Monday, July 27, 2009

May 7, 2009 - Cologne, Germany

With a population just less than one million, Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city, after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. Cologne lies on the River Rhine and is one of the oldest cities in Germany, having been founded by the Romans in the year 38 BC. The famous cathedral is the largest in Germany. Slideshow here.Cologne is also famous for Eau de Cologne, created by an Italian expatriate Johann Maria Farina early in the 18th century. As the fragrance gained popularity, a merchant named Wilhelm Mülhens negotiated the right to use the name Farina, and promptly opened a small factory in Glockengasse. Like other "hot item"agreements, this one ultimately ended up in court, at which time Wilhelm's grandson Ferdinand Mülhens renamed the product 4711, the house number of the factory in Glockengasse. Both products are still made in the city to this day.
cally, Cologne has 100 females for each 95 males and seems to revel in its renown as the "gay capital of the world". Perhaps there is a connection here...
Carnival season is another Cologne biggie, beginning each year on 11 November at 11
past 11 a.m. and continuing, for an entire 3 months or so, until Ash Wednesday. Things apparently really amp up during the last week, when the street carnival starts, it is claimed, with as many as a million people celebrating in the streets on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Backstory here.
The landmark cathedral was started in 1248, abandoned
around 1560 and finally, finished with a flourish in 1880, to become a German national monument celebrating the newly founded German empire. During the final throes of completion - after 600 plus years of foot-dragging - a large amount of historic heritage was simply torn down, including the city walls, to show the building at its best. During World War II, Cologne was a Military Area Command Headquarters and sustained 262 air raids by the Allies, causing almost 20,000 civilian casualties and effectively razing the city center. During the night of 31 May 1942, Cologne was visited by "Operation Millennium", the first 1,000 bomber raid by the Royal Air Force. 1,046 heavy bombers dropped 1,455 tons of bombs on the city in 75 minutes, killing nearly 500 civilians and rendering a further 59,000 homeless. In 1947, architect Rudolf Schwarz produced a reconstruction plan which took advantage of the sparse remnants of the city center by including several new thoroughfares designed for anticipated automobile traffic. The project also called for the eradication of more than a dozen historical churches and other architectural treasures, exacerbating the destruction of heritage begun in 1880. The reconstruction finally took almost 50 years.The cathedral, officially Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria, is a World Heritage Site and one of the most recognized architectural monuments in Germany. At 478 feet long, 280 feet wide and with two towers, each 520 feet high, it is the largest Gothic church in northern Europe and has the largest facade of any church in the world. For a few years, it was also the tallest structure in the world until being bested by the Washington Memorial in 1884.

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