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Penguin and Paper

A conglomerate of my random thoughts

4711 Glockengasse

Cologne, as you might guess, originally came from Cologne. More precisely, it comes from the corner of Krebsgasse and Glockengasse.  This is where the Muelhens lived in the late 18th Century. A Carthusian monk had given the couple the secret recipe for “aqua mirablis” as a wedding present. Realizing the great value of smelling good, the Muelhens marketed the fragrant water, named it after their address, 4711, and got very wealthy. Incidentally, aqua mirablis was originally also drunk as a tonic, making me think it’s got to be a lot less toxic than it’s modern competition (imagine drinking Juicy Coutour). Over 200 years later 4711 is the only kind of perfume my mother will wear, so I stock up.

Cologne, WWII

During WWII the Gothic Church of St. Kolumba was bombed into untidy heaps of rubble. But incredibly, in the middle of the destruction, a statue of the Madonna remained standing.  So the battered residents of Cologne began to call the bombed church “Madonna in the Ruins.” At the end of the war, the ruble was cleared away and people had a chance to survey the gaping holes left by the bombs. What they found under the floor of the bombed church was the foundation of an old Romanesque church, and below that, old Roman apartments. It is a palimpsest. In the ‘70s, Peter Zumther, a Swiss architect designed the restored chapel, leaving an area of open excavation where it is possible to see the foundations of Gothic pillars sunk into the vaulted ceiling of a Roman living room.

The Dom. Stone masons have been doing the same job here for 800 years.

It is incredible to me, the fact that all across Europe people saw their homes and their histories obliterated daily. And they responded so stoically. In Cologne, where the bridges were destroyed and every building and road thoroughly mangled, apparently people would say “as long as the Dom is still standing, it’s all ok”.

Which says a lot about the relationship between inanimate buildings and the humans that gather in and around them. Köln’s Cathedral is gothic, and looks like Notre Dame, but much bigger. It’s older too. It’s been in the process of being built for the last 800 years, and they are still working on it.

Over the next few days we will cross the Rhine, drink champagne with a handbag merchant, visit the Neanderthal museum, and eat, drink and get very merry.

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