Captain's Log: Cologne (Koln)

Amazing breakfast in Eisenach!!! There was the standard German fare--yogurt, fresh fruit, an array of fresh baked rolls and bread, cereal, hard (or not so) boiled eggs, cheese and thin sliced meats, but then like an unexpected epiphany they appeared in all of their golden fluffy glory--SCRAMBLED EGGS, with bacon, and link sausage!!! Where am I Grandma’s kitchen? What was heaven to us became Dante’s inferno to the cook. Every time the wait staff opened the silver lid covering the eggs, I heard the German words, “Mein Gottes willen!!!” Roughly translated “What in heaven’s name happened to all the eggs? How many blasted times are we going to have to fill-up  this deep dish serving tray?” The hens went into overtime, the cook pulled a muscle in his scrambling arm, and the wait staff could not believe their eyes. Then came the two bottomless pits--David and David--the chickens haven’t seen anything yet. Fortunately, when we checked out and paid our bill, there was not a poultry surcharge. 


Time to get on the Wonder Bus before the president of the chicken union comes a knock’n. Off we go, leaving the ruffled feathers behind. The Wonder Bus does great...for 5 blocks. We know the drill: open the door, run to the traffic side of the bus, open the hatch, pray, flip the switch a time or two, pray, dodge traffic, run back to the bus, just like it’s all normal, and off we go again. Once we’re on the road and the wheels are rolling, it’s just like with my granddaughter Rylee--instant drowsiness. Well, here they go--the students are sound asleep within a mere minute or two. Marcel and I talk and laugh. Viki reads a Charles Dickens book in Romanian.  It’s good to be alive. 


Four hours later, we see in the distance the striking, sky-scraping twin bell towers of the Cologne Cathedral that keep watch over the Rhine and the vibrant city both by day and by night. What a majestic sight! I can hardly wait to walk her streets. 


First stop the Das Kleine Stapelhauschen--one of my favorite hotels in Germany. I’ve know the owners for 19 years now. We share smiles and memories, while the students find their rooms--no easy task without a map, compass, GPS device, mountain climbing gear, and a backpack full of patience and a sense of adventure--but it is all worth it. As John said, “The room straddling the roof was my favorite room of the entire trip.” This historic hotel is a special place--full of history, friendly people, worn smooth creaky wooden steps, labyrinth-like hallways, mysterious dead ends prompting resignation punctuated by incredulous laughter, beautiful views, and all this rich in character. My kind of place. 


After we all eventually find our rooms and then find our way again back out to the fountain outside, we move about 50 meters over to the grass along the Rhine for a Bible study. We are now in Mark chapter 4. During the Bible study, we continue to have Jesus confront our worldview with a kingdom of God perspective--it’s an eye opening and heart shaping experience. At the end of study, we try something new. We all pray together the Lord’s Prayer while keeping our eyes open the the world and people around us. We usually close our eyes and shut them out. It seemed to us that our prayers should lead us out not just inward. I think Jesus might like that kind of incarnational creativity. I know I did.


Next stop the Cologne Dom (Cathedral). It took 632 years to build this extraordinary Gothic miracle. It supposedly houses the bones of the three magi--if you believe this, I have some land in Florida I want to talk to you about. Erin, Stephanie H, Scott, Erica, Mark, Riley, David and David decide to climb the steps of the cathedral tower--no mean feat--531 steps, 11-stories, 157.31 meters, 515 feet--add it all up and it equals=WOW! Next stop, shopping--where can we find some Icy-Hot or it’s German equivalent?


Time to split up and follow the respective paths of our own inclinations--some to history museums, some to art museums, some eating, some drinking at Starbucks, some shopping, some others doing more shopping, some strolling along the Rhine, some sleeping, some people watching--what a cosmopolitan confluence of culture and creativity. 


Later in the early evening, we go to celebrate John’s belated birthday outside under the umbrellas on the Rhine at our favorite slavic restaurant--appropriately called “Slavia.” It is a carnivore heaven--pork steaks, beef patties, an assortment of mystery meats (don’t ask, don’t tell), and the always popular with youth--liberal helpings of LIVER. That went over big, as you might imagine. Riley attends, but at a safe distance. The platters arrive filled with meat, potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas, onions, tomatoes, peppers, cheese, and rice--all rendered all the more dramatic by a meat skewered flambé--drenched in liquor and set ablaze. We eat and laugh, drink and laugh, play hide the liver and laugh, sing happy birthday to John as people passing by join our singing and laugh--it’s great to have John smiling and feeling better. Steph and John hug and my nights complete. I have a Kolsch and retire to my 6 foot wide, 7 foot long, 20  foot high room. Who cares about the geometrics of my room? I’m in Cologne and I’m happy. Judging by the laughter in the hallways, so are the students--the word “students” sounds too sterile and academic...I should say “special friends”...and that they are!


Gute Nacht...thank you Lord...bis morgen....

The amazing gothic Cologne Cathedral. A view from the inside.

Das Kleines Stapelhauschen--our hotel. Isn't it awesome! Look at the hoist hooks at the top used for reeling in good being off-loaded from the river boats. John, Scott and Mark had the room at the top. Notice the amazing Romanesque church over our shoulder on the right side. Keep in mind, the Rhine is in front of us and the Cologne Cathedral towers over us from behind. Absolutely incredible!

Celebrating John's birthday at the Slavia Restaurant. Look at John smile. He's feeling better. See Marcel at the end of the back table with Viki's head on his shoulder. What a night!

A group photo op after our dinner. This is flat out the most joyful group I have ever traveled with bar none. You gotta love um. I do.

Getting some ice cream after dinner over by the Cathedral. Uh...oh, Smith apparently just burped up a little liver. Erica winces. Formolo brushes his teeth. Quite a crew. Like I said, "Never a dull moment."