Today is Saturday but I haven’t written yesterday’s blog yet.
I woke up quite early, had my breakfast and was out not long after 9. I went to the station because I wanted to go to Cologne. Why didn’t I come here when Germany still had the 9 euro train tickets thing? Well, the cheapest way to get to Cologne was on a few haystack trains which would take three and a half hours each way. Not worth the effort. The second cheapest way was to book specific and non-flexible tickets. The 10:09 out and the 18:18 back.
The 10:09 was delayed but only by about seven minutes. It was packed until the airport and then a lot quieter – I got two seats to myself! The countryside was very pretty – snow in Germany appears to cling on where feet and wheels don’t disturb it. It snowed in Frankfurt on Wednesday morning and there’s still a car down the road with an inch of snow in it, although as more and more people write in it, it’s getting less and less. The countryside was the same. Fields and trees all grey and white and glittering and absolutely winter wonderland-perfect.
My train was to Cologne Messe and I decided I hated Cologne. How do you get to the Hauptbahnhof? I found the S-bahn but there was no way of buying tickets. I found the U-bahn. Also no way of buying tickets and no map. Ticket machines, luckily, were lurking right down on the platform and although there were still no helpful signs telling you which direction the train was going, I found a city-wide map and eventually figured out a) where I was b) where I was trying to get to c) what combination of trains I required for that d) which direction those trains needed to go. It shouldn’t be that difficult!
I planned to change trains so I bought a day ticket. But when we arrived at the change station, it was basically a tram stop, right in the middle of the street, and there was a Christmas market between me and the Dom. So a walk! Walk through the Christmas market!
This was the old-fashioned market. All the stalls had matching wooden fronts, half the stallholders had old-fashioned costumes on, there was an ice rink and the mugs were dark red with yellow insides and round bellies. I discovered eventually that the end of that market led on to the Dom Christmas Market and they had different mugs and their stalls were higher and brighter and marked with shooting stars. Lots of the same stalls, though. Lots of the same stalls as in Frankfurt.
And here was the Dom! It was free to go in and it was breathtaking. Soaring Perpendicular Gothic, so ornate on the outside, so simple on the inside and such glass! Every single window was stained, even the high ones where you need to zoom in with you camera to be sure that’s colour up there. The south aisle had windows full of yellow glass – this is a more recent innovation, which is why I’ve seen other cathedrals remark on it. Those turned proper gold with the midday sun coming straight through them. It was all incredible.
And then there’s the tower. It cost 6 euros to go up the South Tower and signs say “No lift. No joke”. It’s a lot of steps. It’s five hundred and something spiral stone stairs You get a brief respite at the belfry and then up you go again. When you think you’re there, there’s a metal staircase in the middle of a room and because they’re open, even though there’s only about ten of that going up and up, it’s somehow more terrifying than the 500+ stone stairs, and those were terrifying enough. There are windows on the south side, which help you keep track of how many circles you’ve done and lots of them have no glass in them. They’re less than six inches wide, you couldn’t fall out if you tried but it’s still scary that high up. At the very top, you walk around the top of the tower. It’s all confined by fences and wire and all the usual but it’s very high. It wasn’t until I got home that I discovered it’s the highest double-spire church in the world and the third-highest church of any kind. I climbed that!
Back down, I now took some time to explore the markets. I got a cup of hot chocolate in the old-fashioned market and discovered there are at least three variants of that dark red round mug. I wandered down almost to the river through medieval streets that were deserted – leave the markets behind and there’s no one else in the city. I found a Catholic church with an overly large and ornate tower on an otherwise fairly non-descript church. I bought some things. I searched the city for a cloth badge, preferably with the towers on and found no such thing.
By now it was getting cold. A thick mist had descended and if you climbed the towers now, you wouldn’t even get a view for your efforts. It was cold. I took shelter inside the cathedral but who’d have thought: a massive stone medieval building is not warm! It was somewhere to sit down – my feet were tired, especilly after the long climb – but it wasn’t warm. No, for warmth I resorted to Burger King inside the Hauptbahnhof which is right next door and also where my train departed from. No time spent faffing around trying to figure out how to get back to Messe station. But I still had two hours to kill before I could use that non-flexible “cheap” train ticket. There’s nowhere really warm in Cologne Hbf. Cold air drifts down from hundreds of tracks above and it’s open at front and back. I popped into shops. I contemplated blue ceramic doorknobs and white boots like lace-up wellies and explored German scifi and fantasy books. Helpfully, when you buy a train ticket from a DB machine, you can print out your timetable. It’s useful to know exactly which train you’re allowed to get on but it’s really useful that it tells you the platforms. 4 A, B and C.
It was delayed! Only by about 10 minutes but the result was that the 18:27 to Frankfurt left before the 18:18 arrived and I couldn’t get on it. It was at platform 4 D-G which is normally fine but as it was still sitting there when my train was approaching, we had to move to platform 5. It was reasonably quiet. I guess anyone whose tickets had flexibility jumped on the 18:27.
I think we got into Frankfurt at 19:41 which meant home by 8. Quite a long day and the one with the most exercise. So I didn’t write my blog and I didn’t do my Finnish lesson either.