Am Fritag, 12 Juni 2015, Köln, Witten, und Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord.

Technically this starts on Thursday night, because Maggie and I boarded a train for Köln (Cologne – I’ll use both interchangeably!) and started our weekend journey.

The first of our two trains was pretty interesting. If by interesting you mean that I’m pretty sure we had the same conductor on our last train to München, and that the door to our train and the next train refused to stay closed, and Maggie knitted while I read Paper Towns again, and that I’m pretty sure the guy in the seats across the aisle from us though we were slightly insane or something … Then yeah,… interesting is the right word.

"Guh. Europe. You're so boring, why am I even here." – @maggiebremmer #studyabroad #knitting #meowforever

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If you are worried that Maggie hates her time in Europe, fear not, it’s just become fun and games to take ‘I hate my trip’ photos. 

We made our switch from the München Hbf to the train that would bring us to Köln after about 30 minutes of waiting. This next train ride would be just over 7 hours long though, that was the bummer. While the seats were moderately comfortable [read: not a rock], there was initially a group of the loudest, most obnoxious guys, I have ever heard in my entire life. Put them on a train two seats from very-tired-Caitlyn and things get a little worrisome. Maggie was sweet enough to let me try and nod off, but almost every time that I’d get comfortable enough to fall asleep, they’d get loud again. Jerks.

Eventually, they got off our train and all was peaceful again. Wonderful. Sleep could …. well, sort of come. Instead of calling it sleep, we’ll call it flat out exhaustion. I ended up in one pair of seats behind Maggie and she stretched out in one, and I stretched out in the other, and we made the best of it. Grand total hours of sleep between both of us, maybe 3. Because, when I finally almost got to sleep-sleep, around 4 am, ANOTHER loud group of guys got on the train. Those jerks and their loudness. Ugh. That whole situation meant that we might have had something like 2.5 hours of total sleep. Between both of us…

I know I moved seats a few times on the train because after the last loud group got off the train it was relatively empty in our car. Maggie and I took over one of the 4-people tables and it made the rest of the ride pretty comfy. I know it’s probably terrible to put my feet up, but I just couldn’t be all scrunched up anymore.

Through the Hbf WindowsWe finally arrived in Köln and after getting off the train, finding and fighting with the automatic luggage holder, and then following the arrows that said ‘Dom’ I was amazed. I snapped this picture right inside the Hbf looking to the Dom. I knew it was this close, but I didn’t know it was THIS close.

I was just awestruck. I don’t have words to describe how I felt when I finally saw what I’d only seen pictures of forever.

Awe. Struck.
Absolutely.

Couple that with the fact that I was exhausted and I hit a whole new level of excitement. Follow all that up with the chance to go inside it, and up into one of the towers, I was ready to take on the day regardless of lack of sleep.

The Dom!

The Dom is huge. It’s just … yeah.

Did you know that the cathedral was hit 14 times during the bombings in Köln during World War II? The only thing that likely saved the building, according to one of the priests inside, was the fact that it was needed to help the pilots dropping the bombs for navigation purposes. Via little blurbs given during our wander-around-by-yourself tour I saw some information that stated that initial repairs from the bombings were completed in 1956, however, some parts weren’t actually completed until 2005.

These pictures don’t really do it any justice whatsoever.

Then, oh then, Maggie and I decided we were going to hoof it up the 533 stairs to the top of the Dom’s South Tower. Five Hundred and Thirty Three Steps.

I hope this is halfway. #walkallthestairs #theviewbetterbeworthit #bellsbellsbells

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“WHY?! WHY DID I DECIDE TO DO THIS?!” kept running through my brain as the spiral staircase turned ever tighter and farther up. I felt like it was never going to end, and then, just when I thought it would end, it didn’t.

We made it up to where the bells were and Maggie wondered aloud what it would sound like if we were in the tower when the bells chimed. They chimed the 15 minutes of the hour almost right after she said that.

Thankfully, it was only one CLANG of a bell. It still vibrated in my soul.

FINALLY, FINALLY WE MADE IT TO THE TOP.

Looking out at the Rhine River from way up in the Dom

From the Top of the TowerIt was worth every single terrible, horrible, very bad step. Seriously. It really was. I don’t regret it now, although you might not believe it based on the way I write about it.

SO MANY STAIRS

Seeing the whole city of Cologne stretched out underneath us, the sun up high, and seeing all the way off into the horizon… it was so beautiful. Seeing the world from far away makes you feel so very small.

After coming down from the top of the tower, I got to meet up with the most wonderful of ladies, Andrea. I’ve known Andrea for what feels like forever, and she was so sweet as to let us stay with her, and to show us around her gorgeous city.

The first place we went was along the bridge, the Hohenzollern Bridge, which is adorned with padlocks from one end to the other. Thousands upon thousands of padlocks.

Köln Love LocksOne website states this about this particular bridge,

“It is thought that the romantic custom originated in Italy. Over time, tens of thousands of couples and friends in Cologne have sworn their loyalty to one another in this way. Along with padlocks in all colours and shapes, there are also combination padlocks and bicycle chains on the bridge. Many of them have been elaborately designed; often engraved, painted, adorned, or decorated with home-made stickers.

Experts estimate that the padlocks weigh over two tonnes.

This time around we didn’t add a lock to the bridge like we did in Salzburg, but it was really great seeing, and feeling, all of the love that was put into these locks. Granted, odds must state that several of these people are no longer together, but I can dream. The romantic in me prefers that.

Here’s just some of the locks along the bridge. They’re so clumped together, locked one to another to another to another…

After taking a ‘short’ detour onto the bridge and then along the waterfront at the Rhine, I was so blessed to be with my friend Andrea. She’s a beautiful lady, and so strong, and smart, and kind…

She took us to one of her favorite places, the Roman Praetorium. Per their rules I’m not supposed to post photos of the archaeological site, and I’m not supposed to use any of theirs from the website without  So, instead, here’s the link to their website.

Andrea und ich!The artifacts in this rather small area, is quite impressive. One of the things that my history-side forgot was just how large the Roman Empire was — I shouldn’t have forgot, but I did. The other part of this museum was that of the Roman Sewer. No, seriously, it was a sewer. An old, tiny, and now mostly-clean (actually it was rather clean considering it’s older uses!), sewer. I didn’t see any rats at all! Instead, Andrea and I took a really great selfie together.

Aren’t we the cutest?!

My dear Andrea was the best of the best tour guides that Maggie and I could have had, and the fun didn’t stop there! How could it, when we were totally sleep deprived and walking through a city that we were stoked to be in?!

From there we wandered towards the shopping strip in Köln and stopped in a few different places. There was a Lush there and I spent more time than I should have playing with the pretty colors for my face. After walking around for a bit and dropping into a few stores here and there, we decided we were hungry.

Andrea had us try this Köln specific beer, Kölsch.

Trying Kölsch for the first time.

I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t the most delicious of all the beers I’ve had while in Austria and Germany.

Mittagessen in KölnWe had an excellent lunch, and once again I’m going to share beautiful food photos

I can’t help it.
The food is just pretty.

And delicious. 

This was … interesting.

Leberkäse is something I don’t have a good way to describe, it kind of reminds me of the consistency of Spam, but it has a flavor all it’s own.

I only had it the one time, and this plate of food was more than enough to feed me for the rest of the day.

I felt so full that I could just pass out, seriously!

… but I knew better than to do that.
We had more things on the schedule for the daylight hours in Köln!

Next up in the list of things to do was to find the Köln Zoo, the irony was that it was getting so hot, and there weren’t enough clouds to give a break from the heat. But, if you know anything about me, you know I love zoos, in this weird little way, because I also kind of hate them. I dislike seeing the animals trapped up, but, it’s also one of the only ways I’m probably ever going to get to see these animals.

Lion Fishes are my Favorite FishesThe cool thing about the zoo in Köln is it is also coupled with a really nifty aquarium, and reptile house! I liked the aquarium and it was probably because they had one of my favorite fishes — a lion fish!

So graceful and beautiful… and deadly.

[Dun, dun, duuunnnn]

The galaxy was in this gorgeous snakes eyesAfter spending about an hour in the aquarium, and finding the upstairs butterfly enclosure we wandered into the actual zoo. I was a little sad when I saw some of these beautiful butterflies outside where they belonged because someone left the door to their enclosure open. I hope that all the lovely little Schmetterlinge are okay now. 

This snake had my mind blown. I stared at him (or her) for several minutes and was trying to figure out if it had recently shed, or if its eyes were just the crazy on purpose. I couldn’t tell and I still don’t know.
(the more I look at it now the more I think they’re just eyecaps from a recent shed)

All the little creepy-crawlies and slithery animals we saw there had nothing on what the rest of the zoo held.

I’m just going to picture vomit the rest of the time Andrea, Maggie and I spent in the Zoo.
It’s easier that way, trust me.

This little chameleon and I attempted to have a staring contest, it didn’t go so well. He lost, but I was awfully distracted too. So many shiny things.

The chameleon and I had a staring contest - I won. He moved his eyes too much.

These gorgeous birds were extremely talkative and playful, but it took me sneaking behind a semi cut-down bush and cooing at them to get them to keep playing while I snapped a few photos of them.
They were so cute.
Cawcaw Macaw!

20150612_150144-ANIMATION

This monkey was eating his own poo.
Hardcore nomming away on it.

Like it was the most delicious thing that this monkey had ever tasted.

Ironically enough there was food that had just been placed in the enclosure.

But naaaaah, the poop was better.
I guess.

Ick. 

This monkey was much better suited to being photographed. Less poo-eating to be had.

hurrdurr, I look like you!

Then there was this little guy, a capybara! He was headed for the water on this blistering day.
Smart little critter.

Capybara!

The flamingos were relaxing under one of the few trees that offered a lot of shade,
they were also making an awful lot of flamingo-y noise.

A

20150612_145421There were elephants in this really cool indoor enclosure. Their outside one wasn’t complete yet and it was probably better for them to be inside anyways.

They had two little babies and one of them was after the apple slices that were being thrown into the pond so fast that he submerged himself.

He was adorable. Really adorable.

And then, then there were these little orangutans.
When we were first walking through the orangutan area we only saw one, super zonked out orangutan.

Then we realized there was a whole outside section. And that there were several other orangutans! Even some little ones, and they were super playful. It made the long day in the hot sun worth it.

20150612_150906

We found a nice little shaded area to sit in and we just watched them play. While it couldn’t have been that long sitting down made me realize just how tired I was.

If you’ve never watched orangutans play, you’re seriously missing out.

They climbed on the fences, they grabbed for branches, they had a whole tumble around in the grass fighting each other. They jumped on one another and then the adults got involved and the two mothers had to split up the tussling children. It was funny watching them.

Finally the mothers took them to different parts of the area and then little bit here decided she wanted to check us all out. She made faces in the glass at us and was exceptionally playful.

20150612_152311I mean, look at that cute little faaace! How could you ignore it?!

— Fritag, 12. Juni
— Abend

After our trip to the Kölner Zoo we headed to Andrea’s house, and Maggie and I were so tired we napped on the way there. Andrea offered to take us to this mysterious place later in the evening, with the promise of a real nap at her house before we went anywhere.

Andrea can be quite mysterious, and this time was no less. She only told us that it was another of her favorite places to go, and that we could only really go after dark otherwise it wouldn’t be as cool.

This right here was probably one of my absolute favorite parts of this entire trip. The mysteriousness of it all had me … exceptionally curious. I’m usually not that curious, but she won me over, and I’m pretty sure she won Maggie over too.

We took a little drive up past Essen to Duisburg.
As we came closer to our destination, that still had no name, Andrea pointed out that the reason we had to come in the dark was because that’s when the park we were going to was ‘all lit up.’
Boy was she right.

Landschaftspark DuisburgI’m not even sure I have any real photos of the entrance to Landschaftspark, but I was impressed from the get go.
I was also terrified.

This place had a vibe of just enough creepy, dark, and somewhat dank spaces that I was honestly concerned that I might die somewhere in this park. The space, a former ironworks site, had been left desolate and allowed Mother Nature to reclaim what was once her’s.

The website states the following about the Landschaftspark history, and it’s current uses.
“The north of Duisburg was one of those areas in the Ruhr District which was torn from its bucolic idyll at a time of intense industrialisation. With the migration of industry northwards from the Ruhr valley the landscape began to change such that nothing of its original form is recognisable today.

In Meiderich in 1901 August Thyssen had his ironworks company start work on the construction of a blast furnace complex, immediately adjacent to the coal fields he had acquired previously, thus creating the  prerequisites for the necessary link between coal and iron. Until the closure of the works in 1985, when overcapacity in the European steel market had to be reduced, the works produced pig iron – as a rule as a primary product for further processing in Thyssen’s steel works.

The demise of iron production left an industrial wasteland of more than 200 hectares waiting for a new use.”

This new usage of the ironworks land that I got to experience was that of the lights installation.
It was rather beautiful, and somewhat terrifying. I don’t much like scary places, or dark things, so this was a whole different level of weird for me. This site was beautiful,

“The whole idea of the Landscape Park Duisburg Nord shows that a so-called brownfield site can elevate itself far beyond these prejudices. And to start with the park wasn’t very much more than just an idea. Born out of a citizens’ action group, protesting against the demolition of the old Duisburg Meiderich Ironworks, and the projects of the International Building Exhibition Emscher Park, the idea then had to prove itself.”

Some of our photos are in the same places that this video highlights.

Up Into the Rafters Into Apeture

This is probably one of my favorite photos, I walked towards the door and I made sure I moved somewhat slowly enough that Andrea was able to capture a few pictures of me moving along. I felt like a Walking Dead extra, and I don’t even watch the show because I don’t do creepy (remember!). Just Because

“Over a period of more than ten years, a culture, nature and leisure park has been created around the old ironworks which is unique in terms of its multi-faceted combination of uses. […] And at night Jonathan Park’s light installation shines over the houses of the city – a Duisburg landmark visible from a distance.”

Just 'Playing' Around?

Andrea climbed up into the bars, and so did I.
I cannot hold on for nearly as long as she can — My upper body strength is terrible! Obviously.

DSC00957The Colors Change Up the Wall

I loved the way this side of the building looked. The picture isn’t the greatest as it’s a little blurry, but it was just beautiful. I liked the way the colors worked against each other and then they seemed to work with one another to illuminate different portions of the same building.

Easily One of My Favorite Photos of the Entire Park

The inside of this structure was probably my favorite. I loved the way it was lit up to accent the different portions of the interior. This was also the only time I saw this color used as it’s own piece. Most everything else in the park was showing in shades of green and blue, and it worked together well. It accented the differences found here.

The Old Railroad Tracks

Oooo. Composition.
Both of these photos are ones that I quite like just from the composition alone.

The clouds were low enough in the sky to reflect some of the city-ish lights surrounding the park.
I wanted to walk to the top of this, and then realized that after walking to the top of the Dom in Köln earlier was enough stairs for me.

Landschaftspark Is Beautiful

We wandered around for a little longer in the park. And, of course, found a few more places to take some goofy pictures.
This one was completely Andrea’s idea.

Maggie and I

Then, my stupidity took over. It was late and I was still sleepy, and I decided to hug a poll because why not.
I mean, seriously… why not.

Then There is This One

Now, the other element I really liked was that this park felt a lot like one of my favorite games. Portal 2.

I felt like I was dropped right inside the old portions of Aperture Sciences and was somewhat lost without my Portal Gun. Curse you travelling overseas … I have one that was gifted to me from a long time ago and if I’d have known I’d have brought it with me.

This picture captured perfectly what I felt like.
This, this made me feel like I was staring into Wheatley’s eye… and seeing the reflection that was Aperture through him. It was mind blowing, and completely weird.

Now, if only I could have had a voicebox like GLaDOS set up somewhere saying

“Oh,.. it’s you.”
“It’s been a long time. How have you been?
I’ve been really busy being dead….

You know, after you MURDERED ME.

Looking Into Wheatley's EyeThis wasn’t the end of Maggie and I’s time in Köln…

However, this is the end of this post.

Oh thank god, you’re alright. You know, being Caroline taught me a valuable lesson.
I thought you were my greatest enemy.

When all along you were my best friend.

The surge of emotion that shot through me when I
saved your life taught me an even more
valuable lesson: where Caroline lives in my brain. 

Goodbye, Caroline.

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