First visited Köln on the morning of 14 September after leaving Soest. Was initially unimpressed by the place from my short tour of walking around in the brutal rain. Köln was largely destroyed in WWII, so there are few “old” buildings left, besides the Dom. The Dom itself is quite impressive as you can see, strangely reminiscient of the Black Gates of Mordor. German catholics know how to build cathedrals: even as a non-Catholic, I was hit by a strong sense of piety and grandeur inside the Dom. No pictures of the interior, as they ask you not to. There were neophytes or whatever they were in their red robes, telling people to take off hats and nto to take photos.
I was in Köln to meet up with the rest of the Rheinland-Pfalz/Hamburg/Hessen/Nieder-Sachsen language assistants for our orientation (Einführungstagung) in Altenberg, outside of Köln. The idea was that we would all meet up in the Hauptbahnhof on the 14th, then board coach buses for the monastery at Altenberg where we would be staying.
Altenberg was an interesting experience, and I managed to get to know a few of the other language assistants. We were put into dorm-style rooms with people from the same cities/regions that we were moving to, in order to faciliate better friendships &c &c. I was put in a three’er room with Jack and Neil, both of whom are in Trier with me.
Today a hostel, Altenberg was a monastery founded sometime back between the 1100s and 1400s (I can’t remember which). Not going to lie, the whole orientation-experience rang eerily of Hogwarts: we were in an old sort of castle/church/monastery tucked away into the woods in the middle of nowhere, with a meal-hall, wooden staircases to dormitories, and we were forever running to and fro to classes with bundles of papers and books under our arms. Yet another surreal experience.
Mostly Brits at the orientation, with only a few Canadians, and even fewer Aussies, Kiwis and Irish. I was the only British Columbian, and it wasn’t until the last day that I met a girl from Alberta. The rest of the Canadians were from back East, primarily Ontario and a couple from the Maritimes. Was very odd being surrounded by so many English-speaking people after spending so long among Germans and Dutchmen, and the weirdness was compounded by the fact that these English speakers had different accents. Bizarre.