September 9th, 2007

Coffee

Kölner Wasser

We wanted an early start today, hence the lack of update from last night. We did actually get an early start too, but it's not early in German terms, as this country likes to get going whilst Brits would still be on their way somewhere. Actually, I'm tempted to make of list of things I've noticed about Germany, or at least Cologne, but I won't. I haven't really been here long enough to do so, and I'll be travelling quite a way away in a few days anyhow. I can tell you, however, that Cologne is very different to Eutin, or even Lübeck for that matter!

I'm not happy with my German, though. On the one hand, I'm getting understood, I can chat to people, and I've very little trouble reading things. On the other, I'm not here to speak Touristgerman. Therefore, when I ask for a drink using all the wrong participles, it's not good enough. I recognise that I have a lot of work still to do. I also recognise that I won't suddenly become fluent in German after a few days in Cologne, especially as Holly and I tend to speak a lot of English, leading to a mental situation where I output in English and input in German (hence the lack of difficulty with the signage). Hopefully, this situation will be very different by the end of this period abroad...

I'll give you a quick runthrough of what we've been doing. Yesterday, we rebooked our room in the hostel for two nights, and then went to a distant suburb of Köln on the Stadtbahn, to locate the shop of one of Germany's top anime publications, MangasZene. We found it in what resembled a small industrial estate, and met what seemed to be most of the MangasZene team, who are apparently moving premises. All goods were reduced, which pleased Holly, and I was amused that I was asked where I got my Laughing Man patch for my shoulderbag from (Amecon!). I didn't get much, though, aside from the Nausicäa manga auf Deutsch. Holly bought a mountain of art supplies. All at reduced prices.

When we returned to Köln proper, we headed out to Saturn, Europeä's biggest record store, which was on the one hand huge, but on the other hand, not quite as huge as the exterior led you to expect. I still ended up buying several CDs, including the one Schandmaul album I was missing, the most recent edition of the fabulous dark music compliation Schattenreich, a cheap Schattenreich clone, the whole 8-CDs of Chillout Moods (I really liked the two I already owned), and one album that looked like a load of rock classics, but which turned out to be covers all by one band, who manage to sing too gravelly on Aerosmith's 'Don't Want to Miss a Thing', and too hard on the Eagle's 'Hotel California'. One disappointment out of all the CDs wasn't bad, but I do wish we'd had more time there, because Saturn have machines that let you hear 30 seconds of any track on any CD (which is how I discovered Schattenrich, incidentally). On the way back, we went to a supermarket and marvelled at German groceries. They have a better attitude to juice than the Brits (although I notice little cranberry), and Eintöpfe make quick-meals very easy. Also, they do actually have an equivalent of Pot Noodles...

Today, we headed out to the chocolate museum on the Rhine, getting distracted on the way by a large gathering of punks at one point, and the end of a 15km race at another. We did hang around the latter for a while, as one of the RHUL German students is in the Cologne area and likes to run, but we didn't see her, if indeed she was there. The chocolate musuem was interesting, providing a greenhouse to make me nostalgic for the days I used to visit a butterfly-house in Nottinghamshire, as well as informing me about the cocoa plant, chocolate processing, and Meso-American civilisations. I hate Cortez, by the way, but I did already. We were tempted by a range of unusual Lindt chocolates, and got some very odd chocolate bars which I may report on later. Afterwards, we went to grab a quick meal at 'Oma's Küche', and both had a throughly German dish of Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, Bratkartoffeln and Senf. Discovering that the Art Musuem was expensive, difficult logisticallz, and most importantly, about to close, I dragged Holly up the c.550 steps of Cologne Cathederal to look down on the city for the second time. If you don't know what the cathederal, the Kölner Dom, looks like, think of Sauron's tower from Lord of the Rings, and you're not far off. It's very impressive, even if all you see from the stairwell is stairs, going round and round and round and putting you in some kind of trance, only broken by the bell chamber, and the top of the spire. I had surprisingly little difficulty on the climb. Shockingly, this may be one physical ability which I can claim. Dad did call me 'Mountain Goat'...

The coffee here is wonderful, incindentally. It's also a lot cheaper than the bakeries on the station, even through I do love to grab a marzipan crossiant and a coffee every morning from the delightfully-named 'Le Crobag'. The Germans do like their coffee, although they also like their tea: one tea store in the station presents a serious challenge to Whittards of Chelsea. I shall have plenty to drink this year.

Altenberg tommorrow, then. This year is about to begin properly! This time, I seriously doubt I will have internet, so this time I mean it when I say 'Auf wiedersehen'...
  • Current Music
    It was rubbish, but it's getting better.