Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Kölner Dom, the Silver Man, and Lazy Sundays

Yes, I was finally able to visit the Dom in Köln last Sunday, and it was amazing. Very Gothic and overpowering. The architecture and sculpture had a strange mixture of religious and semi-mythological themes. On the one hand, there was a strong Biblical motiv... statues of various Saints, stained-glass windows filled with Bible characters and stories, complete with a bright golden coffin that supposedly contains the bones of the three Wise Men. Hmm. On the other hand, there were quite a few non-religious carvings and such scattered throughout... strange, mythological creatures, for example.

The feel of it all brought me back to Berlin, in a way. One thing I've always loved about Europe is the tangible presence of history. It's so much more than a mere thing of the past. And it stretches back thousands of years as opposed to several hundred, as in the US. The Germans refer to Köln (Cologne, in English) as a "Römmerstadt" - a city heavily influenced by the Romans, who were there, um, a while back. Scattered throughout the city are pieces of Roman history: buildings, wells, stones, carvings and even an ancient bathing area. Even in the parking garage we were in, there was an area blocked off that contained a huge chunk of what used to be a part of a Roman building.

The sporadic creepy architecture wasn't the only thing that caught my eye in Köln... right in front of the Dome, there was a man, completely silver, Charlie Chaplin-esque, standing on a pedestal. From a distance, you'd think he was a statue. He simply stood there, on his pedestal, completely still. A pretty large crowd had gathered around him... I obviously wasn't the only one who had never seen such a sight before. Beside the pedestal, he had a little silver goblet. When someone would put a coin in, he would smile, blow them a kiss, shake their hand, or give a small bow. It was one of the bizarrest things I've ever seen.

Nearby, another man was dressed up as Spiderman (not cute... note to men: please, do not wear tights. EVER.) who was trying to do the same thing. When kiddos would put a coin in his jar, he'd do karate moves. For some strange reason, I could see him doing well in Austin.

I do have one sad observation when it comes to the Dome... we visited on Sunday, so there was a church service there that afternoon. About 15 minutes before the service started, the priests/bishops/bell boys/whatever you call them came in and started shooing everyone out. "Gottesdienst (church service) is starting in 15 minutes... no more tourists... please leave..." We were shuffled out like cattle. As I was leaving the Dome, the sadness of the situation struck me. The church service was about to start, and here the priests were, asking people to leave. Shouldn't they have been inviting people to take a seat, to stay, to participate? But alas. Gorgeous, ornate, historically significant churches... but completely empty. Dead. The priests themselves ask people to leave.

The Dome really was beautiful, though... especially by night. As we were driving home, we crossed the Rhein River, and could see the Dome in the moonlight... I don't know why, or how, but the lighting was somehow different from the other buildings... it was pale, almost ghostly.

Interesting day.

Yet another reason for you (yes, you) to come visit me. :)

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