Hitler borrowed this centuries-old Roman symbol to instill fear during his Nazi regime.  This mosaic floor is part of the Roman villa that is the foundation of Cologne's Roman Museum. 

Part of an excavated Roman sewer.

Germany Along the Rhine

 

Images of Germany depend upon your birth year.  For many, Nazi Germany is forever ingrained in their memories, but for me, Germany is a beautiful country that I always look forward to visiting.

 

 

Two of my favorite cities are Mainz and Cologne.  Both are walled cities on the Rhine River and date back to the Roman Empire.  The Rhine is a busy artery where cargo boats face off like jousting knights.  Railroads traverse the Rhine with connections to anywhere in Europe.  Both cities combine ancient beauty in their post-war construction.  Although Allied bombing destroyed most of these cities, the Germans wisely rebuilt in the centuries-old style that existed before the war.  I love their unique architecture.

 

 

 

Mainz is a quiet town in comparison to Frankfurt across the river, but that doesn't mean the locals don't have fun.  As with most German cities, festivals frequently grace their courtyards.  Whether it's an Apple Fest, Oktober Fest or Winter Fest, there is always plenty of singing, dancing, and vendors selling specialty wares.  As for the people; friendly best describes them.  German food is plentiful and tasty.  I recommend their pork loin, boiled potatoes, and red cabbage.

 

 

Cologne is renowned for its elegant Cathedral.  I can just see its German architects saying, "We can make it bigger and more impressive than Notre Dame."  Regardless, this church is so extraordinary the Allied Forces were given strict instructions not to harm it, and it is one of Germany's few building to survive World War II intact.  If arrving by train, the Cathedral is one of the first structures you will see because the train station is literally next door.  It is truly a grand way to enter the town.

 

 

Next to the Cathedral is the Roman Museum.  This amazing building is built directly atop a Roman villa that the locals discovered when seeking out WWII bomb shelters.  The villa's large mosaic floor is located some thirty feet beflow ground level and is visible through an outside glass wall.  Visit the rest of the rooms on your museum tour and then browse several floors of artifacts.  This is a must-see if you're in Cologne.  Be sure to allow plenty of time for this visit.

 

 

The Chocolate Museum is another of Cologne's gems.  Located on its own peninsula on the Rhine, this museum is actually a working chocolate factory.  Ever wonder how they make those hollow chocolate bunnies?  Here you will see it first hand and then enjoy a fresh wafer dipped in a chocolate pond.  The vistas from the museum's large glass windows are in themselves worth the trip.

 

 

Whether you embark at Mainz or Cologne, a riverboat ride is a must.  The length of the cruise is up to you as there is quite an assortment, but they are seasonal.  I have been one of only a couple of foreign tourists on board, but I've never felt like one.  There is nothing like hearing an entire boat full of Germans singing their traditional homeland songs.  In comparison, most American's tend to struggle with our National Anthem's lyrics.  I am envious of Germany's camaraderie.

 

Although many Germans speak English, it shouldn't be expected or taken for granted.  Attempting to speak a few key German works can often bring smiles followed by them speaking to you in English.  Most restaurants provide English menus if their menus are not multi-lingual.  As with everywhere I visit, I've found that dressing like the locals is the best way to blend in and have a positive experience.

 

Germany's post-war generations do not dwell on their dark side of history.  I have never seen any reference to Hitler.  Small brass plates bearing the names and dates of abducted Jews now grace residential sidewalks.  While I deplore Nazi Germany's atrocities, I also realize the majority of those drafted into the conflict would have been killed or imprisoned had they not followed orders.  My father's generation bore that war so that I would bear no animosity towards the Germans.  I love Germany and find its people gracious hosts.