Wednesday morning/ home-ward bound

7:00 am My bags are packed!  I am taking the train back to Frankfurt this morning. 

Shortly after twelve noon I will board British Airways to London, and then on to Seattle from there. 

11:00 am I made it to Frankfurt Airport .. but Deutsche Bahn made me sweat a little.  My original train was delayed by more than an hour, and then the rebooked train was late as well.  Then my phone’s British Airways app said ‘Sorry, missed connection’ and I thought Oh no! the flight to London must be completely delayed. But no, there was on problem – it was just that the app could not find a network to connect to.

Here’s the ICE train at Cologne main train station. It came from Hannover, and was heading to Basel. Luckily it made stops in Cologne and at Frankfurt airport, and I could hop on.

Tuesday/ two museums

Today was my last day in Cologne.  The museums and shops were finally open again after being closed Sunday & Monday.   I only made it to two museums, though: the Museum Ludwig and the Chocolate Museum.

Museum Ludwig was established in 1976. This building near the Cologne Cathedral opened in 1986. The museum has artwork from the collections of lawyer Josef Haubrich (born 1889, died 1961) and of chocolate magnate Peter Ludwig (1925- 1996). It has one of the largest collection of Picasso’s artwork in Europe. The ‘Rosenquist’ sign on the left refers to a current exhibit of art of the American James Rosenquist, a pop-artist and contemporary of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, who passed away in March 2017.
One of Rosenquist’s best-known pieces from the early 1960s. It is called ‘President Elect’ and is a billboard-style painting, depicting John F Kennedy’s face alongside a rainbow, a yellow Chevrolet and a piece of cake.
This is ‘inside’ a Rosenquist work called ‘Horizon Home Sweet Home’ (1970). It is a series of colored canvas panels on a room’s four walls.  Some panels have aluminized mylar (plastic) stretched onto a frame, that creates distorted reflections of the other colored panels.


This is upstairs, and I thought the giant mural on the right is a Picasso, but it is not. The artist is Fernand Léger, a contemporary of Picasso, and the painting is called ‘Les Plongeurs'(The Divers), 1942.
Here’s the Chocolate Museum. It is on the Rhine, and it looks like a river ship. It’s only 4.30 pm, but the sun is already setting.
Sights inside the Chocolate Museum, clockwise from the left: giant cocoabean chocolate fountain | Molten chocolate with roller-stirrer driven by a simple motor, from Lindt | Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in chocolate | A little souvenir handed to one at the exit (entrance fee is €11/ US$13) | one of a large collection of charming old chocolate bar wrappers.

Monday/ Rheinauhafen, Cologne

I spent some time in Rheinauhafen (‘Rhine old port’) today. It is a former port facility on the Rhine*, now rebuilt into modern condominiums, offices and commercial buildings.  A Microsoft office building was completed in 2008, the main condominium building in 2009, and most of the other buildings a few years before that, or a few years later.

*Cologne is the largest city on the Rhine.  Here in Cologne it is the Nieder-Rhein (the lower Rhine).

I did the best I could do with my photo of the three dramatic Kranhäuser (‘harbor crane’) buildings, shot into the sun. They each have two-part outrigger sections that rest only on a slender, fully glazed staircase tower. These are just below the Severin Bridge (yellow on the map), and on the little peninsula in the Rhine. The Microsoft office (picture bottom middle) is across the canal, on the true riverbank.
A close-up of the residential building. The green triangular column and spans in the background are of the Severin Bridge. A realtor’s office advertised a few of the units that are for sale. Sample numbers: 2 bedroom, 130m2 (1,400 sqft) unit goes for €1.1 million (US$ 1.3 million). A 3-bedroom was for rent for €3,650 pm (US$ 4,400).
These buildings are a little further down south from the Kranhäuser buildings. The ones on the left have an old or classic architecture, but they are almost brand new, from what I can tell. The modern brick and glass building on the right is a high-school. MY high school did not look like that! (I wish it did).
I love this old sepia picture, printed onto the glass enclosure of a kiosk, with the – port worker? who was he? – resting his arms on the fence.  A great way to acknowledge the rich history of the port.

Good-bye 2017. Hello 2018!

And there it goes, the year that was 2017.

Happy New Year, everyone.

How does one become a better person (‘mensch’)? asks the Süddeutsche Zeiting newspaper. Many people want to, but do not know exactly how to.  Well, it does take conscious effort, but it’s not complicated. ‘You just have to start’, says the author.

Sunday/ more of Cologne

I spent much more time walking today than I did on the trains on the U-bahn. It was good for sight-seeing, but I feel it in my legs and feet tonight.

Here is a map of the Cologne altstadt (old city). Pictures clockwise from top left: St. Gereon’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic church. Rebuilt and added onto, its origins date back all the way to 612 A.D. | Gereons wall with gate: part of the medieval old city wall of Cologne | Cologne cathedral today. It is very large inside with beautiful stained class windows. | St. Aposteln is another one of 12 major Romanesque churches in the city of Cologne.
Here is the Cologne Tower, a 44-storey office skyscraper in the Neustadt-Nord district. It opened in 2002. The image of Cologne Cathedral on the window panes is not a reflection, but artwork. On the left, in the distance, is the old Colonius telecommunications tower. It opened in 1981, but the restaurant and viewing area were closed in 1992, with no prospect of reopening. (Aw).
This is one of the city’s many Merzenich bakeries (it’s a franchise), near Ebertsplatz. Check out the giant ‘plunderbrezels’ (‘plunder’ pretzels) in the window.  They go for €10.95 ($13.14) each – but hey, enough to feed a family!
It’s Germany, and so one sees BMWs everywhere, of course. This is under a bridge by the haputbahnhof (main train station) with the old steel beams lit up in bluegreen.
Here’s a ‘Find the Willem’ picture, a reflection in the window on Christophstreet. ‘Room free’, says the sign. The Cologne cathedral is a picture inside, and the square windowed apartments is the reflection.

Saturday/ first day in Cologne/ Köln

It rained this morning, but it cleared up later, and warmed up to 12 °C (54°F), which was a welcome change from Friday night.

I walked around the Neumarkt area, and Rudolfplatz, and went into a few stores, seeing that most stores close down on Sunday, and Monday, for New Year’s Day.  Here are some pictures from Friday night and Saturday.

The awe-inspiring Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) is right by the hauptbahnhof (main train station). Construction on this building started many centuries ago! – in 1248. It was the world’s tallest structure from 1880 to 1890, and is Germany’s most visited landmark. It suffered fourteen hits by aerial bombs during WWII – but did not collapse, and stood tall in an otherwise flattened city. The cathedral was declared a World Heritage site in 1996. I still have to go inside and take a few more daytime pictures.
Here’s the hauptbahnhof (main train station), with the spires of the Kölner Dom behind it.
Clockwise from Top Left: Schildergasse (Schilder alley) is near the Neumarkt station, and good for all kinds of shopping | Waffles in the shape of the Kölner Dom | Kölsch beer is brewed only around Cologne (it’s a light ale), and of course I had to have some | The coat of arms of Cologne on a man-hole cover. Those are two eagles, and the shield carries  eleven black drops. Legend has it that they recall Cologne’s patron, Saint Ursula, a Britannic princess, and her legendary 11,000 virgin companions, who were martyred by Attila the Hun at Cologne for their Christian faith in 383.

Friday night/ arrival in Cologne/ Köln

Hey! I made it into Cologne. It was snowing lightly as we landed in Frankfurt. The snow had started to stick to the tarmac, and the de-icing trucks were just fanning out to go clear any layers of snow or ice.

The intercity express train from Frankfurt to Cologne made short work of the 118 miles (190 km) from Frankfurt.  The trip took only 50 minutes.  These trains travel at speeds up to 186 mph (300 km/h)!

Left: The Embraer 190 ‘Cityhopper’ as we boarded in Amsterdam | Right: Arrival in Frankfurt with light snow (35 °F/ 2 °C).
The Intercity Express train for Cologne, at Frankfurt airport’s ‘fernbahn’ (long-distance) station. It stops for only 3 minutes.  You had better be ready to board! .. and stand at the right place on the platform! There is a diagram on the platform’s message board that shows the train car numbers, so that passengers can position themselves in the right place. Of course, if you mess up or run late, just board the train, and then walk through the train cars to find your car and your seat.
This map is from Deutche Bahn’s app on my smart phone. There is wi-fi on the train (of course). I’m in the train (plain red dot on the bottom left; the other red dots are train stations). The thin gray line that the red dot sits on, is the track, and we are 5 minutes away from Cologne. (The river is the Rhine).

Friday/ Cape Town to Amsterdam

I arrived at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.  My layover is several hours, then a short hop to Frankfurt by air, from where I will take the train to Cologne.

My magnificent flying machine, here at the gate at Cape Town International airport, was a Boeing 777. This airplane is named the Grand Canyon National Park (maybe KLM just kept the name that Boeing painted on it?).
Top: The safety briefing video gave a nod to Royal Delft porcelain, with pictures in the cobalt blue and motifs in the corners | My little after dinner-chocolate as a 17th century Dutch house | Bottom: Approaching Amsterdam (shown by the flight simulator). I could almost have parachuted out to Cologne! – but then I guess I would not have my luggage. And the air is frigid this time of year.
Scenes from the big public space called ‘Lounge 2’ at Schiphol aiport. Clockwise from top left: The lounge clock display has a ‘technician’ ‘inside’ behind the dial face, painting the minute hand of the clock every few minutes (it’s all computer imagery). | The cow is from the souvenir store. | I would have bought the beautiful Royal Delft porcelain farmer and his wife, but no, not for 200 Euros each. | I love the giant tulip at the House of Tulips store. Reminds me of the venus fly trap plant (named Audrey), in the 1986 movie Little Shop of Horrors.

Thursday/ back to Frankfurt

Time flies, and my stay in South Africa is over again! I have a midnight flight out to Frankfurt, via Amsterdam.

As soon as I get to Frankfurt, I plan to take DeutcheBahn’s Intercity Express (ICE) train from to Cologne, to stay there for a few days.

Wednesday/ stamps for World War I

I shipped a package of books and red tea that I bought here, from myself to myself, in Seattle today. Books are so heavy, and I don’t put food in my baggage when I travel.  The post office branch I visited did not have new 2017 stamps , and I settled for a panel of 2014 stamps that commemorated World War I.

The horrors, and the heroes of War: Top South African Generals Louis Botha and Jan Smuts at the top (Botha would die of flu in 1919, and Smuts became Prime Minister after the war). Middle There was even a campaign in Palestine, and the sinking of the SS Mendi in the British Channel made for a loss of 616 lives, most of them black South African soldiers. Bottom The battle of Battle of Delville Wood in France (against the Germans), and the German advance at Marrieres Wood also resulted in a lost of casualties, and heroic actions of the South Africans against overwhelming forces.

Tuesday/ the Molteno reservoir

Picture of the Molteno reservoir taken in April 2014 with a drone by ‘AerialcamSA’. That’s Lion’s Head in the background. [Source: Wikipedia]
‘Whoah! What’s that body of water?’ I thought as I drove by a reservoir in Oranjezicht on the slopes of Table Mountain today.  ( I visited family that live close by).

Turned out it was the Molteno reservoir (or Molteno dam), one with a colorful history.

Construction was completed in 1880, but then the dam stood empty through two unusually dry winters. When the drought finally broke, the dam overflowed. The eastern wall broke and sent a tsunami of water down through the city, destroying houses and uprooting trees.  Yikes!

Another catastrophe occurred in June 1900, when a famous hot air balloonist called Isidore Michaels got in trouble with the wind, jumped from his balloon basket with a parachute, but ended up in the middle of the dam and drowned, enmeshed in his parachute strings.  The dam had to be drained to retrieve his body.

After that, the dam served the young city of Cape Town for many decades to come.  It is still in service, supplying the city center with water, alongside several other dams in the Western Cape Water Supply System that were brought on-line.

I took this picture today, with the Molteno reservoir in the background. The building (constructed 1894, says the date), housed the Graaff Electric Lighting Works, Cape Town’s first power plant. The city’s first electric lights were switched on in 1895.

Geseënde Kersfees! Merry Christmas!

The drawing is from inside the cover of ‘Die Mooiste Afrikaanse Sprokies/ The Most Beautiful African Fairytales’, published in 1968 by Human & Rousseau.

P.S.  It’s a white Christmas in Seattle, with an inch or two of snow falling overnight in the city.  White Christmases are rare in Seattle, but in 2008 four inches of snow blanketed the city on Christmas Day.

Sunday/ Bloubergstrand

Bloubergstrand (‘Blue Mountain Beach’) is at A. It’s only a 13 mi drive from Durbanville where I stay.
Kite surfer at Bloubergstrand today. He wears a harness to keep him connected to the kite, and steers it with a handle bar.


I took a short drive out this afternoon to Bloubergstrand (‘Blue Mountain Beach’). From there, one sees the iconic view of Table Mountain (looking blue in the distance).

It was windy again today, and a dozen or so kite surfers made good use of the wind.



Saturday/ a request for Santa

‘Bring an end to the Zuma era .. that is all I ask’, pleads a teary-eyed ‘South Africa’ in Santa’s lap, in this cartoon by Fred Mouton in Saturday’s newspaper Die Burger. (In the United States, a similar request from Santa would be to get President Trump impeached).

Friday/ Heineken’s ‘Cities’ beer bottles

Here is what the latest edition of Heineken’s ‘Cities of the World’ campaign beer bottles look like. (They have been around since 2014).  Heineken sells its beer in 192 countries, says its website.

Let’s see – that’s One World Trade Center on the top left of the star for New York, and Shanghai World Financial Center (bottom right) and the Pearl Tower (top right) on the Shanghai bottle. Cape Town does not have much in the way of skyscrapers, so Heineken went with the Ferris wheel at the V&A Waterfront. The square building on the bottom right may be the (ugly) 1972 Thibault Square building.  I don’t see the newer 2014 Portside Tower.
Here’s the Ferris wheel at the V&A Waterfront. (I see even Castle Lager is now offering an alcohol-free version of its iconic beer, first brewed in 1895 in South Africa).

Thursday/ inside the First National Bank building

The circular desk in the main banking hall, under the dome, still used to indicate the date for those that fill out checks (fewer and fewer these days!) and other documentation.

I checked into the First National Bank building in Cape Town on Thursday, in a quest (unsuccessful so far) for a few new 2017 South African 5-rand coins.

The building was designed by famed architect Sir Herbert Baker, and inside the banking hall’s dome there are four beautiful plaques.

There is a lot of history in the plaques, and I did some on-line research to find the full explanation for them.

Top Left: Symbols of Great Britain : Gold lion with a crown for England, Harp for Ireland, Red Lion for Scotland. Bottom Left: Symbols of the Union Of South Africa: Lady with Anchor for Cape Colony, Wildebeest for Natal Colony, Ox Wagon for Transvaal Colony, Orange Tree for Orange River Colony. Top Right: The arms of Van Riebeeck, a shield with three besants superimposed upon the anchor of Good Hope. Bottom Right: The signs of Lombard Street. Bell for 44 Lombard Street, Rose & Crown for 50 Lombard Street, Bible for 54 Lombard Street, Eagle for 56 Lombard Street. Dragon: Wales

Wednesday/ Gordons Bay

The drive down to Betty’s Bay from Durbanville is about an hour and 30 minutes.
‘Dolosse’, invented in 1963 in South Africa, are concrete blocks in complex geometric shapes weighing up to 20 tons. They are used in large numbers to protect harbor walls from storms and the erosive force of ocean waves.
Standing on the pier at the little harbor in Gordons Bay (on the left), and looking back. Look for the anchor and GB on the mountain. On the left of the pier are black pipeline segments for construction of a water desalination plant. On the right are ‘dolosse’, the interlocking cement breakwater structures.  The little beach on the right is called Bikini Beach.

My friend Marlien and I drove to Gordons Bay and Betty’s Bay on Wednesday, all along the scenic coastline of False Bay. The South Easter* blew strongly at times, the way it usually does in December.

*Also called the Cape Doctor, since the wind blows away the smog accumulating in the Cape Town city bowl between the harbor and Table Mountain.

Tuesday/ let’s braai

Braai means barbeque in South Africa, and can be used as a noun or a verb.  I like to check out the offerings in the grocery store for braaiing.

Pork ‘Texan steak’ style is a thick cut of pork with seasoning rubbed onto it, then grilled or fried in a pan; boerewors (US$2.85/ lb) is very popular for South African braais | Kalahari (brand name) salt features a gemsbok | the largest marshmallows I have ever seen, also for braaiing

Monday/ it’s Cyril

Top: The South African Rand’s exchange rate experienced a ‘Ramaphosa bump’ in the last week or two. The Rand strengthened to R12.56 to the dollar, but slipped to R12.78 early on Tuesday morning. Bottom: Top Six refers to the leadership of the ANC. Some analysts say Ramaphosa has his work cut out for him with some surprising and questionable candidates that got elected to the Top Six.

Early Monday evening, the results were in: Cyril Ramaphosa won the vote for ANC President, with 2440 votes to 2261.  Hopefully this is a sign that the disastrous Zuma presidency and legacy will be coming to an end.

There was TV coverage all day, but none of the exhaustive and detailed analysis that come with elections on TV in the United States.