Day 7 – Cologne
Turns out we arrived in Cologne at the correct moment. We woke up the next morning to find out it was a German equivalent of a bank holiday and that lots of other campers were fighting for the spots along the river. We wandered into the town towards the Dom Cathedral, a beautiful gothic cathedral which over years has really suffered from the old coal trains in the station just next door. Personally, I think it just adds to the gothicness of it as it’s now rather back. In the square there was an outdoor church ceremony with thousands of people, who then led a procession around the town. Jack and I have a habit of turning up in places at the correct time while something random is going on. Plus, to top it all off, I even got the sun cream out this morning.
We then found a little café to pick up some lunch and some Wi-Fi so we could check back in with the outside world seeing as our antenna wasn’t being particularly helpful. After checking in with the lady looking after our bunnies, our parents, updating the blog we went off to the National Socialism Documentation Centre. If you’re ever in Cologne this is the place we’d recommend you go, but make sure you also get the audio guide as the museum is completely in German. As we’re both students (still blagging it!) we had two admissions and two audio guides for €8. It was just a standard building from the outside, yet in the basement was a Gestapo Prison from the Second World War. Nobody around the area truly knew what was going on here, and it was about the only building in the area that wasn’t damaged by the bombing of the city. The basement itself has been kept completely as it was then, with writing on the walls from the prisoners that were kept in the cells. They had full stories of some of the inmates, one of which gave birth there, one escapee, children aged 14/15 and groups of friends. It was fascinating and heart wrenching at the same time. As the end of the war was nearing the gestapo started executing people in the courtyard of the building. The first and second floor of the building has been converted into a museum showing what happened during the Second World War in Cologne. It called out of the people in charge of the Nazi control in Cologne as well as naming all of the gestapo officers that worked in the building. It also told you what happened to them all after the war; one committed suicide, one got 10 years, two 8 years, and the rest lived free lives until their deaths. Mostly within Cologne or the surrounding areas. With people in Germany being called up for the crimes now in their 80’s and 90’s, it’s horrifying to know how many people in the Nazi regime and gestapo were never held accountable for their actions. The museum also detailed how the pure German children that were born under the Nazi regime were essentially brainwashed into eating, breathing, talking Nazi. It told the story of two children who had grown up in this way and how they both had to go through therapy as everything they had understood crashed down around them after the war. The gentleman then in his 40’s wrote a book which he published at his own expense and dedicated his life to telling his story in schools so as to help avoid similar brainwashing to happen. The museum took you on a well-informed journey of the 1930’s to 1950’s. Despite it being a sombre three hours it was well worth doing.
We got back to the van early so we could chill out and enjoy the view. A British couple wandered by our van and stopped to talk. They were very lovely and asked us about our trip. They were on their way back home again from a three month tour around Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. They lady laughed when we said we had just started out, before saying “I knew it, your clothes aren’t nearly wrinkled enough yet!”. We also spoke to another lovely German couple in the van next to us who were amazed by our trip. They have done several long trips in their van and were able to recommend us places we had to go to along our route. They laughed and decided we had definitely caught that horrible bug that’s floating round; the travelling bug.
We do have one problem though… We’ve forgotten a cheese grater!
Day 8 – Cologne to Hamburg
We treated ourselves to a lie in this morning before heading out for a wander around the botanical gardens. It was even hotter today, so even Jack decided he needed sun cream. It was nice to chill and just enjoy the weather as we’ve been going at 100mph since we left the UK. We ate our lunch in the garden and headed back.
When we arrived at the van, our neighbours had left us a goodbye note, wishing us a lovely trip.
We then decided to make a start for Hamburg to make sure we were early for a spot. Especially with this unknown long holiday weekend. It was so hot that cars were overheating and causing major congestion on the motorways so we got to Hamburg at 7pm. We also passed Ikea number 3 and 4 and broke our 1,000 mile mark.
As we didn’t have any food in the van, we headed towards to nearest Lidl on our map. This happened to be through the Hamburg version of the red light district, which at 8pm on a Friday night was packed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stag dos in one place.