Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Dom

Another blast from the trip: I went to Cologne after the seminar in Dortmund, and the most famous tourist attraction (justly) is Cologne's huge cathedral, the Dom. It was damaged in the WWII bombing, but the Allies supposedly avoided targeting it directly (the bridge leading to it was broken, however).

The Dom is immense, and with all its heavy carving and decoration around the base, as well as the tapered spires and the blackened surfaces, looks heavy and imposing. A totally different effect from Chartres, say, or Notre Dame, which is also because the Dom is not that easy to see except right from the plaza surrounding it. You just can't stand back and get a good look at it. Not that easy to get a good picture, either.

Of course, we climbed the 500+ steps to the top, or rather I did while my friend succumbed to vertigo when the tiny spiral staircase inside the tower widens out and changes to an openwork metal staircase for the last 100 steps. However, the view from the top, while good, isn't that enjoyable. You walk around inside the tower, peering out through narrow window after narrow window. Beautiful, but not like walking around a more or less open balcony, even if it's covered with a wire cage.

We also stopped to see the huge set of bells on the way down, which are suitably imposing. The descent was quick but you have to squeeze past other tourists on their panting way up the tower, which makes for some rather hazardous navigation.

Inside, the cathedral is rather plain, with very diverse stained glass and very ornate chapels all around. One woman was vacuuming a carved wooden triptych with a little paintbrush and the hose attachment. When I went back the next day, she was there again and had barely moved.
The cathedral also houses the golden reliquary of the Three Wise Men. What exactly is supposed to be in there, I don't know. Nothing I read specified (bones, clothing, possessions?
Probably bones). Down in the treasury are huge quantities of other treasures, medieval croziers and the like. All in all, you can spend a lot of time around the Dom, fueled by the nearest Doner Kebap.

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