Saturday, October 23, 2004

Farewell Trip to Cologne

It's an absolutely beautiful fall day.  The sky is a bright blue; there's only a few little wispy clouds.  The trees are changing colors and everything's sparkling in the bright sunshine.  After returning from hazy, dusty, rocky Greece, everything looks so green and alive here. 

I'm on a train headed for Köln.  It's wonderful to get the chance to take this little trip on my own, the way I've been planning.  I was upset when it didn't work out yesterday, but Adam was with me then so it's for the best since I get to be alone today.  It's just hard to really get the experience of Europe when I'm with a crowd and I feel like I have to keep up conversation.

On the train from Verviers to Aachen I was thinking about the first time I took that train, the first time I saw Germany  I tried so hard to catch all the little differences.

Germany is a beautiful place.  It's fairly flat in this part here, as I'm moving away from the Ardennes. Every now and then I see a few of the white, spare-looking windmills on a  ridge or windy spot.  I enjoy the train between Verviers and Aachen because it goes through rolling green farmland, with the black and white cows scattered around, and occasionally sheep.  The landscape's not so different here; it's mostly the buildings.  Nearly everything has a red clay tile roof, and in the towns all the buildings are built together in their little rows with no space between.

I'm glad I'm getting to go on this trip today.  It sounds silly, but I feel like I need to say goodbye somehow to the cathedral.  It represents all of what I came to Europe to find.  I nearly cried that first day I saw it (August 19th, I still remember, on the way to the Rhine River).  I never got a poster of it, and that's what I want today.  I want to be able to see it every day.  I don't want to think about the idea of never seeing it again.

It looks like they've been getting all the rocks out of the fields, or maybe that's potatoes--no, more likely rocks.  There's a big pile next to most of the fields. I've never noticed that before, so it must be something they do this time of year as harvest is finishing up.

What a beautiful day.  I love days like this.  I feel like I look just a little more European today, too.  If you only saw me from the waist up, anyhow.  My too-big jeans and Sketchers don't help.  But, I'm wearing my gray leather fake leather bomber jacket I got in Rome, and my white scarf.  Nicole fixed it like the women in Verviers wear theirs (and most do wear one), looped through itself with the ends tucked into my jacket.  I really don't need a scarf on the train, but I don't want to take it off because I know I probably wouldn't be able to fix it back the same, and I want to blend in a bit in Cologne.

I want to get my mother a t-shirt somewhere; maybe I'll find one here.  She would like that, from my favorite place.

Now I am here.  I"m sitting in a pew in the Cologne Cathedral, enjoying the grandeur of the place.  The inside isn't the most breath-taking place I've seen, but it's still beautiful: the massive stone pillars and the arches, the white vaulted ceiling, the statues.  This time the apse was open and I walked around there, to get a closer view of the famous crucifix, made in about the eleventh, or maybe tenth, century, if I remember right, and the first one to show Christ with his eyes closed on the cross.  I also got closer to the golden box, now protected by glass, which holds the relic of the bones of the magi.  I love stained glass.  I stood for a while and looked at the stories told in it--the one to my right, lit up by the sun, is of the apostles with tongues of fire on their heads when they received the Holy Spirit.

I lit a candle as I came in. I lit one in Westminster, too.  I like knowing that i have left some glow here, a little bit of light, to do more than just silently walk around and leave no mark.

Well, now I'm in Köln Hoptbahnhof, waiting for my train to go home.  I have a few minutes, so I thought I'd stop and write for a minute.  I enjoyed my time today.  I took a lot of pictures. I got two posters: one a color photo of the cathedral and the city; the other a really interesting one with the shape of the cathedral written in musical notes, in an "Ode to Cologne".  I didn't find any t-shirts for mom.  I didn't see many at all, and what I did see I didn't like.  Cologne is a pretty city, but the t-shirts are ugly.  I'll get her one somewhere in Belgium.

Well, now I'm in Aachen.  It's nearly five; a train for Verviers doesn't leave until six.  Or 18:00--it's taken a  long to time to start getting used to twenty-four-hour time.  I have plenty of time, so I walked down here to this little park right across from the old gate tower.  I can smell the falling leaves.

Well, some guy just came up and looked over my shoulder and said something in German.  I just smiled and closed the book a little and he said, "Okay," and something else in German and went on.  I hope he's not offended.  I'm not rebuffing him; I just don't understand German.  And it's not really a good idea to let him know that when I'm alone anyhow.   


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