I realized after the three-hour flight from Istanbul to Cologne that I used to spend that much time traveling by bus every day, so I added my new world-traveling trouble-free lifestyle to my infinite list of things to be thankful for. I’m especially thankful that I got to spend Christmas this year in Germany. I just read my Kindle for three hours, looked up when the plane touched down, and I was there.
My friends and I stayed at a hotel next to the Cologne Cathedral. That beautiful gothic cathedral was something to behold, both inside and out, containing treasures that date back to the tenth century. When I saw a man walk past the front, moving his cane from side to side, I thought of the Raymond Carver story, Cathedral, and how difficult it would be to describe this breathtaking sight to someone. My friend Kelley and I walked along the Rhine and over Hohenzollern Bridge at night and noted how different Cologne looks in the moonlight versus the daytime.
We felt right at home in Cologne and spent a great deal of time sightseeing and window shopping. The Christmas Market and most of the shops were closed, something we couldn’t wrap our capitalistic, American brains around. The town was full of consumers . . . er . . . people and there were very few businesses open. Luckily for us, the restaurants were open. The servers were congenial and drank freely on the job, a variation of customer service that came as a surprise.
I ate like a queen, and every bite I confessed to My Fitness Pal, an online calorie counter. Congratulatory messages popped up anyway, commending me on my willpower. No wonder I’m pals with my fitness pal. I can never go wrong, even after consuming a pork chop, a stein of kolsch, and a piece of cherry cake, which were all to die for. I also ate one green bean before remembering that I hate green beans, and that I did not come to Germany to eat green beans.
Ice skating was more difficult than I remembered and I ended up with bruises on my arms from slamming into the wall encompassing the skating rink. Atop the wall was a ledge where spectators outside the rink rested their glasses of beer and apple punch spiked with rum. I had counted on grabbing the ledge for support but that was impossible without perhaps crashing into all their glassware.
Years ago, one of my friends observed that I made a sound like Urkel from the show Family Matters when a restaurant menu gave me a paper cut. I realized I made the same Urkel noise while crashing into the wall. I wondered if anyone has looked for Urkel-Merkel similarities, then decided I didn’t mind being compared to Urkel, and Angela Merkel shouldn’t either.
Slamming into these jolly people while making my Urkel noise seemed like a good way to make friends, or maybe even to discover that there is a gentleman who likes my style and doesn’t mind me crashing into him. He would have at least liked my scent. I was wearing actual mandarin and cardamon cologne I had just purchased at the 4711 store, where the original Cologne is sold.
Some people on the ice took to it so easily. I was impressed by the number of parents who could skate backward while helping their kids skate forward, or hold onto their kids’ hands while they flailed around. Ice skating isn’t for me, but that was just one lesson I learned while traveling.
I think next year, I will go somewhere in Europe the weekend before Christmas, so I can walk around a Christmas market when it’s actually open. That was the most important lesson I learned, but Cologne was still fun, even in hibernation mode.