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. 

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