Monday, January 6, 2014

December's Adventure: Day 5, Cologne

For most of day in Cologne, we spent time at the Dom, or the Cathedral. We took the hour long tour offered at the Dom for seven euros. I highly recommend it; there is so much to learn about the cathedral and with the tour, it is possible to enter the locked area near the altar where the shrine of the three magi stands. Without the tour, one must just look at it through the bars.

Our tour guide, Sandra H., led us around and gave us a lot of interesting information about the Dom. In a small amount of downtime as we were heading to another part of the church, I asked Sandra more about her tours. She is a PhD student writing her thesis on Art History. She works for herself as a tour guide (I understood that to mean that she is a contractor).

He wears his Dom on his sleeve...or maybe on his tunic!

I used to find history class boring in school but now it has come alive as I'm seeing the actual sights and learning about how everything fits together (i.e. the Hohenzollerns, Hapsburgs, Burgandy dynasty, etc.). I was especially thrilled to find out that "our" (i.e. Kaiserslautern's) Friedrich Barbarossa has ties to the Dom. He is the one who took the relics of the three magi from Milan to Cologne. Oops, maybe that is not something to be proud of?  Regardless, I always get excited when I hear about Ol' Redbeard since he is kind of a big deal in Kaiserslautern.

After the insightful tour, we were invited to see a video about the Dom, included in the cost of the tour. It is across the Dom's plaza in the Domforum. I was hoping for additional information about the Dom but it was mostly a photo montage with some goofy narration. It's not a must-see.

The real trial of our day awaited us: we returned to the Dom to climb the tower. To find the tower, look to the right of the front doors. There are some stairs that lead down to the ticket booth. Prepare your lungs, your legs, and your vertigo; pay the admission fee; and be on your merry way up the 533 stairs.

Be forewarned though: climbing the stairs isn't for those with health/balance problems, claustrophobia, fear of heights, impatience with obnoxious teenagers, and blah blah blah. My issue is that I have started to experience bouts of vertigo at times. It is especially pronounced in winding staircases, which was the whole climb. I was thankful that these stairs were somewhat wider than most others though. There was room for someone to climb up the stairs while someone walking down could move to the side. A few alcoves along the way offer a spot to catch one's breath, but it's a tight squeeze.

We huffed and puffed and reached the bell tower portion of the tower. The corridors around the bells are very narrow so claustrophobics, beware. We left in at the right time because about five minutes later the bells started ringing.

We climbed more stairs and came to an open area with the yet another set of stairs. These are what bothered me: it was set up like a scaffolding and the whole thing moved slightly as we stood on it! If the stairs had been see-through, there is no way I could have made myself climb it as walking on grates frightens me. Thankfully the stairs were solid so I mentally kicked myself in the hiney for some courage and puffed up the stairs. We finally made it to the top of the tower! The views were amazing and it was interesting to get a closer look at just how big the decorative finials are.

Then it was time for the winding trek down the stairs. This was actually where I was concerned because I tend to get dizzy as I'm descending so many stairs and there is worry that I'll get disoriented and slip. My cousin D was feeling dizzy too. It didn't help that I heard a herd of rowdy teenage boys thundering up behind us. In fact, one almost crashed into me. I turned around and very sharply growled at him, "hey!" He got the point and backed off. There is no point in rushing down the stairs because they are busy and it's dangerous for everyone with traffic flowing both ways.

We safely made it to the bottom. Phew! Our next trip was to see St. Ursula's Church, which was featured an ossuary. More about that will follow.

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