A Travellerspoint blog

Adventures on the Autobahn

Setting 3 consecutive personal speed records to and from Cologne

semi-overcast 55 °F

I woke up this morning with a bone to pick. German doors do not close flush into the door jam. This may sound trivial, but I constantly think that they are ajar and can't seem to get used to it.

Also, I forgot to mention an exciting development from yesterday during my run. Some tourists asked me for directions! Clearly I at least look like I know where I'm going, which was cool. It's always kind of my goal to blend in with the local fabric. It probably didn't hurt that I was wearing an adidas soccer warmup jacket. Anyways this guy was with his girlfriend and asked me in broken english (they looked/sounded Eastern European) where the nearest grocery store was. Unfortunately it was near the beginning of my run and I hadn't passed by one yet.

This morning I was responsible to make an American breakfast for my hosts. I sort of failed, as I made them Greek omelettes, but they loved them anyways. During breakfast, I talked with Bernd for a while about what it was like growing up in West Berlin. Apparently, travel to the rest of Western Germany wasn't as difficult as I had assumed it would be, other than the fact that you had to cross two borders (West Berlin to East Germany, then East Germany to West Germany) to get there, and if you caught traffic on the wrong days/times, it could take over 4 hours instead of 45 minutes. He was also there when the wall came down. He said that before it came down, West Berlin had 2.2 million inhabitants and when it came down, they got an influx of 800,000 neighbors visiting in the first couple of days.

Just as an addendum to some of the cool German products I was talking about the other day, this was a fantastic idea. Elke offered to throw my laundry in with theirs and she used this to dry my sweater. Do these exist in the states or am I just an idiot?

Also, Bernd and Elke have automatic blinds that go down when it gets dark and come back up in the morning. It kind of scares you at first, but its pretty wild.

After breakfast, Bernd and Elke had work to do so I set off for Cologne. I've been meaning to mention the Wirigen factory in Windhagen (Veendhaugen, haha) just a few km from Bernd and Elke's house. Apparently they make the machines that scrape off the asphalt on the highway before a new layer is put on. Bernd said that when they have visited the states, they have seen Wirigen machines in highway construction zones. Pretty neat. It used to be the same way for Kodak disposable cameras that said "Made in Rochester, NY." Umm yea, about that...


The prescribed route took me along the "3," one of the autobahn routes. Now normally I despise US street signs that say "END XX SPEED LIMIT." If I just got on that road or don't remember the previous speed limit, this is completely useless to me. Why not just put a sign up that says what the speed limit is instead of what it isn't? It would obviously cost the same amount (still just one sign), but would include more valuable information. I do not understand what purpose these signs serve and it's one of my pet peeves. Seeing this sign on the autobahn is an entirely different story. In certain places, mostly close to towns, speed limits on the autobahn are either 100kph (about 62mph) or 120kph (about 75mph). When you're on the autobahn and you see a 120 speed limit sign with a triple strikethrough, it is the sweetest sight you could hope to see. You aren't in the US bumbling around wondering what the speed limit is. You know that means there is no limit. All the Audis and BMWs that surround you zoom ahead like they just pressed the nitrous button. I want a picture of one of these signs. But this was no time to take pictures, I was far too giddy. Maybe I'll just get myself a real sign instead. Anyways, my previous personal speed record was set with 4 people in my tiny car on the way to Andy Spencer's cottage with Nico and Paul Spatola. It was the summer between high school graduation and college. We got to the top of a huge hill on a country road. I could see the next few miles of the road with not a house (or a cop) in sight. And with some encouragement, I gunned it. We hit 105 before I could start to see a house up ahead and decided to slow down. In the years since, I'm not sure I've even topped 80. So when I saw that sign, I put the pedal of my 1991 BMW to the floor to see what it had left. The needle gently creeped upwards, ever more reluctantly as the acceleration slowed as I started to top out. I had hoped to hit 200 as Bernd had done so easily in his brand new Audi, but alas I had to settle for 185kph. Those last 5kph took forever until finally the road started to climb a hill and all hope was lost. I knew that 100kph was roughly 60mph so I was pretty sure I set a new personal record, but once I got to Cologne (about 45 minutes away) I whipped out my phone and saw that it was 115mph. Not too shabby.

Anyways, I found a borderline illegal parking spot to avoid paying for parking (like father like son). Don't worry, that SOB mercedes behind me had a TON of room behind him to get out.
Then I set off for the day's adventures.

The main attraction in Cologne is the Kolner Dom (little dot guys over the o), aka Cologne Cathedral. On my way there, however, I passed by Great St. Martin Church, which wasn't too shabby.

I had basically written down all of the places that I wanted to see, but with no map (my road map doesn't have enough detail in the city itself) I was flying by the seat of my pants. Luckily I had seen the tip of the Cathedral when I drove in, so I knew that I was headed in the general direction. Then those helpful German signs kicked in that would point me in the direction of any tourist attraction I cared to see.
I had read that you could climb to the top of the cathedral, but I didn't immediately see where to do this and what I really wanted to make sure to see was the National Socialism Documentation Center, so I headed there next. This museum documents the rise and fall of the Nazis in Cologne, but also in Germany overall.

This museum was fascinating and everything I hoped it would be. It talked about the 121 local nazi groups that sprung up after the establishment of the Social Democratic Communist party to kept tabs on EVERYTHING about EVERYONE. Are they talking to jews? Are they taking part in the nazi rallys? Are they having the minimalist "Sunday Stew" that symbolized Nazi values instead of the more traditional (and extravagant) roast? People that weren't complying with the new policies or were political opponents were tried at the courthouse that was across the street where the museum is now (the museum was the police station at the time). Of course, the courts gave sentences that would please the party and sentenced to death over 1,000 local political opponents to the Nazis. All it took was a public denunciation from someone in town to launch an investigation. Many of the people that ran the courts never faced any consequences after the war. Even the ones that did were out before many of the people who they had put in jail. (It was a long and arduous process after the war to prove that you had been unlawfully jailed by the Nazis and should be freed.) Here's an artists rendering of how the Nazis infiltrated all levels of society...business, government, etc.

There was an erie recording of a 1933 speech by Josef Goebbels, the minister of propaganda, in which he said something to the effect of "The age of individualism has ended, the invisible hand replaced by the community of the people." This "community of the people" and promise of a classless system ended up being a pretty attractive offer for many of the poor people in Germany. They also showed how some of those marches of the army through the streets created a false sense of unity and helped gain build their following.
When I walked into the room on education, the audio guide said that Hilter's stated intention of education was that "They'll never be free again as long as they live." He gradually replaced young peoples organizations (i.e. camps, church groups) with the Hitler Youth, of which 90% of young people ended up joining, and those that didn't were threatened, isolated and ostracized. Activities like group hiking that recalled some of these older organizations could lead to persecution. For hiking. He eliminated christian values and pictures, even replacing crosses with his own picture and proclaiming that the "New German Religious Faith" was based on the principle that "I am in you and you are in me."

You weren't able to marry an aryan without both parties having a "certificate of racial purity" and had significant tax benefits and other incentives for "racially healthy" marriages. The head of the court for the "Protection of German Blood and Honor" that instituted compulsory sterilization of gays, alcoholics, people with poor eyesight, gypsies, and others, later became the President of the Magistrates Court after the war. In fact, there were many scary examples of the lack of consequences for some of the things these people did. A professor that was the Head of the "Institute for Genetic Biology and Racial Hygiene" and taught a course on Racial Hygiene continued to teach a similar course after the war, but under the title of "Anthropology." The names alone of some of these organizations was enough to make your stomach turn.

There were 270 airstrikes in Cologne during the war. As they shipped Jews and Gypsies to ghettos and concentration camps and therefore stripped them of their possessions, they would auction off their personal items to the bombed out residents of Cologne. I had noticed that there were far fewer centuries-old buildings as I walked through the streets, and now I knew why. Near the end of the war, as the Nazis became ever more desperate, there was actually a program to ship young boys and girls out to the country side, partly because they couldn't afford to lose any more boys in the bombings of cities. They promised that they would go to nice places for leisure activities, but the real reason they were shipped away from their homes was to train them in military drills away from the watchful eyes of their parents.

Here's a picture of soldiers in the plaza in front of the Dom. Having just come from the Dom and stood in that plaza, this picture froze me in place.
Also, here's what voting looked like during that time. Notice the lack of choices on the ballot.

When Cologne was being liberated by the Allies, they posted these signs around the city and elsewhere that quoted Hitler saying "Give me 5 years and you will not recognize Germany." We'll he was right, but probably not in the way that he had intended.
In a last ditch effort, the Nazis in Cologne destroyed the Hohenzollern Bridge (which was iconic to the people of Cologne and has since been rebuilt), which succeeded in slowing down the liberation of Cologne, but only delayed the inevitable.

At the end of the museum tour, you could go down into the basement where many of these political prisoners and unfortunate groups seen as inferior were held while awaiting trial.
The cells were designed to hold 2 people, but near the end of the war when the Nazi's were desperately trying to hold on to their power there were 8-10 people per cell at any given time and they had to take the beds out to make room for them. Their breakfasts consisted of coffee/bread, lunch was a soup of old bread blended with water and dinner was more bread. I clearly would not have made it. After that slightly downer but extremely interesting museum, I headed back to the Dom to climb the steps. Out in the plaza, Mickey picked up my spirits.
Mickey mouse in Germany? Yea that makes sense.

Anyways, I found the entrance to the top
and started ascending the 533 steps.


Boy were those steps worn out. Climbing a tight spiral staircase on these uneven steps was quite an experience.


I got up to the bell-tower level, which was pretty awesome. There were some great views
And the bell itself was enormous. It's so old that they only ring it once a month.

I thought that I was at the top, but realized that there was yet more stairs to climb to reach the true top of the Dom.
At the top, the views were great, but I was kind of disappointed in all of the fencing that made picture taking impossible. I can understand having a fence, but then they had netting on top of it.
At the top, I met a few young guys from Toronto that were near the end of a 3 month Eurotrip.
There were yet more stairs to climb, but you couldn't pay me enough...

When I got back down to the bottom, I fiddled with the iPhone panorama that I'm so obsessed with, but turned it on its side...

By then it was starting to get late and Bernd and I had set up a meeting for 5pm so that he could give me a rundown of the org structure of Konzepte as well as the projects he was going to have me work on. So I set out in search of my car. You know that feeling when you leave Wegmans and you can't remember where you parked your car? Yea, that was me...except in a city. I thought that I had made mental note of enough things to get back, but in all honesty I didn't have a clue where I was going. Somehow, by combining gut reactions and pure luck, I found my way back to my car barely making any wrong turns along the way. During the walk, I passed a few museums that I wished I had had time for. There was the Köln Stiftung Deutsches Sport & Olympia Museum in (German Sports and Olympics Museum of Cologne), and anybody knows me knows that I'm obsessed with the olympics. I've been to Olympic museums in Athens and Olympia, and would have liked to do this one too. It hadn't even made it on to the website of top attractions in Cologne though, so I'm going to choose to believe that I didn't miss too much.
Trophy from the Cologne futbol team.

I also am sad to say that I missed the Schokoladenmuseum Köln (Cologne Chocolate Museum...I love how they spell Chocolate haha). Again, this one somehow wasn't on the top attractions list, but I tried to stop in the gift shop to get something for Kristine anyways. The line was at least 30 people long and I didn't have time. Sorry!

Also, on the block that my car was parked, there was an interesting sign I had somehow missed earlier in the morning.
Handelsgesellschaft was literally the name of the street. No translation necessary.

Despite the fact that Bernd had warned that getting out of Cologne was confusion, I miraculously made it back home without a hitch. I'm going to stop calling myself directionally challenged and instead say that American sign makers are incompetent. My mind continues to be blown every time I don't get lost. The subheading of this post says that I set 3 consecutive personal speed records, and I'm sure that you've been waiting with bated breath to hear the full story. So on the way home, I was determined to hit 200kph. When I hit a downward slope, I gunned it and got up to 190 before the hill started going back up. A few minutes later, I found the perfect opportunity and gunned it to just barely touch 200kph, about 125 mph. I felt reckless and irresponsible until looked up from my odometer to see a BMW tailgating me, anxious to get by. I moved over, and he rocketed to probably 250kph. Clearly I'm an amateur.

When I got home, Bernd and I had a great discussion about Konzepte. It was extremely helpful to learn about how the company is organized in case I'm ever in a position to expand somewhere down the line. I also got a better idea of the kinds of work that they do, from training to coaching to consulting and what their focus areas are. Tomorrow morning I'll be presenting Conscious Capitalism to the management team. While we talked, Elke made spaghetti bolognese for dinner...another weekly tradition that they have. After dinner we sat and talked for a while in their living room and Bernd was the DJ with all of their vinyl records. Then I had to turn in to catch up on my blog and finish up my presentation for tomorrow. Now that the adventure part of the trip is mostly over, I'm sure you'll all be happy to know that the next few posts will probably be significantly shorter once I start working. Nevertheless, I'm anxious to get started and looking forward to the experience.

Posted by atbrady 15:42 Archived in Germany Tagged st. bridge cathedral national great center martin cologne dom kölner documentation socialism hohenzollern

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