DM and MM's Germany 2007 Diary

Day 18 - Würzburg to Cologne

Tuesday, 8 May, 2007

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Breakfast today was as yesterday, plus: a whole giant cooked fish, about a metre long - it looked smoked - smaller fish fillet slices, a chunk of roast pork with carving utensils, olives and peppers stuffed with feta, and biscuits and chocolates! The food here really is astonishing. I think it's the result of staying in a hotel with a very fancy restaurant attached; we get the choicest leftovers from the food cooked the night before.

12:27 ICE 2026 Würzburg to Cologne

We have a 3:40 train trip ahead of us, which gives me time to catch up on yesterday's diary.


My diary writing is now up to today, which has so far involved getting up, having breakfast (see earlier), and checking out of our hotel. The guy at reception apologised for a broken credit card machine and asked if we could possibly pay in cash. So we left our luggage, saying we'd pay when we came back to pick it up at about 12:00.

Röntgen's laboratory
Wilhelm Röntgen's laboratory at the University of Würzburg

First stop was the Wilhelm Röntgen house, where the discoverer of x-rays worked and actually discovered them, in 1896. It turned out to be a building still in use by the University of Würzburg, as we discovered when we walked inside to find lecture theatres - one of which was being used from the sound coming through the door - and offices of various professors. The museum consisted of two rooms in a corner of the building, and the corridor immediately outside. The lights in the two rooms were off, and we had to seek out and find the switches to turn them on ourselves.

Original tubes
Glass x-ray tubes in Wilhelm Röntgen's laboratory

One room was viewable only through a locked glass door and contained a lab set up pretty much how it must have been in Röntgen's day, with various glass cathode ray tubes and other Victorian era high-tech gadgetry scattered about the antique desks and tables. The second room held exhibit cases containing more Crookes tubes and so on, plus old glass plates showing x-rays of hands and other paraphernalia. A large wardrobe-sized wooden box stood against one wall, with two giant insulated electrodes protruding ominously from the top, one labelled Kathode and the other Antikathode. I figured it must have been for taking chest x-rays or something, requiring the victim patient to step inside, close the door, and hope the doctor knew what he was doing with this newfangled electricity stuff. The corridor outside had wall displays including Röntgen's various diplomas and Ph.D. in original, plus a copy of his Nobel Prize citation.

As we browsed the small collection, a few staff and students wandered by, probably wondering that anyone had actually come in to look at this stuff.

X-ray cabinet
The mad science x-ray cabinet

From Röntgen's lab, we went out to the shopping district to let Michelle browse around a bit. On the way, we used up the most of the rest of our phone card to call her parents and just say hi. I got a bratwurst at the stand that Gert had said yesterday had the best bratwurst in Würzburg - it was indeed pretty good. Michelle tried to take a photo of me buying it, but the woman in the stall panicked and shouted that she didn't want us taking photos. Since the Marktplatz led down to the Alte Mainbrücke, I went to take some daylight photos there while Michelle continued shopping for a while.

Before long it was time to head back and pick up our bags. I got €300 out of an ATM to cover the hotel bill and provide us with some more cash. We stopped at a bakery to get a bread roll and nußschnecke for Michelle, and I got a slice of mandarin cheesecake that looked interesting. Michelle also got a coffee from a barista she'd spotted the day before.

At the hotel, we picked up our bags, paid the bill, and left for the station and our train to Cologne.

21:57 Room 5, Hotel Brandenburger Hof, Cologne

I discovered on the train to Köln from the Lonely Planet that the city also known as Cologne is actually the origin of the famous Eau de Cologne. I'd somehow always thought that it had come from France somewhere, and the match to the city name was mere coincidence.

Echt Kölnisch Wasser
Cologne Hauptbahnhof, with advertising for Eau de Cologne

We arrived in this multi-famous city and our first task was to find accommodation. The Lonely Planet was dire in its comments about finding a cheap room in Cologne, stating that the frequent trade fairs (mostly at this time of year) regularly tripled the already steep room rates. So when we found the one spare room at the Hotel Brandenburger Hof for a measly €130 a night, we snaffled it. This is not by any means a fancy hotel; this is by far the smallest room we've stayed in - a quarter or maybe even less than the size of the one in Dresden. There is barely enough room to walk around the bed and the bathroom is a very tight squeeze. What's more, they only accept cash as payment, which is a bit weird.

Kölner Dom
Cologne Cathedral

We went for a walk, of course across to the other side of the station to get a close look at the huge Cologne Cathedral, which is the main reason we've come here. Words utterly fail to do the building justice, as it towers above everything in sight in soaring and graceful spires and buttresses of dark gothic stone.

After a few snaps, we walked down, Hohestraße and Michelle looked in some of the shops along this long, narrow stretch of upmarket and modern pedestrian mall. On the way I found an Indian restaurant in a local guide and map booklet that the hotel had given us, not far from the south end of the mall. But before we got there, we spotted a Lego shop! We had to go in - it was amazing. You could buy cupfuls of assorted bricks, scooped from canisters set into the wall. There was an assemble-your-own minifig area, with bins full of legs, bodies, and hair and accessories. And all over were Lego products I'd never seen before nor even knew existed, like fridge magnets (we bought a set of eight), keyrings, salt and pepper shakers, clothes, pens, notepads, etc, etc. Rummaging through the minifig bins, I found some interesting heads and torsos, and there were grey hair pieces too, which I needed more of. So I picked and assembled at random, ending up with a bunch of female figures with grey male hair. The sign said "6 kaufen, 5 zahlen" - "buy 6, pay for 5" - so I made up six figures and got them for €9.95. Michelle also bought some souvenirs for her nephews.

Oh my!
LEGO shop in Cologne

The Indian place was called the Taj Mahal (original name...) and was apparently the first Indian restaurant in Cologne, opening in 1979. We ordered samosas, a dahl masala, and the cook's specialty: taj murgh masala - a curry made very much in the style of chicken tikka with an additional almondy sauce. It was all very nice and good to have something different to eat. After initial stumbling in German, the waiter was delighted to switch to English as soon as he worked us out. I suspect German was his third language.

After dinner, we walked back along Hohestraße to the cathedral, planning to take twilight photos. Unfortunately, it began raining shortly before we got there and we took shelter from the water and the strong wind under a shop front awning. The rain was more annoying than troublesome, but it was being whipped up by a diabolically gusty wind which whirled and blew up the long wind tunnel produced by the narrow street and looming buildings. We reached the square in front of the cathedral and the wind was swirling everywhere. People were running to and fro across the square, many getting their umbrellas turned inside out and having difficulty walking into the strong wind. I took a couple of hand held photos from shelter, but declared the conditions impossible for tripod and said we should give up for the night.

Big Opening
Walking down Hohestraße

As we were preparing to brave the conditions to race back to our hotel, the angry sky unleashed a heavy downpour and we were forced to wait a few minutes until it passed. With the rain eased a bit, we dashed across the open square to the shelter of the Hauptbahnhof, which was warm and inviting. Once inside shelter, the weather didn't look half as bad, so we decided to browse the many open shops in the station for a little while to see if it would improve further. Michelle found a costume jewellery place and purchased a couple of inexpensive bracelets. By the time we walked back to the exit facing the cathedral, the rain had stopped and the ground was half-dried already. The light was getting beautiful and the sky was the deep blue of clear sky rather than the grey of cloud. It looked so good that we ventured out...

Big mistake.

Dom, rainy night
The Cathedral on a rainy night

The clouds had been blown clear away by the howling gale that still ripped the air in flurries in the swirling chaotic open space around the cathedral. I set up the tripod and fired off a couple of extremely quick HDR sequences, hanging to it for dear life to prevent it being blown over (or away!). I doubt the shots will amount to much because of the vibration caused by the wind. This token defiance of the raw and furious elements accomplished, we really truly gave it up for dead and packed up and fled as quickly as we possibly could.

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