Monday, 29 March 2010

It's cheap and easy to get high in Germany.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, you read that title correctly. It is very easy and rather cheap to find oneself high in Germany. 'What moral degredation has this girl suffered in such a short time?' I hear you ask. Well i an attempt to sunder my own repuation, I shall also add that I find myself sitting, this partially fine-partially rainy Frankfurt evening, in the middle of the red light district. 'Oh my!' you exclaim. 'What has become of our shy Imogen?' Well let me tell you, and in the process alleviate your fears and reclaim my good name.

It's cheap and easy to get high in Germany. Fact. I wouldn't know about drug prices or availability, but I can tell you that the Rheinturm in Duesseldorf and the Cologne Dom tower are both super cheap, very simple (although the latter not so easy) and extra high. In my last blog I wrote about the Rheinturm, and I will now recommend the Cologne Dom with equal gusto. For about €1 Mo and I had the privilege of climbing the 92 metres to the top of the tower to look out over Cologne. Once again, photos are to follow. Needless to say it was a bit of a trek, a lot of spiral stairs and some slight hypnotism from staring at them for too long. But the view was pretty cool indeed, up and down the Rhine. Every surface on the way up, and up there was covered in grafitti, lots of letters in hearts, but it was a great chance to see some of the stone work up close as well. And then yesterday we once again headed upwards to Drachenfels in Koenigswinter, near Bonn. But let me start at the beginning.

Well after Dusseldorf we headed to Cologne on the train, a trip which took about 1/2 an hour. We arrived at our hostel, the Black Sheep Hostel (would once again hghly recommend - very small business/family feel). We were invited along to paint easter eggs that evening, and then eat the pancakes made from the eggs, all for free. We accepted the invitation and headed out to explore the town for the day. Our aim was to visit the Dom and the Lindt Chocolate Museum. We got to both, and also walked all over the city until we were exhausted. Although to be honest, we were probably more exhausted just from climbing the tower - afterwards our knees were shaking whenever we were faced with stairs. The Cologne Dom (Cathedral, just realised you might be wondering) is enormous on the outside. It just looms out of nowhere when you walk down the main shopping street, and is RIGHT next to the train station. But somehow it also works as a reverse TARDIS - on the inside it's quite small, and a little disappointing. But we couldn't go in very far because a mass was about to start.

After climbing the epic tower of knee breaking proportions (do it if you're ever in Cologne), we wandered along the river to the chocolate museum. This was pretty interesting, with a few free samples. It was pretty cool to watch a Lindt machine do its thing, although I was really hopefully we would be given a sample from it, freshly made, but no luck. Anyway, after that we mosied back to the hostel for egg making. That was fun, my egg was not very pretty, Mo's was, but that's ok. We chatted to a girl from America who's made Germany her permanent home. Mo and I agreed there was something a little strange about how emphatic she was about her love of Germany and German people and all things German, finding it a little over the top. *Shrugs*

The next day we caught a train to Aachen. This is about an hour away from Cologne, and we hoped to get away from the rain in Cologne. Our plan was to no avail, and we wandered a little cold and damp. Interesting city, lots of Charlemagne/Karl der Grosse/Charles the Great references and statues (google him and you'll work out why). The church was very very shiny on the inside, in the most literal sense of the word - so much gold and sparkly stuff it was a little insane. To hide from the rain we went through the Town Hall, which was interesting and dry. Nothing of particular note, except the lack of outsidey weather.

In Aachen we also went on a hunt for a mysterious museum of the newspaper, but couldn't find it anywhere - three different maps gave us three different precise locations, but we went up and down all the streets in the general area before giving up and finding a cafe where I could get something savoury (tomato soup) and Mo something sweet (chocolate cake). Cafes like that have proven to be particularly difficult to find... We then ambled back to the train, although by this time the rain had stopped and the sun was out a little bit, so it was much more pleasant and we stopped to look at things like the old city gate.

That evening we went for a walk down to the river again, and had a pleasant stroll around the area. Cities usually look very pretty at night.

The next day we went to Bonn. This was a 1/2 hour trip on the train, and I hope to go back sometime soon. We were following instructions from Mo's Oma again, this time to find her childhood home and do a couple of things she recommended, including going up to the Drachenfels Ruins. We spent most of the morning getting to Bonn (our original plan was to go by cruise boat, but they're not running until next week), then getting to the house. It was a little bit epic, but also an adventure. Busting to go to the toilet for half the journey certainly added to the experience. The house was a little cute traditional looking place, not a McDonalds this time which was encouraging.

We then headed up a big mountain on the cog railway, to a ruined castle/lookout/???. One thing I've noticed here is the Germans are good at giving access to historical sites, but not very good at advertising what exactly they were. Anyway, I felt like I was in some kind of Jane Austen story, going for a day to the ruins. There were so many people there, and the 'problem' of too many ruins in Europe was clearly present - the tallest point has been used for attaching antennae to, there's grafitti, a lot of people clambering everywhere, an ugly visitor centre (all closed 'for refurbishments') and a general air of decrepitude. A littel sad really, but I suppose there's only so many places that can be cared for.

We walked back down the hill, past the ultimate lego castle (usually a folly stops just at the tower, this extended to the entire building), before eventually getting back into Bonn (walked to the closest train station, no trains, went across the river on the ferry to the other station and caught a train from there). We planned to go to the Haus der Geschichtes - all about Germany in and straight after WW2, and thought we'd have the whole afternoon there, but in the end only had about an hour. I'll be going back there - was fascinating. We then went for another evening wander (we're trying to do this in every city - they look totally different at night), through Bonn, saw the house where Beethoven was born, and happened upon lots of random performers including fire people and drumming maniacs.

It took time, but we finally tore ourselves away from Bonn, back to the train station, where we were lucky enough to be sharing a train with a lot of football fans returning from a match, and riot police. Reassuring? I think not. But we got back to the hostel safely, repacked our bags, set our alarms for 6am and turned our clocks forward for the end of daylight savings.

This morning we got up, stumbled to the train station, got on a train and sat bleary eyed until the pretty Rhine valley woke us up. A couple of hours later we arrived in Frankfurt, and that is where me sitting in the red light district comes into it. Our hostel is about a block from the train station, but is right in the middle of the centre of negotiable affection. The hostel assures us there's no danger, and so far we've felt it's just a bit weird. Seems like a nice hostel - far bigger than the other two, and less personal, but clean, well organised and friendly enough. I'm writing this on a borrowed laptop on free wifi. We managed to con our way into cooking ourselves dinner tonight, asking if there was a fridge anywhere we could put some pesto we'd brought. The receptionist seemed a little surprised at the request and told us to go up to the 7th floor where there's a kitchen for guests on the 7th floor, giving us special permission to cook as long as we cleaned up after ourselves. Feeling a little dodgy we did as she said, went to the unlabelled 7th floor and found a shiny kitchen. We cooked food, ate food, encountered one person who had no curiousity about us at all, washed up and left again. It was good. I suspect not many people ask for strange things like somewhere cool to keep some pesto, or even better somewhere to cook themselves dinner...

I'll tell you about Frankfurt some other time, probably when we're in Berlin or Prague (next two destinations). Good time being had by all, my German much better now, looking forward to seeing history stuff in Berlin. And now it's time for me to go and sleep. Good night!

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