Yesterday I woke up just as the sleeper train was passing through Bonn, we arrived in Cologne shortly afterwards.
One of my main goals in Cologne was to replace my shoes, which really were giving me trench feet. I’ve had one worse case of trench foot before, but it occured over one weekend of partiuclarly intense walking in wet shoes, and afterwards I had time to let my feet heal. This instance threatened to become a long-running low-level problem which would eventually cause lasting damage. So, my priority was to find some sandals.
Cologne has a large commercial quarter, with plenty of different shoe shops. Great, but for some reason it was unusually difficult to find anywhere selling actual normal sandals. There are shops selling expensive branded sneakers, there are shops selling smart leather shoes, and there are shops selling various fashionable but ultimately impractical shoes for women. None of these shops sell good sandals.
Alternatively, if you really want to dress up in leiderhosen, Cologne has you covered.
I thought I’d hit success with a shop which advertised ‘sandals’ outside in large letters. The inside was stacked with Birkenstock sandals. I poked around a bit. More Birkenstock sandals. Sensing something was wrong, I asked an assistant whether they had any other sandals. He shook his head and gave me a funny look. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
In the end I changed tack, stopped looking in shoe shops and looked in sports shops instead, and soon I found exactly what I was looking for. They were 40 euros, which is more or less what I was expecting to pay.
As for my old shoes, they made my feet hurt.
I’m not going to carry them around with me.
In the bin you go.
With that sorted I decided to go do some sightseeing. I visited the NS (Nazi) Documentation Centre, located in an old Gestapo prison. Aside from acting as a memorial to the crimes of fascism, some exhibitions presented fairly balanced observations on the actual organisation of society under fascism.
I particularly appreciated one exhibit on the actual organisation of the NSDAP in Cologne - detailing their branches throughout the city, their front groups, and how the party evolved through its transition into a party of government. There were other little things, like how local nazi newspapers drew inspriation from Italy, where the fascist movement had already taken the state years earlier.
The nazis did seek to build a support base in civil society. I’ve seen occasional references to the ‘peripheral organisations’ which surrounded the fascist movement, but it was another thing to see the whole structure mapped out and explained in detail.
The prison was in the basement of the building.
There was a memorial in one part of the basement with these ribbons from the VVN-BdA.
Aside from that, the centre also highlighted anti-fascist activity in Cologne.
Here’s a photo of an RfB battallion in 1928.
Here’s a poster distributed by the communist underground resistance.
Aside from that, Cologne gives its name to perfume, perfume-for-men. So here’s a perfume house.
I didn’t go inside.
I didn’t go inside this one either.
Okay, I think I’ve pretty much covered everything there is to see in Cologne.
There’s also a cathedral.
Some group of German milk producers were holding a protest, so they brought out these cow figures and plonked them in front of the cathedral.
Tourists started taking photos in front of the cows.
So the milk producers got their attention. Though I suspect if you stick anything in front of the cathedral, tourists will start posing for photos with it. And hey, if I cared enough I would have gotten a photo with the cows too.
At the end of the day I took the metro back to the hostel.
I had a real hard time navigating the metro, here’s an example sign. All numbers, no indication of direction.
The lines all split in two (or three) at awkward junctions. I put together a route in my head with the stops and lines I’d need to go through. Then I got a train from Neumarkt and by coincidence it went straight to the suburb where my hotel was. Huh, well it worked.
I was so relieved to get a proper night’s sleep and a shower. I felt so much better when I got up this morning.
Here I am, about to set out for Brussels.
There’s a grim-looking church near my hotel, almost as imposing as the cathedral.
I took the S-Bahn over the river to the central station.
Got on the Inter-City Express train.
The trip to Brussels took about two hours, I got out at Brussels-Midi.
I walked around the south of the city, went past this war monument.
There was a lift from there to get down to the city centre.
I saw these union offices while passing through the centre.
Maybe I’ll see these people tomorrow in Ostend…
Otherwise, I’m staying in Molenbeek tonight.
The coming weekend I’ll be all focused on the Belgian Workers Party, and then I’ll be with Megan, so this might be my last post in a while. I’m going to get as much sleep as possible, as I need to get up early tomorrow, and I’ve got the feeling it’ll be a hectic day.