I walked onto the wrong subway line on my way back to the center of town, and while the mistake delightfully took me past the Escher Street station, and bought me more interaction with Germans as I asked for directions back to the cathedral, I didn’t get back there until 11 or 12. And boy, was the area around the cathedral ever alive and buzzing with activity. I’d loosely planned to catch a cruise along the Rhein River, but I was far too intrigued by everything going on.
First of all, near I noticed flags I didn’t recognize and signs about “Karabach” near the old Roman arch:
Naturally, I was curious, so I asked one of the men who was handing out flyers what it was all about. He told me that the flags were from Azerbaijan and that they were protesting the Armenian genocide of Azerbaijanis in the Karabakh region. “The Armenians are getting lots of publicity for what the Turks have done to them, but we want to let the world know what the Armenians have done to us,” he told me, handing me one of the flyers. I was speechless with surprise. I never hear anything about Azerbaijan, period, and here I was hearing an Azerbaijani tell me, in German, about a war with Armenia.
He told me they were doing this on the anniversary of the massacre, and since it was the 23rd not the 24th, I was a little confused. “Are you going to be here through the weekend?” I asked him. He told me, no, that in a few hours, they’d be taking this demonstration on into Brussels and Amsterdam to make a little regional circle of protest through the weekend.
Over in another busy section of the cathedral square, people were circled around and taking pictures of an impressive chalk drawing
And the costumed people who’ll pose and do small tricks were out in force:
Like the silver “robots” and the attacking hedge at Fisherman’s Wharf, they made a living off the tourist tips and were always on the cathedral square, not just on Saturday. Among those I noticed, there was also an Egyptian sarcophagus who would bend from the waist and nearly touch his mask to his toes when given a tip, and a cowboy.
Near the stairs by the main train station, a group of punks had gathered to enjoy the lively Cologne street scene:
On the other side of the cathedral, I stopped to talk to and take pictures of some young women decorating themselves with branches and gathering signatures for a petition to save the rainforest.
As the chocolate museum taught me, chocolate comes from the rainforest, so yeah, save away! But not being an EU-resident, I couldn’t sign.
The group was exclusively young women, because the effort had been put together exclusively by the Greenpeace-jugend. Greenpeace has a youth division? Well, at least in Germany they do.
A few feet away there was a sign protesting the death camps and illegal organ harvesting of political prisoners in China:
I’ve already detailed part of my conversation with one of the protesters, but I have to add that in the end he turned out to be quite the Sinophile. We could certainly agree that Chinese culture and people are neat, and that its totalitarian government stinks.
When I saw young boys skateboarding on the Altstadt side of the cathedral square, I just couldn’t help myself but ask one of them if the German word for skateboard is really “Skateboard.” Ist das ein Skateboard? I asked an innocent 9-year-old who was taking a break.
Ja, ein Skateboard, he carefully answered, wondering who this retarded woman in front of him was.
Das Skateboard? I asked. He nodded, more annoyed. And then he skateboardtetet off.
I was pretty hungry by this time, so I headed into the Altstadt for yet another incredible German meal. But who should I run into but this group:
It was a bachlorette party for the girl in the silly hat and pink boa. Her friends asked me to write on the back of her t-shirt whether or not she should marry the guy who was pictured on all their shirts and wearing a silly hat himself, and why. I voted “Pro,” People who wear silly hats belong together.
Now Cologne has lots and lots of Romanesque churches, but it actually doesn’t have a castle. But what if you came to Cologne expecting and wanting a German castle? Well, have no fear, the castle boat is here!
It came complete with a princess and a hippie on a horse, standing in for a knight. Honestly, it really did look like crap. But, you know, the beer museum bar was just a few feet away. After a few liters of Kölsch that castle could look mighty good, and you’d be delighted to have the hippie knight dunk you in the Rhein River.
Back at the cathedral square, one of the protests/displays I kept a careful distance from was the very angry anti-Israeli booth:
The vast majority of Germans and German institutions distance themselves from their history of Judenhass, but this sure didn’t.
This sign managed to combine anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment in one:
It says: Land theft, as the US has done to the (American) Indians, so the Israel has done to the Palestinians.
So I took my little American self away from there and joined the crowds thronging into the nearby shopping area.