Cologne Cathedral // (c) Ger1axg 2007
I’m docked in the heart of Cologne on a very pleasant October sweater day, crunching among heaps of yellow leaves and waving fellow passengers off to the chocolate factory. I know when temptation is too much, so I head the other way, past our boat, the new Viking Legend, and a group of other Viking River vessels strung in a line along the waterfront.
However, I gave in to my favorite temptation in Cologne, ice cream mit Sahne, tons of incredibly rich, whipped cream, under the awning of a cafe along the river. I’m now allegedly walking it off up and down the cobbled streets before arriving at the cathedral square, framed by designer shops. This is one of my favorite cathedrals anywhere, not because it’s the biggest in Northern Europe or because it has a museum-style treasury and not even for the Shrine of the Three Kings, whose bones are supposed to be in the beautiful main altar, but for my personal delight, the Clarenaltar, the big double diptych dedicated to St. Clare, with some of the gentlest and most charming images around set out in soft, warm color. It opens out twice, and the individual pictures are framed by columns and enchanting little stars. People pass along the aisle, bathed in the colored light from the cathedral’s windows (talk about color therapy) and climbing the tower to a wonderful view of the city and the river. I’m not climbing it this time, but there is a steady stream of school groups, families, international travelers headed up the steps.
Back out into the fading daylight, I see flocks of bicycles are heading home like birds, and the clink of china and scents of cooking mean dinnertime is here. I stroll back to the ship along the Rhine, the wind rises, and the lights of Cologne come alive, one by one. It’s beautiful.