Such a change for me this wet and grey weather but to be honest, it makes no difference to me – wet, cold or sunny and warm. I am here to see a bit of Germany.
I checked-in to Hotel Domspitzen in the center of all the hubbub of Cologne, walking distance to the must-see places of the city. I seldom feel totally confident when booking online for places to rest my head because you can never be sure. For me clean-clean-clean is an absolute must and this little and modest hotel in the center of Cologne delivered ten-fold! Super clean everywhere, with attentive and helpful staff with all that you really need for a quick stay in the city.
First stop, the Cathedral or Dom is what they call it here. You could not miss this Cathedral even if you tried. It is, in a word, mammoth. With gothic sphires rising from the modern cityscape, weatherworn, blackened by centuries of exposure to city elements. Incredibly imposing and you have to stop and think, how in the name of God could a people, in the 13th century, ever build this monumental, man-made ornate stalagmite-like architectural feat.
It takes a lot out of me to gawk and awe, my stomach starts to grumble and I long to people watch, one of my favorite past-times so I’m off to the Belgium Quarter, apparently the area to be if you are young and hip (I try, I try)… recommended to me by the folks at my super-clean hotel, Cafe Schmidt. I love kitsch when it is done with style, if that’s even at all possible. Such humor in the way this cafe has been put together. A large virgin Mary statue behind the bar and instead of little cherubs at her feet, a collection of liquor bottles. 1950’s damask once shiny wallpaper, worn and mismatched bar stools that look like they’ve just been retrieved from the corner garbage pile, exposed steel for a touch of industrial, “wood” paneling around the bar. For me, this is perfect and cool.
Back to my grumbling stomach and the cappuccino I’ve ordered isn’t filling the void. Sorry, only drinks are served here. I’m told to go next door and order food and bring it back – which I do happily because I like new experiences and not having food in a large restaurant-looking establishment is new but definitely not awful. I like the realness and the no-pretense approach this hip place oozes. I am also very happy with the food that I carry in the rain, on real plates from next door. The most fantastic soup, amazing German bread and a great beetroot salad I fully intend to replicate back in my kitchen in Spain.
I realize on my first day in Cologne, fully acknowledging that I may not have given this city enough time to show its worth but I’m done and want to go elsewhere but before I do, I go to the Ludwig Museum because it is second on the “must-see list” with the Cathedral being number one.
Ludwid Museum, a purposeful building with clean white walls perfect for displaying artwork. Architecturally, it has left no impression on me but the Joan Mitchell exhibit, her life and paintings is a real eye-opener. I just love her work. At first, I thought, really?! I could do this — I’m guilty and freely admit to saying this when I see contemporary art and someday, I will put money where my mouth is but for now this is my thought process. I enter Joan Mitchell exhibit room #2 then I see her talent and understand her logic and process – I put a sock in my thought process and shut up. The scale of her work, so many pieces and they are huge – apparently because she had terrible vision so she painted on a very grand scale. Her sense of color and how she put the panels together. This woman and her ambition inspire me.
So, there you have it. I feel like I’ve seen what I wanted and I’m ready to see something different, a 30 minute drive east on the autobahn from Cologne to Bergisch Gladbach. I’ve never been on the autobahn and in many spots, it lives up to the stories as cars of all makes and sizes bullet past me. I am so excited about what’s on the other side of this drive because I’m off to a palace. Again, I’ve never stayed in a palace and cannot wait to dine in Vendõme, headed by 3-star chef Joachim Wissler and one of the top restaurants in the world which resides in the palace where I will be living for the next 3 days. I share with you in complete giddiness!