Arriving in Germany after almost 3 weeks in Spain was like entering a different world. Spain was so hot, so colourful and so busy (basically a kaleidoscopic incubator); Germany by contrast was so temperate and sedate. From towering over the petite sparrow-boned Spaniards, I suddenly found myself dwarfed by German giants. I felt like Alice in Wonderland; shrinking down to miniature with my first bite of apfel streusel cake.
Seriously, the change was notable. I don’t want to draw gross stereotypes, but every. single. person. we met in Cologne was tall, blonde and jolly. Where the Spanish zapaterias were crammed with spindly stilettos capable only of supporting 5 ft nothing minikins, the German schuhgeschäfte were lined with sturdy boots and oxfords. No need for extra height; these were all about the orthopaedic support, baby (in other words, my wheelhouse). The clothing was also super practical; where the crowds in Spain were decked out in lace crop tops, the German sheep were in Jack Wolfskin.
As well as being insanely convivial, all the waitstaff we encountered were whizzes at mental arithmetic; while you might wait for hours before they’ll bring you the bill (apparently one of those cultural things), when they eventually do, they’ll calculate split bills and dole out exact change faster than the spottiest kid on a University Challenge team. The post-prandial payment wait is a bizarre exception in otherwise extremely efficient public life. Attractions are well-kempt, queues are minimal and the transport systems are easy to navigate. Everything is well signposted, though to the English-speaking eye, more by command than exhortation…
…and of course there are the translations that cause mirth among the less mature tourists…
(hehe, Uhren & Schmuck!) Our few days in Cologne definitely showcased my immaturity. For example, one afternoon I sniggered my way through Museum Ludwig, which reminded me why I hate modern art:
A nubbin of liquorice. Some spiders and boobs. A sad egg.
And then there was the cable car ride from the Zoo to Rheinpark. Forget the view of the Cathedral or the Rhine…who decided to build a nudist resort under a cable car?! Or a cable car over a nudist resort? And what are the stats on injuries from dropped iPhones?!
Yup, Cologne was stark change from Spain. Pun so intended.