Köln (Cologne — Whatever) Germany

They say the perfume biz started here; can that be right? Anyway, Köln is a fine place to visit.

–Cologne, which is Köln (or Koeln without the umlaut),

seems to be wide open.

According to Wiki: The first city in Germany to introduce an explicit prostitution tax was Cologne. The tax was initiated in 2004 by the city council led by a coalition of the conservative CDU and the leftist Greens. This tax applies to striptease, peep shows, porn cinemas, sex fairs, massage parlors, and prostitution. In the case of prostitution, the tax amounts to 150 euros per month per working prostitute, to be paid by brothel owners or by privately working prostitutes.

Evidence: First item under “Entertainment Tips” in an official City Guide, provided free in our hotel room, is “Ananda — the Art of Touch.” This and subsequent ads make it clear what’s up

(accidental pun) and uses the word “climax” in connection with “the

experienced hands of the tantra masseuse…” What really amuses me is that the

business is located in the part of town called WIENER PLATZ!!! Not kidding!!!

Coincidence? Cute blonde waitress at the museum was wearing a wrist brace. I

asked her if her injury was caused by serving too many dishes. She explained: “No, I got that

at my former job. I was a masseuse. . .” Kinda makes you wonder. . .

–Food… While I prefer the cuisine of France and Italy, Germany does offer great national food,

interesting, carefully cooked and nutritious. In my opinion. They seem to do

everything else carefully and correctly; why not cooking? There’s a trend away from ol’ Willie Brandt’s famous fat stuff and toward Asian food, but you can still enjoy a perfect grilled steak:

Rumpsteak mit Kräuterbutter (big chunk of seasoned butter, melting on top).

–Köln has a world-class modern art museum, adjacent to its

world-class cathedral and a short block from its world-class German-Roman museum. The church is a monster, either spared during WW II or restored.

The city looks fire-scorched in places. We heard that about 70 percent of Koln was ruined,

but for some reason, churches in many cities other than Dresden were spared.

Couldn’t have been on purpose, because the old Army Air Force was notoriously

inaccurate. (Read “The Story of World War II”; they had trouble hitting the right

towns, let alone the right buildings). (Lt. Al: NOT referring to you fighter pilots; referring to our B-17

fleets, which were almost suicidal, as you know — again according to first-hand accounts from

the above book.)

The German-Roman museum is logically laid out (of course), with remarkable and organized exhibits from antiquity and Roman rule.

–The Germans are really, really good at restoring things. Maybe because they’ve

had a lot of practice. I told a friend in Freiburg one time that it was

wonderful that Freiburg had been spared, like Heidelberg. He laughed, showed me

a book of Freiburg photos from the late 1940s, displaying nothing but rubble and one great big church (the church was missed, somehow, by the bombing). They replaced everything,

cobblestone by cobblestone. Beautiful in the old town.

– The Rhine looks like any other big “alter mann fluss,” (Old Man River) but

in Köln there are fine middle-aged buildings along the river, in the old town. I forget which side; follow the directions to the Hotel Ibis and take a riverside walk.

Our trek to find the hotel was amusing, for a change, instead of punishing. Hotel Ibis’s directions were excellent. (If you came in late, the Ibis chain has spread over much of Europe and is maybe the last of the good deals, dollar-wise. Rooms were usually about 60 euros. Nice places.) Laughing sardonically, I read the sign aloud: “It says go to the nearest underground stop and look for Line 2. Ha ha ha, yeah, right. . .” We approached the underground path and a sign over the door pointed down the ramp and read “Line 2.” OK. Then down at the tracks we saw a big sign, LINE 2. This was fun!

Walked to the train and a sign on the wall alongside it had a big arrow pointed forward, saying IBIS HOTEL. Good news! Then a pleasant Deutsche frau helped us work the ticket machine and warned us not to get on without a ticket. OK. Onward.

We got on and rode, gently rocking for a rather long way to the appropriate street stop, I forget the name. Got off the train and a sign on a lamppost greeted us: IBIS HOTEL. More laughter. The only glitch of this search was that the arrow pointed straight UP. Huh? Must mean “right here,” we figured. We walked once around the block without seeing the green and orange Ibis sign, and we asked directions. A friendly local pointed to “the gray building down there. . . See?”

We saw and were very happy wanderers.