Whilst we had a very enjoyable afternoon and evening on our previous day in Cologne, we decided that it was a good idea to go on a guided walk with a local to answer some of the many questions we had about the city that we couldn’t figure out for ourselves. We weren’t meeting our guide until 10am so we decided that we would go and have a look inside the Rathaus as it was not far down the street from our hotel. While the signs at the Rathaus encouraged such visits, there appeared to be a lot of nervous guards watching our progress around an old section of the building
We met our guide at Starbucks next to the railway station. In his introduction he introduced himself as an Icelander who had spent many years in Cologne as a translator of German books into the language of Iceland. He seemed a very interesting chap and he certainly new his Cologne history. We walked over to the cathedral and had a chat about the Dom before he took us further on to the first major remnant of Roman Cologne. It was the remains of the Roman North Gate, built when the colony was founded in 50 CE. It can be found today still on the paved platform around the Dom. The locals refer to the original Roman colony as CCAA. This stands for Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium. The Cologne Cathedral was built over a section of the Roman colony. In the car-park underneath the Cathedral can be seen the exposed foundations and the lower part of the Roman city wall.
From the ‘North Gate’ we continued straight on down Komodienstr. which was basically the path of the Roman walls of CCAA. Our next sighting of places Roman was a very large fountain surrounded by walls that appeared to be Roman bricks. It was called Romarbrunnen (Roman Fountain). In the centre of it was the traditional statue of a She-Wolf that legend held suckled the first Romans, Romulus and Remus. The walls held reliefs that depicted ‘Roman Life’. Unfortunately it wasn’t a Roman relic given that it was erected between 1910-15. This monument to Roman Cologne was almost completely destroyed during WWII but was reconstructed in 1955.
It wasn’t much further along that we came to a bronze map embedded in the footpath, not far from a remnant of the Roman Wall. This map made it clear that the original Roman colony has basically been built over by the changing faces of Cologne over the centuries. The bronze map also shows that the area of today’s Cologne that sits along the banks of the Rhine River (eg. Heumarkt) were not part of CCAA. The map below shows that during the time of Roman Cologne, there was an island in the river here that has subsequently been merged with the city without a canal separating the pieces of land.
The other interesting aspect of the map to the right is that it shows where the longest aqueduct in the Roman Empire entered the city, through the walls of the town at the top of the map.
The image below left shows a section of the old Roman Wall just along from where the bronze map of CCAA was embedded in the footpath. A little further along is a remnant of one of the wall’s towers.
After examining the remnants of the Roman Wall, we now found ourselves opposite the city’s Kunst Museum and our guide drew our attention to the flying car on its roof. The building itself was the original armory of the city but had been converted to displaying art. The winged car was called Fleugelauto and it landed by crane in April 1991. Significant folk in the city objected to this ‘trash art’ and demanded it be removed but its popularity as a tourist attraction has given it the status of being “temporarily tolerated!”
We were now on the corner over the other side of the street from the museum, standing under what looked like a bus shelter with a roof of ‘letters’. However it was a memorial to those Germans who opposed the NAZIs during the 1930s and 40s. The sign nearby reads…
“In memory of those who opposed and resisted the Nazi war of aggression and destruction. They abandoned the battle and home fronts as deserters, military seditionists, conscientious objectors and war traitors within the Wehrmacht or as civilian resisters. 30, 000 soldiers and civilians alone were sentenced to death by the Nazi military judiciary. 20, 000 of them were executed. Their courage deserves our respect. Cologne, September 1st, 2009.”
Around the corner from the memorial to those who resisted the Nazis, there is to be found the El-DE building, the NS Documentation Centre of the City of Cologne. It was founded in 1979 by the Cologne Council and has become the largest regional memorial site in Germany for the victims of the Nazis. The building itself was headquarters of the Cologne Gestapo (secret police) between 1935-45. In the last months of the war, several hundred people (eg. forced foreign labourers) were shot in the courtyard of this building. Surprisingly, the building itself did not suffer great damage during the war. We weren’t able to visit as part of our tour but a number of our party went back to have a look at this centre in the late afternoon.
We continued along the street past the El-De Building and took a left turn down a street that was taking us back in the direction of the river. We stopped outside one of the houses in the street to read two brass plaques embedded in the paving. In our visits to Germany and other countries of Central Europe, we have become familiar with these brass plates embedded in footpaths in front of houses that were the last freely-chosen houses of Jewish citizens before they were deported or murdered. They are called “Stolpersteine” or “stumbling stones” and there are now more than 70,000 such memorial blocks across Europe and Russia. The programme of “Stepping Stones” has been described as the largest decentralised monument in the world.
We returned to Neven-Dumont-StraBe and continued along to our next left turn onto Glockengasse. Our destination was the headquarters of the perfumery, 4711. Our guide told us the curious story outside this establishment of Napoleon’s decision during his occupation of Cologne to introduce a system of house numbering to Cologne. The historicity of the image above right from the wall of the 4711 office is open to question but his fondness for eau de cologne has been attested. There is one theory that his stomach cancer found during the autopsy after his death may have been caused by his excessive use of products with too many “less than essential” oils in them as they can be very deleterious to human health. The postal number of the headquarters of this Eau-de-Cologne company is in fact #4, not #4711.
Continuing directly down the road from 4711, we came to a building marked on the map as simply a ‘museum’. It is in fact the Kolumba Diocesan Museum and it was originally founded by the Society for Christian Art in 1853, making it one of the oldest museums in Cologne. It also has another name, Kirche St Kolumba : Madonna in den Trummern (Church of St Columba: the Madonna in the Ruins). The whole complex is surrounded by a grey brick façade, holding the ruins of the original church of St Columba and a 1950s chapel. It also contains 16 exhibition rooms, many of the pieces on display coming from a site near the Cologne Cathedral.
Our group of sightseers didn’t have time in our tour for a visit to the upstairs art galleries; our focus was on the chapel downstairs. This church was destroyed in 1943 bombings with some external walls and the basement of the tower of the church left standing. Amongst the ruins of the church, a Gothic statue of Mary survived remarkably unscathed; thus the name, Madonna in den Trummern.
One of the limited advantages of the destruction of much of Cologne during WWII was that it brought to the surface so many of the Roman ruins that Cologne was built over. Since that time, laws have been passed to ensure if rebuilding work is being done in the city, and traces of Roman ruins are found, the archaeologists need to be brought in for preservation purposes. The Cologne Town Hall is a classic example of this in that it has been built over the top of the original Roman Governor’s residence, the Praesidium (model below right) and so much of the surrounds of the Rathaus bear the signs of archaeological work. Our first encounter with Roman remains as we walked towards the back of the Rathaus was an entry way into the Roman Sewers (right).
The town hall is a sprawling complex made up of buildings constructed in different time periods. The most interesting structures are the 15th century Gothic Tower and the 16th century Loggia. After inspecting the Loggia, our guide was most interested in discussing the tower and the sculptures of famous local citizens that adorn the sides of the tower. One of the most famous was of course the Roman General Agrippa who stands with Augustus Caesar on one of the prominent corners.
Our guide was mostly interested in showing us the statue of Archbishbishop of Cologne and kingmaker of the early 13th century, Konrad von Hoch. The Archbishop made many enemies during his life but our guide believes that the insulting ‘grotesque’ placed underneath his statue was due to the tradition of the masons hating him because he had raised a significant tax on beer in the city.
There are 133 statues on the tower and so given that this tower was largely destroyed during WWII, the tower itself was reconstructed in 1975 but without the statues. A new sculpture programme began in 1981 to replace the statues. Five of the old figures were restored and the rest re-sculpted by 1995 but a serious error of coating the statues with an acrylic resin forced them to be removed. The process began again and by November 2008, all the statues were completed.
From the Rathaus we walked down through the Altermarkt and our guide pointed out one of the house on the edge of this piazza with three years inscribed on tits facade. These dates indicated the years when the house had to be rebuilt, the last one happening after World War 2 in 1954; the householder had to wait 9 or more years to get his house back after the wartime bombing.
From the Altermarkt we walked down to the Rhine River and walked along the same route towards the Hohenzollen Bridge that we had taken the previous day. Along the way our guide discussed the bridge, particularly the issue that the council allows the curious practice of new lovers announcing their care for each other by attaching a lovelock to the bridge. Between April and September 2011, 40,000 lovelocks were attached; clearly a fervent period for love affairs in Cologne. By June 2015 an estimate of 500,000 padlocks were attached. Apparently the Council’s engineers aren’t worried about the extra weight and it might cause the bridge to end up in the river again as it did in 1945…Cologne’s new motto, ‘Make Love, not War!”
Making our way back to Starbucks in the Railway Station, we had to pass again over behind two significant local buildings not far from the Cathedral. One was the Ludwig Art Museum and the other was the Philharmonic Hall. On the previous day as we were passing in this direction, there were uniformed types that were ushering us away to the right of these buildings. It seemed to be an inexplicable instruction until our guide explained that if we got to close to the Philharmonic Hall, our footsteps would echo through the roof and spoil the music for the audience below our feet. It sounds like the architect didn’t realise that tourists would be eventually walking over parts of the roof of this building.
APPENDIX 1…One last panorama of Cologne