Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Museum Circuit in Cologne, Germany

I feel really fortunate to live in a city where there's over 2,000 years of history. 

Yep. You read that right. Two THOUSAND years. Cologne was founded in 58 BC. BC. How many cities can say that? Apparently a lot more than I thought, because I just Wikipedia'ed it. Whoops. Anyway...

Cologne has about twenty museums. Seriously, twenty. There's one for everything. There's a wine museum AND chocolate museum.

I knew I had to make time pass as fast as possible until Ryan arrived. As much as I want to experience everything together, I knew that sightseeing at museums was going to be a hard sell. Especially at the art museums. Cologne offers a museum card where you pay 18€ and in return you have access to all the public museums over two consecutive days. You even get free bus and metro access on the first day. So I walked Saturday and Sunday into the city center and went museum hopping. I saw seven museums. It was pretty much go, go, go from morning until night.

I definitely had favorites and was pleasantly surprised by some. There's still a couple ones I want to visit but I know Ryan's going to want to go to those. So until next's what I thought of the museums.

Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum

This museum is also know as the Culture Museum in Cologne. It walks through how various cultures go through life. From greetings to traveling; from how they live and what they believe in to how they celebrate death and their interactions with other cultures. The museum has full scale items like the rice barn up there. It also has installations of different front doors and examples of dwellings.

I have to say that this museum was my least favorite of all the ones I visited. I had really high hopes too. Maybe that's what did it in? I don't think I necessarily "got" the museum. The layout was weird and half of the displays were hard to see because of terrible lighting. I'm glad I went to it, but I wouldn't drag Ryan out to it.

Museum Schnütgen

This museum is RIGHT next door to the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum. They literally share a massive foyer. Set in the Romanesque Church of St. Cecilia, this museum features religious themed stained glass, ivory carvings, stone sculptures, and elaborate wood carvings from medieval times. The church was completely emptied of pews, alters, et cetera, then filled with items entrusted to the church treasury and really old items. They seem nostalgic, almost. There's an ancient hymnal that about ten inches thick.

Of these two museums, this was definitely better. I still thought it was lacking a bit, though. The church was very impressive and they did have a couple of neat pieces like an incredibly intricate wooden carving and that hymnal. I loved how naturally they integrated the museum into the architecture. Still, I'm not sure I would go back. If you have extra time in Cologne though, it's not bad to walk through.

Kölnisches Stadtmuseum (Cologne City Museum)

Most of the city of Cologne was completely destroyed in World War II. Not joke, like 80% of it. This museum, set in an old armory, houses artifacts or recreations from Roman times to today. It includes original armor from different time periods, a visualization of the geological history of the city, a reproduction portrait of Napoleon, timeless pieces of furniture, musical instruments from all ages, and a cart from the end of the war which carried away the rubble and debris leftover.

I liked all the history the museum had. And it was pretty cool that there were English audio guides available free of charge. I also found that they had the most reasonable post card prices (0.10€!). And now you know that I don't go for traditional souvenirs. I buy post cards and send them home. That way I have stamps and drawings or pictures of what I've seen.  Sometimes my photos just don't do some things justice. It's a struggle.... I would definitely suggest this museum if you're interested in the complete history of Cologne. Because this one definitely covers it. And some of that stuff on the audio guide is pretty neat.

Fragrance Museum

This private museum isn't include with the Cologne Museum Card  but for 5€ you get to see a man dressed in clothing from the 1700s, smell perfume building blocks, and get a free sample of the original Eau de Cologne. If nothing else, it's entertaining. And you can just tell that there's underlying rivalries between Farina House (the ORIGINAL cologne) and 4711, which apparently even locals think is the original cologne.

The fragrance is actually really lovely. It's made with nodes of jasmine, grapefruit, and bergamot. And can we just stop and talk about how difficult it is to get the smell of jasmine? You can only harvest it before the sun rises (since the smell goes into the stem when it does) and you can only pick the petals. Then you have to press it in fat to get the oils. Ridiculous! On a completely unrelated note, I'm going to start growing jasmine when I get home. Yes, it will be February. No, I don't care.

This tour is definitely a good one. And the women in the store are really helpful. Their up-selling skills are. On. Point. Let's just leave it at that.

Romano-Germanic Museum

The museum is located right by the Cologne Cathedral and on the original site where it's famous Dionysos mosaic was discovered. When I went there was a small exhibition on the aqueducts and medicine in Cologne. From what I saw, you DID NOT want to have to resort to surgery. Those tools were downright terrifying. The museum also had a lot of statues, grave stones, stone columns, and more mosaics.

It was really cool to see some of the mosaics. I mean, they're these massive installations from the tiniest pieces of stones, glass, and tile. To have the patience to lay one of these you'd have to be a saint. They must have taken YEARS to lay. And they lasted thousands of years! I think that may be the craziest part of it all. Here we are two thousand years later enjoying the same piece of artwork. Presidents have literally dined on this.

I would definitely recommend visiting.

Museum Ludwig

The Ludwig Museum is right next door to the Romano-Germanic Museum and is known for the modern art it holds. With names like Warhol, Pollack, and enough Picassos on the wall that they loan them out, it begs you to stop and check it out. I wasn't originally going to walk through it, but it was RIGHT next door and I had extra time. I am really glad I did.

I have to say I've NEVER been a fan of modern art. I just don't get it. It doesn't seem to take any particular skill and I often wonder whether a child or a chimp made a particular piece. There were definitely some like that (I really don't get Pollack) but then there was a exhibition of Bernard Schultz who created these massive paintings that had so much texture and depth (are those art terms?). He's the artist who created the painting above.

Of course there were the weird ones (like really, just eleven panes of glass in a series?) but to see and experience some of these great artists you only ever hear about or see in books was a really, really great experience.

Wallraf-Richartz Museum and Foundation Corboud

By far, my favorite museum was the Wallraf-Richartz Museum. It was everything I look for in an art museum. Three floors of work from three different periods (Impressionist, Renaissance, and Gothic). My favorite? The third floor - Impressionist. Although, the Renaissance and Baroque periods gave it a run for its money. I may be a convert to the brilliant still life scenes and haunting portraits. 

The museum had a beautiful exhibition of work inspired by the Seine River in France, including the painting above by Albert-Charles LeBourg. That combined with such powerful names as Manet, Rodin, Renoir, and van Gogh make this museum a must see. The current exhibition ends at the end of September and I'm already trying to come up with a reason Ryan should take me again.

Walking through all these museums, I realized there's no right or wrong amount of time you spend in them. Of course, you might feel guilty walking straight through some exhibits. But if it doesn't float your boat, don't waste your time. The only thing you validate when you wait around is your stupidity. There is so much to see and life is short! Don't waste it on the mediocre. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Life without Connections

I lost the internet for two days and nearly lost my mind.

You know those stages of grief? Ohhh man. If you could've only seen me on Tuesday night. I had no access to the internet, which meant really no open form of communication with Ryan. AND absolutely no way to distract myself from the unholy hell I was living.

It was the worst possible thing I could imagine. And I swear, I'm not being overly dramatic. Well, maybe just a little. But really, NO.

In the next six months, I'll have spent almost 30% of my time being apart from Ryan. That's 56 days without my husband. Fifty. Six. Days. Ugh. And that's just the physical separation. Having more days not being able to talk is just unacceptable. Who thought moving to Germany was a good idea?

Clearly, I need my head examined.

Once Ryan is here, in nine seemingly endless days, I'm going to drag his ass to every large European city and then more. I want this wanderlust beaten out of me. I want to be so tired of traveling that, by the time I get home in six months, I just want to curl up at home and not come out for a month. 

After that, maybe I'll want to stick to my own country for a while. I freaking hope so.

I have one and a half more weekends on my own before Ryan arrives next Sunday at the ass crack of dawn. I am so, so excited to have him here with me. I was just telling him today how much I missed him and how I can't wait to see him again. He IS my other half. My days are just so much better with him. I can't wait!

This weekend I'm keeping busy by going to a few museums around Cologne. I explored most of the city and its landmarks the past few weekends, but I haven't visited any thing like museums. There are some I'm saving for when Ryan gets here (an intelligent person put a Chocolate Museum and a Wine Museum in the same city).  And then I'm hitting up the more artsy ones tomorrow. Mainly, to save Ryan from being bored but dutifully following me around.

A run, cleaning, and the farmer's market will round it out. And probably more Netflix.

Okay, okay. DEFINITELY more Netflix.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

To wurst or not to wurst: Is that the question?

By now, two weeks into living in Germany, how much wurst should I have eaten?

Five? Ten wursts? What exactly is the right number? 

What if the actual number was one? Because that's actually how many I've had. One. On my first day here I tried curry wurst. Which, if you're not familiar with curry wurst, is basically a bratwurst COVERED in ketchup then sprinkled with curry spice. And when I say covered, I mean dredged in it. Just this bratwurst in a sea of ketchup. So, so much ketchup.

Since then? ZERO WURST.

I'm going to chalk it up to wanting tastes from home. Really anything to remind me of home. That means risotto, parmesan pasta, cinnamon toast crunch, froot loops, and peanut butter. Let me just mention that the cereal over here IS NOT the cereal from home. It's missing about ninety percent of the sugary goodness. Good for my health? Sure. What I'm looking for? Not in the slightest.

I've prepped quite a few meals for this week, none of which include wurst. I figure once those are finished I'll start indulging in Germany's delicacies.

After my pity party this past week, I decided the only way it could get better was if I became an old pro at getting around. So yesterday, I went exploring, followed my curiosity and got lost. The only goal I set was to go all the way to Chlodwigplatz, which is at the bottom of the city.

That was of course after I tortured myself and went for a run in the morning. It did feel great to go out though. It's been about four weeks since I last ran and I think it's going to be fun getting back into it. AFTER my quads decide they can work again.

The first stop, which is right by my flat, was the Cologne Sculpture Park. Free to the public, the park has over two dozen sculptures and some that are interactive. My favorite one was this tower structure you could climb up to see an overview of the park. Even though Ryan's not artsy I'm going to drag him there and make him climb it. Sucker.

By midday, I had found a sort of city fair in Heumarkt, the memorial at St. Alban, and freshly baked pizza. After that, I found the English Shop and bought more tastes of home: peanut butter and grape jelly. Which, I'm happy to report, taste exactly how I need them to.

Finding my way, I made it to the city wall and then finally Chlodwigplatz. Each part of Cologne seems to be their own little city. Chlodwigplatz is absolutely no different. This neighborhood even has a massive city gate. Whatever neighborhood you find yourself in is pretty neat and magical. Especially considering that most of the city was destroyed in World War II. It's even more amazing that the really historic Roman architecture can still be seen in some places.

All in all I walked about twelve miles yesterday after my two mile run. If you ask me, that's pretty impressive. But then again, I'm no marathoner...yet.

Today? Today's for cleaning, laundry, and Netflix. Oh, and wine. Because who doesn't want to watch documentaries on English castles and estates while sipping rosé? Hmm? Seriously, PBS for the win.

And if you're ever walking the streets of Cologne and don't know where you are. This helpful building will kindly remind you, you're in Germany.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The New Normal

To say that this last month and a half has been a whirlwind would be an understatement.

The weeks have flown right on by with just non-stop action. Man, once you get to be an adult, days just pass on by. And at this point I need them to keep on hurrying since it's still seventeen more days until I can see my husband. But more on that later.

So since late June, Ryan and I switched apartments. We traded our 800 square foot one bedroom, one bathroom apartment for a 1200 square foot three bedroom, one and a half bath apartment. I'm pretty sure most of it is still in boxes on the floor. 

In July, we competed in our second triathlon ever. And I have to say it went MUCH better than the first. Instead of completing the race together we both went our own pace and finished separately. The swim was great for me and I had great speed on the bike. I struggled on the run, walking some of it. Overall, I finish dead center for women, but first in my division. Which is pretty neat. Ryan I think finished third or fourth in his age group. He took his time on the swim and then rocked it on the bike and run. We both walked away with some Ommegang glasses for our efforts.

The day after our triathlon, Ryan and I went to Maine and celebrated our fourth anniversary. It's hard to believe it's been that long since it feels like just yesterday we went on our honeymoon. I have to say that Portland, Maine is one of our favorite places to go. It's the perfect speed for both of us and we're already thinking about our next trip there.

Two short weeks after we came home, I packed four bags, went to the airport, and moved to Germany. Without my husband. I'm not sure in what world I thought it was a great idea. But two weeks ago it happened. And I'm here. With a cold. Thank you germy people on the airplane.

My days are pretty much like clockwork. I wake up before my alarm. Get ready. Drive eighteen minutes to work then walk twenty minutes to my building. I woke until five or six in the evening. Walk to my car and then drive home. I'll walk 500 meters to the local store and buy stuff for dinner. Come home, cook, eat, wash dishes. I finish the day talking with Ryan and getting a bath. Sleep, then repeat.

I've only been here two weekends, one with jet lag and 12 mile blisters, and another with absolutely no sense of direction or motivation to leave the apartment. My exploring has been to the local botanical garden and to find the restaurant where I was having dinner with a friend. Very glamorous, let me tell you.

I think I underestimated how out of place I would feel. On days when I'm brave enough to ask someone if they speak English, 90% of the time they tell me, "Nein." The other days, I hold up fingers and point, almost wishing I was actually mute.

My routine for the next few days is going to be a little off. Because not only will I not be talking to anyone here, I will also not be talking to my husband. He's currently driving to a math conference in Indiana. Which was exactly why he didn't join me right away.

So for the next six days, I'll be having a Netflix binge. Maybe a little exploring, depending on how needy I get for human contact. But here's hoping I can get my quota from these documentaries I found. 

The only thing that would make my weekend complete would be ordering pizza and not moving from the couch. Too bad that won't happen.

Has it been seventeen days yet?