s been dreary, but that does not really bother me. I’d live in Seattle if I could; I love the rain and cloudy weather.
Today I spent most of the morning with my host family. I attended their church service and met many new people to which I had the opportunity to practice my German. Then, I had lunch at this Turkish restaurant and it was probably one of the best foods I have had during my stay in Germany.
I had this lamb dish, the name of which eludes my memory. However, it was very good. The lamb was well seasoned. I also tried this Turkish yogurt drink that was a little too tart for my tastes. Turkish food is one of the most popular here. It is easy to find them everywhere.
I have yet to try the most prized of all Turkish fare, though. I am eagerly awaiting to try it in a bigger city like Munich or maybe even Berlin, and that is the Döner Kebap: one of Germany’s most famous dishes that is not even culturally German in origin (rumor has it that the Turkish man who invented it never ‘patented’ it and could have generated millions since it is a very popularly served dish here). Then, in the afternoon I headed to Cologne for the rest of the afternoon.
I am a big lover of history, art and architecture for they tell wonderful stories. Seeing and entering the fantastic Cologne Cathedral, which was first started in the 11th century, was the highlight of the day (honestly, I didn’t spend too much of my time wandering the city, mainly because I will be coming back at the latter leg of my trip). Cologne was a good hour and a half from Gießen where I am currently staying. Like a lot of Germany, based off my experience, Cologne is a good mixture of old and new. What is astounding about the history of the Cologne Cathedral is that it took centuries for it to be completed. It took a lot of damage from 14 aerial bombing strikes during World War II (being one of the tallest buildings in Cologne it became an easy target). Repairs were completed in 2005 and was then declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The inside of the Cathedral was as beautiful as the outside facade of the Cathedral. In the featured image of this post is the main entrance featuring the Mother Mary and the Baby Jesus surrounded by whom I believe (if I remember correctly from my art history classes) are the Twelve Apostles. Inside was a Gothic marvel with soaring pillars and a very high vaulted ceiling that made you feel like you were staring into heaven.
Most tourists were not allowed to go further into the chapel area unless you were there to actually worship and pray. I dared not go and disrespect the religion so I stayed before the chapel area and just stood there for a good ten or fifteen minutes marveling at the beautiful architecture. I also went around admiring the beautiful stained glass windows of very intricate design, restored to their former glory. It fills me with wonder that our ancestors had the technological and artistic prowess to create such grandeur! The trip to the Cathedral alone was worth the hour-and-a-half journey to Cologne from Gießen. I will be back here again during my last few days in Germany and I am looking forward to visiting the Cathedral and the adjacent museum once more.
The rest of Cologne was a big modern city dotted with older buildings here and there. I returned to Gießen before it got too dark.
DAY 5 – Gießen
I was not feeling too well today and I decided to just chill in my host’s house. I ended up just watching a bunch of shows on Netflix. In the evening my hosts took me to a pizza parlor here in Gießen and had an “American” style pizza. It was delicious, but I think Americans make better American pizza than the Germans do. No offense meine Deutschen Freunde…
DAY 6 – Marburg
Most of today was spent in Marburg, a charming old town not 30 minutes away from Gießen. Luckily the gloom gave way to a beautifully warm spring day! Marburg is a town established in the medieval era and most of the old city, if not all of it, still stands. Story goes that during World War II, an American military officer fell in love with Marburg and decided to preserve it from any Allied attacks, thus preserving the town. Now it is a bustling college town, home to a university that excels in medicine and law, as well as a good mixture of old and new. A top a hill sits Marburger Schloss, the castle of St. Elizabeth, a Hungarian princess married to the Duke of Marburg. She has a cathedral dedicated to her as well for she spent most of her life caring for the poor and the sick.
You can get through most of the Oberstadt by foot through these winding stair and alleyways.
One of the most charming parts of the city is the fact that much of the old architecture, dating back to the medieval era, still stands. The houses, although updated inside to fit the comforts of the modern era, are still built mostly out of the wooden beams that held the aloft all these years, held only by wooden pegs and supported by a sort of dung, hay, sticks and mud type of brick. What’s cool to me is that these have now been converted to mostly student apartments and shops. People still live in these, albeit with updated plumbing and so on.
The rest of Marburg had that cool old European charm, from the Marktplatz (Market Square) to the castle.
Marburg once featured a Martin Luther debating with a Catholic official on the nature of the Eucharist. Not only that, the famous Grimm Brothers once made their residence in Marburg.
For a quick snack, I decided to finally try a German pastry. You see, I am not too fond of pastries and sweets in America mainly because they are too sweet to my Eastern palate. Despite more than ten years of residence in the USA, I have not adapted to their love of sugar. I was reluctant to try a cake but hey, it was very delicious and definitely not as sweet as it would’ve been in the US. What’s also astounding to me is that I went to try a chocolate cake. You see, I am no big fan of chocolate (please don’t judge me), but I decided to try it since apparently German chocolate is of excellent quality (and again, not too sweet like the chocolate back home in the US). The cake at the cafe at the Markplatz did not disappoint.
During the latter end of the day I found myself around Wettenburg, a suburb around Gießen, where an old fort called the Burg Gleisberg stands. I spent a good hour just walking around the ruins of the old fort, which is one of three in the nearby vicinity. The story (as you can tell, each of these places has a story to tell) is that there were three brothers who had a contest on who could build the largest fort in the area. Burg Gleisberg ended up being the largest. One of the brothers destroyed one of the other ones but you can still see the tower of one of the fortresses from Burg Gleisberg.
Anywho, I decided to climb to the top of Burg Gleisberg despite my fear of heights. I do not regret it one bit. The view from the very top of the tower (which is one of the few features of the fort that is still standing thanks to repairs) was astounding. Seeing the German countryside dotted with patches of yellow from the Canola flowers that seem to permeate the region was just marvelous to behold. Pictures don’t do it justice.
Now I am back home doing laundry and waiting for dinner that my host is graciously cooking. I am ready to embark on the next leg of my journey. Next stop: Stuttgart!