Maybe this is a part of life that creeps up on you like indigestion or gout, but as I've got older recently (ie heading toward fifty) I've found myself appreciating stained glass windows. And - perhaps more surprisingly - I don't admitting that. I don't care for the religious themes but that's not the point. The amazing craft, skill and artwork involved is what I find sometimes truly astonishing, especially given the level of technology available at the time. I've always been a fan of the flying buttress as an architectural device, and I'm sure this has prolonged the life of many structures - mostly churches - supported by the vast pressures exerted by them. So admiration too must be extended to the stained glass window artists of the churches.
incredible detail. The statues carved into the arches, the lion's head doorknobs, the studded doors.. again, Cologne is one of those places I'd been meaning to go to for 25 years and never found myself there. I was impressed. The cathedral is the first place to head for when you get into town. See it early, get inside and then go back again and again. Its scale is really quite something. It's difficult to fit all of it into pictures and yet it's so distinctive at the same time. Remember too, just to bring the war back into it, that the Allies bombed Cologne flat. The cathedral is a reminder of what a powerhouse Cologne would have been before those unfortunate decades of the 20th century. It's a symbol of solid wealth, solid faith, solid workmanship: of architecture, art and aspiration made real. And the city around it is a treat too. The symphony hall is a wooden-lined splendour; the tram system a marvel of functionality and efficiency and the Rhine is a dividing line between modern and medieval: business districts of glass and steel and email looking over at wood and stone and stamps and candlesnuffers on the other.
Get a few beers from a kiosk in the city for the end of your day, but don't ask for dark beer (dunkel beer). Locals may suspect you come from Dusseldorf, a fierce footballing rival a few miles away, and stove your head in. (For those who like dunkel beer, like me, it's available from a kiosk on the Altmarkt, and nowhere else...)
Be careful out there. Apparently this rivalry is real..