Posts Tagged With: Cologne

The Home Chapters #1 – Cologne

I am sinfully late with this entry. I’ve been meaning to write it for weeks but then things kept piling up and I forgot and by now it’s so bad I actually have a list of things I meant to post on the blog.

As I mentioned time and time again, I love to travel. But I don’t have the funds to do as much of it as I would like, so it usually comes down to one or two bigger trips and several roadtrips within my immediate reach, usually without staying over night. When it comes to travel, my main passion are places by the sea. I love beaches, waterfronts, waves… Most people don’t consider it a holiday unless they’ve been to the beach, in the mountains or living it up in a metropole. So at first sight, Duisburg and the area around it aren’t really attractive. But if you give it a closer look, there are a lot of small – and sometimes even big – things to see and do around here, too.

I’ve never been much of a patriot but after 32 years of living here, I figured it’s only right that there’s a little corner of this blog dedicated to ‘home’. I’m not gonna be too strict here. The articles don’t have to be about Duisburg, in the immediate neighborhood or even the same state. As long as it can be reached and visited during a day trip, it’s considered ‘close enough’.

That’s why the first part is about Cologne. It just happened to be the first place I visited after I had the idea for this, so why not start there.

My history with Cologne is long but not very exciting at all. Mostly, I’ve been visiting it for concerts and other events. It’s where all the big media is located in this part of Germany, so most artists have at least one stop there during a tour. Occasionally, I also made it to the town center for shopping or dinners with friends and for one nice but incredibly stressful month, I even had a job there. It was the most fun job I ever had but it also required about two hours of commute back and forth every day – and that was when the trains were on time. And it happened to be February. Everyone who’s ever experienced the German carnival in the Rheinland area knows how crazy Cologne gets in February.

Despite these on and off visits, I had never been inside of the cathedral. It’s impossible not to see it from the outside because it’s huge and smack in the middle of everything, and yet I had never really paid it much attention. So one fine day, just a few days after my return from Mallorca, I grabbed Mel and we drove out to Cologne for some mini-sightseeing and a sprinkle of shopping on the side.

Another thing I knew about but had never really visited was the Rheinufer. Being from Duisburg and close to the Rhine myself, going close to the river in other locations seems anticlimactic, but in Cologne, it’s usually a lot nicer than most other places. There are a lot of cute old houses along the shore, some still with their historical decorations and markings. I particularly loved the narrow brown one.

The little church here is Groß St. Martin, by the way, a rather small Benedictine church. I don’t know if I’d like it as much if it was placed elsewhere, but right there, near the Rhine and next to the other historical buildings, it fits in quite perfectly. Especially against the blue early-summer sky, of course.

As we walked on, we come to the stairs leading up to the cathedral itself and found we weren’t actually allowed to walk across the surface on top of the stairs. To my amazement, Mel explained that this happened quite often while the Cologne Philharmonics are rehearsing in the venue underneath. Apparently, the construction wasn’t so well thought through, and the sound of people’s steps on the surface disturbs the musicians. Instead of investing in more works to fix this, they just put up signs and have security people preventing people from walking across the surface during rehearsals. Probably not a very efficient solution, but makes for funny tourist anecdotes anyway.

We walked around the cathedral from the outside and saw a few of the constant works that are being done on and around the building. They started building it in 1248 but as it is with buildings of this scale, it’s never really finished and work never stops. Mel pointed out a few spots where you can see new or renovated parts but to be honest, I wouldn’t really notice it unless you bring them to my attention.

I’ve mentioned it a couple times, I’m not religious. But stepping into a huge and impressive building like the Cologne Cathedral, I always almost regret that. I can’t bring myself to believe in any deity or follow the rules of any organized religion but the sheer size of it, the sometimes eery lights, the echoes of hushed voices, the praying people that are seated in the pews…it makes me wish that I could find some kind of hope in it, too. Alas, I have to be satisfied with the feeling of wild awe when visiting these places.

We toured the huge space inside of the cathedral with all its many windows and altars and when we emerged, we decided it was selfie time – just us and the cathedral. Thanks to the rough breeze that day, it turned out to be a rather dopey one, though.

The rest of the day was fun but far less tourist-y. We did some shopping, got lost inside the biggest Primark I’ve ever seen and had a delicious, carb-heavy dinner at Pizza Hut. And I also spotted another thing I’d somehow never noticed before – Ice Cream, anyone?

If you’re ever gonna visit Cologne by car, though, I don’t recommend the underground parking at Heumarkt. Unless 18 Euros for 4-5 hours seems like a bargain to you.

Categories: Wanderlust | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up to No Good

Happy Holidays! I hope whoever reads this is having a wonderful and peaceful time, no matter how and who you spend it with, whether you celebrate Christmas or whether “your” holidays happened already.

Anyway, as the year draws to an end, I find my calendar a lot fuller than it was all year round. I’ve had time off since Friday and, which I enjoyed very much, found myself spontaneously meeting friends for coffee and shopping. I’m not a very spontaneous person, usually, but whenever it happens, I realise how much it can improve your day if you add some nice company to it. Of course, it’s way easier when neither of us has to work that day.

Today, however, I and my mother got up way too early (a 7 AM rise is not how I usually spend my time off work!) and went on our way to Cologne. It’s about forty minutes from here and one of the biggest towns in our area, so going there the day before Christmas Eve is a completely new level of insanity. But we went for a good reason. We had tickets to see the Harry Potter Exhibition. Admittedly, it’s been on since October and will stay until March, so we didn’t have to go today. But when we talked about it, we quickly came to the conclusion that it was the only day we both had a day off together. So really, whatever, there are worse ways to spend the last days of the year, right?

We had tickets for 10:30 but arrived way too early. Luckily, there was a McDonald’s next door. We went with the plan to get breakfast but everything already smelled so oily and they didn’t have any baked goods that weren’t cake, so we only had some coffee. When we got to the Odysseum, we were still twenty minutes early but they already let us in.

The whole thing starts with what’s my personal horror, part show – part interaction, with an actress leading visitors through the Sorting Hat Procedure. It turned out very fun, though, even though I was glad that not everyone had to do it. My social anxiety would have been ablaze if I’d had to sit in front of a group of strangers. But the people who did it was fun and there was one older woman who was a total Harry Potter fangirl, it was adorable. She ended up in Hufflepuff, as she’d wanted. Between you and me, I’m pretty sure the Sorting Hat really listened to people’s wishes. 😉 Also, the actress seemed so much like a slightly older version of Hermione, it was almost creepy.

After that, we were led into a room with several screens that showed scenes from the movies and I’m pretty sure that everyone started thinking that it was lame, but right then one of the walls was pulled back and it felt like you were stepping right into Hogwarts, it was awesome!

After that, I felt like a kid in a candy store, except that I couldn’t eat – or touch – anything. I suppose you could walk through these rooms and feel like in a museum. Cool stuff, a lot to see, but no real connection. But if you look at the costumes and the little bits and pieces and really think about that they were worn and touched by the people you’ve seen on the screen hundreds of times, that they appeared right there in those movies that were such a big part of your life…that’s really impressive. I mean, Harry Potter is up there with other classics by now. Everyone knows it. There are small things, like the font of the logo, the melody of the intro…and you immediately think of Harry Potter, whether you really liked it or not. And then you’re standing in front of an outfit that is basically just clothes that could have been bought by anyone from the H&M around the corner but you know what it was worn in the very movie you only just watched a couple days ago – for the millionth time. And that’s just awesome! Oh god, I sound like such a fangirl, I’m sorry. I’m not even one of those people who’ll break into random fangirling at all times. I don’t have a lot of memorabilia from my favorite books or movies. But things like that really get me going. When they were showing the scenes from the movies and the theme started playing, I actually teared up. I felt like a total tool.

They showed a lot of the things you’d expect to see. Harry’s school and Quidditch uniforms, Ron’s hideous festive clothes, Hermione’s ball gown, the Deathly Hallows, the Horcruxes, that kind of thing. But also a lot of things you didn’t expect some you even only remembered when you saw them, like all the freaky things Luna possesses and wears, or the death statue from the graveyard scene. Most of the things were just exhibited and you weren’t allowed to touch them or even get too close, understandably so, but there were also some interactive parts like a “Quidditch field” or the mandrakes. My god, did I love those! They had set up a little field of mandrakes with signs urging you on to pull one up and yes, they actually screamed when you did it. Hur hur, that’s exactly right for Kathy! And another guy who was also very fascinated. My mom kept telling me not to do it (“Don’t! Don’t! DON’T!”) but there really was some magic possessing me, I swear.

What wasn’t so fascinating but equally hard to resist was the souvenir store. There was a lot of overpriced stuff, of course, that was mostly just merchandise that had nothing to do with the books or the movies at all. But they also had some really nice souvenirs like most of the magic wands (I so, so, so want Narcissa Malfoy’s!) or the Marauder’s Map. And I know mugs are some of the lamest pieces of merch ever but they had a really cute one that said “Dobby Is A Free Elf”. Aww! I don’t know how I did it but I went out of there without buying a single piece. Admittedly, the prices were crazy but that’s never stopped me before. I think I was mostly just overwhelmed by the possibilities. There was just so much.

The walk through the exhibition took about one and a half hours because we took our time, listening to the audio guide and remembering our favorite scenes. I suppose you could walk through it within thirty minutes or less if you just had a quick look but why would you do that if you paid so much money for the ticket?

Afterwards, we were both so tired but decided that, what the hell, we had come all the way to Cologne, so we could as well make the best of it. So we drove into town and parked by the lovely, lovely Heumarkt, a part of the old town. I’m not a Christmas fair kinda girl but the one there is so cute. They have these pretty wooden huts that are a lot more detailed than others and also add some cute decoration with Christmas gnomes. We were starving and cold, though, so we had dinner first. We wanted to eat at a more traditional place, like a brewery or a pub but none were open, so we ended up at Maredo, a steakhouse chain. The food was fine as usual but I’ve kind of gone off all these chains because there’s so much more to discover and they’re always the same. But the alternative would have been to eat something on the Christmas fair and it was so windy and nasty, we didn’t want to do that.

After lunch, we walked along the main shopping street. There were a lot of things I wanted to look for, my Agent Provocateur perfume, the Harry Potter books with the new covers (they had no books at the exhibition!), more clothes from H&M…but I found neither. My mom finally bought the perfume she’d been lusting after for two (!) years, probably because I guilt tripped her. I mean, I wanted to buy mine but couldn’t and she was about to pass up on yet another chance after complaining to me that she couldn’t find it previously? Not gonna happen! I ended up not buying much, only a couple things from the English Shop. It sells British foods, books and magazine and I was ecstatic to find they sell the Oat So Simple instant porridge pots. I could bathe in those! So I picked a few up, as well as a can of Diet Cherry Coke. Dear Coca-Cola, it’s totally time to start selling this here. A bit of a poor loot for a whole day in Cologne but probably for the best, so close to Christmas and another trip to London.

By the time we got back home, it was after five and I think it’s safe to say that it’s a miracle that I’m still up. The early rise, the excitement of the exhibition, the walk through town…I’m exhausted! But happy. It was a good day.

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, I can only recommend visiting the exhibition. It seems pricey but it’s so worth it and I guarantee it will leave you with a smile on your face! What follows may seem like a lot of pictures but they’re only just a tiny part of all there is to see and it’s so much more impressive when you’re there in person. My phone camera couldn’t possibly capture the magic! Click here if you want to learn more about it and buy tickets for the exhibition.

Categories: Wanderlust | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Blue Heaven

It’s a Tuesday night. I woke up early, when it was still dark outside, to go to work. Despite leaving work early, I’m so tired I can barely think straight. The plan was to get home, shower, then get ready and hurry back out. As usual, reality strayed from the plan. I made it as far as the shower, then crashed on the couch for a nap. Followed by…a nap. Dreaming of getting married on a beach because The Wedding Island or what it’s called was running in the background. That’s gotta count for something. Then I had to hurry and it was one of those ‘slap on foundation and lipstick simultaneously while blow drying my hair using all four limbs at once in the course of twenty minutes and hurry the fuck out the door’ affairs. I think I get bonus points for managing to order a last minute Christmas gift for my mom, though.

I gotta say, though, I have some kind of built in good luck when going to concerts alone because I usually find a parking space within five minutes, not even requiring a full drive around the block. Now I’m here at everyone’s favorite venue in Cologne (not!), the Luxor, waiting impatiently for Taking Back Sunday to take the stage, or even just the support act. I’ve already had a rather cute young girl approach me with a flyer of one of the support acts, urging me on to visit their website and download a free song. My inner music snob took a look at the emo-goth-rock-pop-esque band picture and wanted to crumple it. But the girl was so adorable that I think I may just do it for her sake, even if she’ll never know. I’ve had too many people snubbing me and my favorite bands in my life. So I’m sitting here (Yes, sitting! Right behind the sound engineer dude wizard!), doing my usual crowd watching and I can’t help but feel that man, TBS has grown up, and so have their fans. There are the usual scene kids around, sure, but they’re a minority and probably here because they try to score as many gigs as they can in one year, not because they truly care about this particular band. I’ve noticed, with shock, that TBS have been around for so long now that they’re a classic, a staple in everyone’s emo-screamo-post hardcore-punk-pop-rock playlist. It’s been eleven years since I went to their first show, a day before getting my first tattoo. It was the same city, but another venue. Front row, getting covered in Adam Lazzara’s spit while trying to pretend I knew more than one line of one song. Time flies.

The first support act takes the stage, Blitzkid, from Manchester, as the singer likes to point out, even though his accent may have given it away already. I’m instantly smitten by their music, not so much the singer’s voice. For the first couple songs, I feel like it hurts my ears and even though I’ve never heard anything by this band before, I’m pretty sure his singing is off. Then, I’m not sure what happens, his voice gets smoother, fits the music more, and it becomes a really nice experiences. I reach for my phone and quickly make notes so I’ll remember to check them out later, maybe even buy an album if they’re as good on a record. They’re music sounds smooth, some obvious emo influences, a lot of melancholy mixed with inspirational ‘Let’s Get Going’ lyrics. I can see this band filling bigger venues at some point. Nice.

Now, support acts are a delicate affair. First of all, they’re support acts. They’re the only thing between you and the band that you came to see. If you’re lucky, it’s someone you know and like, or at the very least their name was announced before the show and you could check them out. (I always say I’ll do that but then I forget anyway.) For the most part, theirs is an ungrateful job because at best, the crowd will only be 50:50 in their favor. And you just never know what’s in store for you. I try to be fair, give them a chance, go along with things even if I’m not 100% impressed, unless they really, really suck (in my opinion). But even I have my limits.

So when the second support act, Marmozets, takes the stage, I am considerably less patient. It is almost nine, I am tired, I have gone through my first bottle of water, I am more than ready for Taking Back Sunday. But nope. What follows is…a new kind of torture. I don’t even know how to describe their music, I guess that alone would be fine. They even have some good riffs and their drummer is awesome. But the singer, my god, the singer! When she talks, or actually sings, you can tell her voice isn’t so bad, even quite pleasant. But she chooses to use it to screech and scream instead, reaching notes that would make bats curl up on the floor and cry. Around me, I can see that a lot of people are equally shocked so thankfully, it isn’t just me being ignorant. In the front, I see people dancing and pumping their fists, so I suppose they do have a fanbase. Good for them. I won’t be joining that crowd anytime soon, though.

9:30 comes and goes. 9:45 comes and goes, too. Then, just before 10, Taking Back Sunday finally take the stage. It is quite unceremonious, or at least it feels that way after the Marmozets have used a dramatic intro. The first thing I notice all over again is how genuine and adorable the band looks on stage. More like a bunch of laid back guys deciding to make music together. It takes about one third of a song and you’re hopelessly smitten by these guys. What’s It Feel Like to Be a Ghost? has never been one of my favorite songs but it definitely makes for a good show opener. Personally, I’ve always wanted to hear them open a show with Carpathia because the intro to that song is just killer but it may never happen because it already seems to be one of those forgotten songs that no one ever remembers when asked about that particular band.

The setlist tonight isn’t the best I’ve ever seen them play but it holds some of my personal highlights, the biggest being My Blue Heaven which is very, very far up on my list of personal favorites (and ‘sing along to in the car’ songs, too, but that is another story, one that doesn’t beg to ever be shared with the general public, or anyone who isn’t me or my car). The choice of songs is also admirably diverse, containing some from the new album, of course, some more recent singles, but also a bunch of old classics.

If I ever forget why I love this band, I’ll just have to think of tonight. Because, as Adam explains later on, they were supposed to leave the stage at some point and sit backstage for a few minutes, playing the good old ‘encore’ game with the crowd. Instead, though, they squeeze in a few crowd requests, so we get additional songs instead of a couple minutes of dead time. Apparently they’re capable of playing pretty much their entire repertoire of songs by request – to a musical idiot like me, that’s admirable! Whoever asked them to play One-Eighty By Summer is a genius, too. Request well spent, my dear! Another little highlight comes when Adam points out a girl in the crowd, apologizes profusely for ’embarrassing her’, and tells the crowd that he recognized her from Twitter and how very much he and the rest of the band appreciate her dedication as a fan. These guys are so humble, it’s adorable! Imagine having thousands of people across the globe liking what you do and messaging and tagging you on social media websites every single day. Damn, I get overwhelmed when more than two people message me at once, and these people are usually my friends! And they remember a person who isn’t technically a part of their daily life and even manage to make her feel appreciated. Or at least I hope that’s how she feels.

The show ends with their biggest hit so far, MakeDamnSure. It shouldn’t be a surprise but it is because they’ve blown that one out early on the last time I saw them. I don’t care, either way, it is a damn good song and a great highlight to finish the show with. But it’s also awesome when a band shows they’re so in love with all of their work that they don’t need to have predictable highlights on their setlist. By now, I am so head over heels with Taking Back Sunday again, they could have ended the show with my least favorite song (which I can’t even think of right now), and I’d still be walking out of there with a stupid grin on my face.

I swear, every single time I’ve seen this band, I promised myself I’d stick around and finally ask for a picture with at the very least Adam, preferably every single member of the band. And every single time something happens that prevents me from it, not even myself chickening out but really some sign of the universe being against me meeting this band. This time, it was a combination of my parking time having run out and the fact that in theory, leaving your coat in the car to save space is a good idea. The practice, though, is that you emerge from a venue, slightly sweaty, and are met with a freezing cold breeze, then hightail it back to your car, all the while hoping you won’t lose a limb or two to the cold. So yeah, no picture this time, either. Boo. No pictures from the show, either. I tried to test the waters while Blitzkid played and got a blurry result that may or may not be a band on a stage. Serves me right for always, always, always, even against better judgement, relying on my phone all over again.

So this makes it the second time I’ve seen Taking Back Sunday in 2014 and while this year was pretty shitty in general, I can’t help but feel quite blessed because of this. I hope they’ll show us some love next year, too.

(I wrote the beginning of this entry on Tuesday, on my phone, inside the venue, hence the present tense. And I kind of liked it, so I stuck to that. PS: The WordPress app is pretty decent when only writing text!)

Categories: Music is my boyfriend | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Had Time to Waste and I’m Not Sorry

Alkaline Trio & Bayside, Cologne

Alkaline Trio & Bayside, Cologne

I went to see Alkaline Trio last night. I’ve liked them for a while but they’ve always been one of those bands that I enjoy listening to but would not call myself a fan of. But when I heard they were playing here only last week, and that the tickets were indeed only 20 Euros, I spontaneously decided to go. This was crazy in so far that I decided to go on my own. I don’t know why I don’t do this more often. Yes, things are often more fun with nice company. But quite often, going alone beats the available company in my case. Going with someone is only fun if the other person is able to enjoy it, too. At least I’m not comfortable with feeling like I’m dragging someone along. So in most cases, I just end up not going at all. I don’t even know why.

I was so comfortable last night. The breaks were a bit dull, yeah, but I can always do stuff on my phone and simply go back to the good old people watching.

The venue, BĂźrgerhaus Stollwerck in Cologne, is one of my favorite locations in the world. It’s a community center that’s used for a number of shows, gatherings and other events, so it doesn’t look very ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ but the sound is great, the air never gets too stuffy, it has too large balconies that have a great view if you don’t want to go down into the pit and it’s easy to go their by car or public transport. That’s more than can be said about most venues in Cologne. And can we just take a moment to hate the fact that I actually have to go to Cologne for most things?

The awesome part of this show was that they were bringing Bayside along for this one. The downside was that they still had another support act, Apologies, I Have None from the UK. Musically, they were awesome but I didn’t like the singer’s voice at all, which is, of course, subject to personal taste and has nothing to do with talent. Still, I could have done without another support act.

Bayside were great, although I’m afraid to say that either the majority of the crowd didn’t agree or they simply didn’t like to show if they enjoyed it. I’m not much of a dancer myself but then I don’t go stand in the front rows. Sadly, just a small pit in front of the stage did rock out to the band, although they did their best to get the crowd going.

But then again, even when Alkaline Trio finally took the stage, that small island within the crowd was the only place where people really went along for the first few songs. After a while, though, people slowly started losening up and the mood got better and better. If I had one thing to complain about, though, it’s that I’m tired of American bands mentioning German beer. Yes, we brew some mean stuff, get over it!

The band themselves seemed a little moody but I don’t know if perhaps they’re just not to sweet bunch of guys. They seemed pretty…tough?! But that wasn’t what I’d come to there for. I wanted to hear some of the songs I’ve been listening to and loved for years and that’s what I got. Musically, they’re surely one of the best bands I ever got to hear live. Impressive!

It left me hungry for more, though. I’m thinking about going to see Kristopher Roe from The Ataris supporting MxPx next week but I don’t know. He’ll play an acoustic set and there’ll be a second support act again, too. I don’t know if I’m up for that. Right now I’d say yes but eeeehhh, decisions!

Categories: Music is my boyfriend | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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