iiiiiAugust ii September ii October ii November

October 8 - Koln, Germany

After a quick stop in Aachen I made my way via train over to the small village of Flossdorf, Germany, where my german cousin lives with her family. I have such very fond memories of my german relations, as my family spent quite a bit of time here when I was younger. Many of you may not know that as an american soldier, my father was stationed in Germany three times. My early childhood memories are almost exclusively of Germany - the fondest being the many Christmas celebrations with my german relations. With this in mind I can only add that this was a special day - talking at length with my dear cousin.

My hiking was to continue on the following day, as I made my way to Koln, once again via rail. My grandfather had a shop in Koln, where he made violins, so I have been here many times. This is a very grand town, established by the romans, and very cosmopolitan. My reason for coming here - and I stop here every time I’m in Germany - is to see the beautiful cathedral. I have visited most of the grand cathedrals of Europe - it is a passion of mine - and the cathedral in Koln has long been my favorite. I do not know quite what it is, as the cathedrals in France are wonderful as well, but something always brings me back to this cathedral. Simply beautiful and awe-inspiring - God is surely in this place.

I had the very good fortune of locating a small hotel room right on the Rhine river, next door to Gross Saint Martin, another of the many, many old churches in Koln. While I sought out bed & breakfasts in both Ireland and Great Britain, the system is a bit different here in Germany. One does not ask for a B&B - as all rooms come with breakfast - but rather one has several options: a pension, a gast haus (guest house), a frei zimmer (guest room) or the standard hotel. The first three options are usually cheaper and more personal than the hotels - and I seek these as my first option. On this night in Koln I lucked out - great location, comfortable room and good price. Alas, it rained off and on all day and most of the night. I managed to venture off to the Wallraff Richards Museum to see some of my favorite paintings before they closed for the day (arrived late from Flossdorf) and only then made my way to the cathedral, as it was open until 7:30 that night. With the cathedrals of Britain still fresh in my mind, I must admit that I still prefer the gothic churches of France and Germany.

After thankful prayers in the cathedral I made my way into the shopping area - pedestrian zone - to hunt down the maps I needed for the next leg of my trip. I was back in my room by 9:00. I had to wait until almost midnight before I could venture out again for a stroll along the Rhine to take in the views of the city from across the river - it rained buckets! Studied my maps and made plans to walk a stretch of the European Long Distance Trail - the E8 - there are 11 established long distance footpaths through Europe - E1, E2, E3 ... . The E8 starts on the coast of Holland, and meanders its way through Europe westwards towards Turkey. I hope to walk from Koblenz on the Rhine to the city of Worms - about 130 or so miles. I can see on the television that the weather does not look promising for the next few days ... oh well ... it will most definitely get better, and it is, after all, October. I look forward to hitting the trail, and on this night I hope to dream of towering spires of grand cathedrals, castles on the Rhine and, most of all, sunny skies.