It turns out that there is more to this love thing in Germany than merely taking some pieces of silver birch and tying them to your lovers house. A little bit further down the line, once the tree thing is out of the way, it may be that you end up getting married. (I know, we’re skipping some key bits here).
Once you are married, the obvious thing to do to confirm your undying devotion to one another is to buy a padlock, optionally inscribe it with some lovely message and your names, attach it to the Hohenzollern Bridge which crosses the Rhine, and throw the key into the aforementioned river. Thus is your love forever sealed.
Interestingly the operator of the bridge threatened to cut all the padlocks off (there are a lot of them), but backed down when the locals got upset. Love prevailed.
I learnt about the locks on a trip into Cologne yesterday, which was when I made the connection, after seeing a lot of places selling perfume, that this was in fact where the Eau of the name comes from. Sometimes I’m not overly bright. We also visited the most visited building in Germany, the Kölner Dom, or Cologne Cathedral for those of you whose German is progressing at the same rate as mine.
I had thought that buildings like Durham Cathedral, which took something like fifty years to build, were tardy in their construction. Or the new Wembley Stadium. Or whatever we’re building for the London Olympics. Well, all of these construction efforts pale gently into insignificance when you learn that Cologne’s Cathedral took 632 years to build. Some exciting statistics accompany the cathedral. It has one of the highest gothic vaults in the world, the next highest one, that of the Beauvais Cathedral, fell down. It has eleven bells, the largest of which weighs in at 24 tons, and is the largest free swinging bell in the world. A previous bell had been cast weighing in at 27 tons, but it wasn’t in tune. It even managed to avoid being flattened during the war, largely because the allies found it to be terribly helpful as a way to spot Cologne, which didn’t fare quite as well. Still, generally impressive stuff.
As with any building of this nature, the main question to be asked is if one can climb to the top of it. The answer is yes, pretty much all the way to the top, to a viewing platform located 98 metres up one of the two spires, (which are 157 metres high) via 509 steps. The view from the top was excellent, a 360 degree view of the city, plus you could see past Bonn to the South, as far in fact as the Seven Mountains, which I intend to climb at some point in the not too far off future. Rumour has it that there are dragons there.
We spent the rest of the afternoon / evening wandering around Cologne in the wonderful summery weather we seem to be having, before meeting up with Vera’s sister and working our way through a crate of beer, some pizza, and a copy of Moulin Rouge. Yes, I attempted to sing most of Ewan McGregors lines. No, I wasn’t as good as him. Darn him and his generally overall amazing life. Anyway, a most cultural day. More to come, I imagine.