The city and I had a rather rough start in 2008. In my first winter here the heating system broke just when temperatures started to drop below -10 degrees. As a consequence, I had to heat my apartment with the 4 cooktops of my stove. Fortunately by that time my apartment had the manageable size of just 25 squaremeters. My landlord meanwhile, was convinced that not his heating system but my venting habits were the problem. Thus I sat in my apartment at -6 degrees, watched my breath form little white puffs in front of the glowing cooktops and asked myself if all this really had been such a good idea.
3 months later, when spring dawned and I had found another, more reliable apartment in terms of furnishings, the heating system finally was repaired. With more and more neighbours throwing a fit because of the cold he couldn´t ignore the problem any longer.
Stories like mine aren’t uncommon, since apartments are very often rented by individuals. Ranging from bizarre to funny and even shocking, they are just as common as these steep, narrow staircases without elevators, where ascending them keeps depriving me of my dignity to quite a considerable degree. Relocations with big three-piece suites should be planned carefully and include a substantial amount of tip for moving companies. Just so you know.
So, on the surface Cologne did not seem to make a very good first impression. Unfortunately underneath the surface it is difficult as well. The famous cathedral for instance is shaking and vibrating when the underground goes to fast below it.
The people of Cologne though accept all these things almost stoically. It is not without reason that the 1st paragraph of Cologne´s unofficial constitution reads: „Et es wie et es.“ – It is what it is. Even in the most difficult moments there is time for a „Koelsch“ and a bun smothered with minced meat.
„Drinks de ejne met? “ (paragraph 10 of Cologne´s unofficial constitution) „Lets drink together“ – Cologne´s pub and party culture
„Koelsch“ is said to be the only language that you can also drink. Firstly, because it is also the name of the local dialect spoken in Cologne. But also because nothing connects so much, then having a „Koelsch“ after work liquifying your daily job life`s sorrows or starting your weekly saturday nightlife with one or two glasses. Or maybe 8 . Cologne approximately has 87 brands of „Koelsch“ and presumably just as much “Brauhaeuser”. At these traditional places, were beer and good, solid food are served, people meet after work to eat and drink while discussing everyday life and the current happenings in town. If you do not want to try all 87 „Koelsch“ brands my personal recommendation is to drink “Frueh” or “Reissdorf”. “Frueh” is very soft and light whilst “Reissdorf” is a bit stronger.
I also recommend eating the one or the other bun with minced meat during your beer savoring, as it prevents you from getting to drunk to fast. The so called “Koebes” – the typical and mostly male waiters of the “Brauhaeuser” – usually is not that considerate and pours the next „Koelsch“ as soon as the glass is empty. Only a coaster on the glass will prevent that. So for those not knowing the coaster can look like this
very fast – one line equals one „Koelsch“. The “Koebes” also presents itself as the essence of the Cologne soul: tough exterior with a soft heart.
Going out in Cologne
My first night out in Cologne started with the above coaster and ended with a lot of smooching and kissing (surprisingly in one of Cologne´s gay bars in the Schaafenstr.), an accidental genuflection in front of a taxi driver, a broken pair of glasses and the number of the police officer that helped me get back into my apartment, after I´ve lost my keys.
But the wildest nights still end the best at my favorite bar “Sixpack” in the Aachener Str. Although the bouncer can be very picky, the club usually is packed. The crowd moves to the rhythm of the excellent DJs and when you move with the crowd you will eventually reach the back of the club and with this the wardrobe and the toilets. At 4 am the beer tastes he best, the music is the loudest and the audience most attractive…
In Cologne each can underlay his or her nights with his or her favourite soundtrack. Friends of electronic music can get wild on the dancefloors of the “Bootshaus”, the “Reineke Fuchs” or the “Odonien”. Around summertime even at daytime with the “Kulturdeck” at the “Aachener Weiher” or the “Pollerwiesen” festival. Lovers of cocktails and lounge music will find happiness in bars like the “Pazifik Bar” or, a little fancier, at the bar “Shepheard” or the “Ona’Mor”. Their Gin collection is as superb as it is mind befuddling.
The party series “Beatpakers” in turn provides with the finest in Hip Hop at differing locations.
And that´s when you slowly and unnoticeably start falling in love with Cologne.
„Kölle du bes ä Jeföhl“ – Cologne you are a feeling…
…is a line sung by Cologne band „Hoehner“ in a song with the same name and it truly is. Cologne beams with a very specific attitude towards life. The city is colorful and divers, it offers space for everyone and accepts anybody the way they are. If you engage with the peculiarities of city and its inhabitants, you will eventually find yourself sitting at the “Aachener Weiher” with a „Koelsch“ realizing you are at home. The “Aachener Weiher” is one of the many green havens in Cologne, whereby each and every one of these parks has its own audience, characterized by the district they are in. At the “Aachener Weiher” the audience is young and hip. Towards the evening it gets crowded, wisps of barbecue smoke pass over the meadow and there is always this one little group that crank up their music loud enough to treat the whole area. Most of the time it is electronic music.
The audience in the southern part of the city is a whole different one. In the so-called “Volksgarten” you will find a cross section of the inhabitants in that district. From small families, groups of mothers and ageing hippies to slackliners and pencil pusher with their ties loosened, to students and barbecuing large families, everyone meets here in summer season.
The citiziens of Cologne love and celebrate their life in the different districts which they call “Veedel” in affectionate Cologne tradition.
„Do laachs de disch kapott“ (paragraph 11 of Cologne´s unofficial constitution) – Cologne Carnival
And whilst throughout the year every „Veedel“ lives its own peculiarities, everyone comes together in Colognes famous 5th season of the year – the Cologne Carnival. Humor is one of the most important characteristics in this city. The year may have been chaotic and exhausting but from the 11th of November on Cologne processes the last year`s events in its very own satirical way. No authority, national or international, no celebrity, small or big, is immune to Cologne´s criticism of the world´s events, wrapped in biting mockery. Swaying to music and with a lot of „Koelsch“, each and everyone is made fun of, even Cologne itself. A lot of the carnival takes place in the streets with drinking, laughing, singing, dancing and most of all flirting. After carnival the city is plastered with search notices for pirates, princesses, astronauts or nurses. In all the drunkenness phone numbers can get lost all to quick. Carnival is like a permitted and prescribed time-out from everyday life. For 6 days the city spins in a wild chaos of beer, smooching and more, colorful costumes, glitter, paper streamers and Cologne music, finding its peak at Rosenmontag with the big official parade through the center of the town. On the last day, the “Veilchendienstag”, the “Nubbel” – scapegoat for all our transgressions – is burned and with him all our sins. On Wednesday we wake up hung-over and with a cold to start a new year. Alaaf (Cologne´s carnival exclamation) to the coming year. Carnival is as much a feeling as the city and nobody has so much feelings celebrating it like the people of Cologne.
And by that time, you are in love. Truly and Inevitably. You are Cologne, if you want it or not.