Saturday, 28 July 2018

das rheingold

We couldn’t visit Cologne without a cruise on the Rhine, so we booked sailings for two of the four days we were to be in the city in advance. My initial plan had been to spend one day sailing downstream and one day upstream, but we quickly discovered, when we walked down to the river upon our arrival to locate the landing stage, that the company we had booked with only sailed upstream. And there was only one sailing from Cologne each day.

Consequently, while I waited in line to board the boat, Paula went to speak to the man in the ticket kiosk, who advised her that if we were planning to go as far as Linz, then at all costs we should stay on the boat, because it would be the only sailing that day as far as Cologne. No problem! It didn’t take me long to discover that there was a bar on board, and when in Germany one drinks beer.

It’s impossible to contemplate the Rhine close up without being aware of the enormous advantage that this artery gives the German economy. It might even be the origin of the famous German reputation for efficiency. There are three main types of cargo vessel on the river: bulk carriers, tankers and container barges:

bulk carrier


container barge

Some of the bulk carriers we saw were carrying gravel and were not covered, but most were like the one in the photo, with covers over the cargo, which I’m guessing indicates a perishable cargo, such as grain.

Along much of the river, the banks have been taken over by industrial facilities, such as this container terminal:

…and this wharf, which appears to be for loading and unloading coal:

However, there are still a few hints of an unspoilt riparian environment (the land to the right of this creek is a long, narrow island running close to and parallel to the east bank of the river):

In terms of what can be seen from a boat on the river, the landscape is almost magical. Do bear in mind that this is the land of Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and all the other denizens of the world recorded by the Brothers Grimm. I can easily imagine Rapunzel being imprisoned in this tower, for example:

I imagine that you would need to be pretty wealthy to own a house with river frontage, like these ones:

Notice the footpath and cycle track running along the bank in the foreground. Although there were places where we couldn’t see either, there do appear to be long contiguous stretches, and were we ever to go back to Cologne, cycling along the Rhine would be on the agenda.

There is also a cycle track running alongside the railway in the next photo:

The two white posts are precisely 100 metres apart, and posts like these appear every 100 metres along the river, with a larger post showing cumulative distance, presumably from the source of the river, every kilometre.

And this is a closer look at the house directly above the red train on the right of the last photo:

The following sequence of photographs features other exotic buildings that I happened to notice while sailing past:

The next photo shows part of the waterfront in Unkel, one of the later stops on the voyage:

I’ve included the next photo because the building strikes me as unusual. I’m guessing that, based on the number of balconies, it is an apartment complex, although I've never seen an apartment block quite like this before:

The left-hand mansion in the next photo appears to be derelict:

In addition to the exotic and the peculiar, we did see a few futuristic buildings, like these apartment blocks in Cologne:

I can’t help wondering what it would be like to live in an apartment directly above the overhang. Would I want to know how thick the concrete was beneath my feet? Would I be conscious of the 100 feet of thin air directly below that? The ‘leg’ supporting the overhang is a combined stairwell and lift shaft that doesn’t appear to be capable of carrying this burden unaided, so I’m bound to wonder how this weight is being counterbalanced.

This one is located on the east bank of the river between Cologne and Bonn:

It looks like a commercial building but may be residential, given what appear to be private roof gardens.

And this is Linz, where the boat turned around and came back downstream:

There are bridges across the Rhine in Cologne and Bonn, but none elsewhere. However, there are quite a few car ferries:

Judging by the size of the ferry, drivers at the back of this queue will have to wait for the next one.

As I mentioned above, we had pre-booked two days on the Rhine, and although we did enjoy our first day, we didn’t fancy repeating it. I examined the timetable and worked out that if we disembarked in Bonn, we could spend two hours there, board another boat heading upstream—there are three additional sailings each day starting in Bonn—and explore one other location.

We chose K√∂nigswinter, which I’d photographed on the first day:

I will conclude this essay with photographs of what I considered to be the two most striking buildings we saw during our sojourns on the Rhine. The first is of a church in Wesseling, an industrial town between Cologne and Bonn:

Is it just me, or does this church have an oriental feel to it?

I spotted this mansion on the outskirts of Bonn:

By the way, the river may look placid in these photos, but you can get an idea of the strength of the current by studying the timetable. The trip from Cologne to Linz, a distance of about 60 kilometres according to the signposts I referred to earlier, is scheduled to take five hours and 40 minutes, the return journey only three hours and 10 minutes.

Friday, 20 July 2018

odour cologne

I do not wish to imply that the graffiti we saw in Cologne is somehow ‘better’ than what we saw in Brussels, but we did spend four days in Cologne, compared with only one day in the Belgian capital, so this collection is naturally more comprehensive. However, of those four days, two days were spent cruising on the Rhine, and most of a third day was devoted to looking around the cathedral, so it’s possible that there is more graffiti talent in the German city than there is in Brussels.

The first photo, of a wall close to our hotel, is a good example of what I would call the ‘classic’ graffiti style, although there are individual flourishes. This classic style features bulbous, rounded letters:

There is a hint that the white highlighting is intended to represent spermatozoa.

There is a park close to our hotel, and I photographed the next four graffiti on various walls there:

The first of these images, in addition to an unusual lettering style, features two commonly recurring motifs—bubbles and running paint—while the squiggles within the letters could be intended to represent coliform bacteria. The second image includes two separate graffiti. The one on the left relies on colour for its effect, although the artist has added black lines around the edges to enhance the image, while the one on the right, although crude, is stylistically unlike anything else I’ve seen. The yellow circles in the third image may be intended to represent bubbles, but the feature that intrigues me here is the overlapping fourth and fifth letters (all the other letters are clearly separated). The fourth image is an exemplar of what I call ‘space’ style. The jagged lines remind me of comic book art. Zap! Pow!

Are there three graffiti in the next photo, or just two? The green and blue tags on the left of the photo appear to be in the same style, and the green overlaps the blue, so I surmise that both are part of the same graffito:

If my conjecture is correct, then it’s unusual to see this kind of colour change in a single graffito.

The next image is a fairly standard tag, except for the ‘entwined’ style of the first letter:

Is the next image graffiti or street art? I included photos taken to the immediate left and right of this image in Street Art Gallery, and the train passing through this location marks the image as art, but I’ve decided—entirely arbitrarily—to post it as an example of graffiti.

Pink and blue bubbles is what I see in the next photo. I note that it is signed ‘GUYS’, and there is a second graffito, below, that also carries this signature, although the two graffiti are not stylistically similar:

Crude but effective:

The pink and blue of the next graffito resemble the colours in the last but one photo, but again the styles are dissimilar:

Although I can identify the general area where the photos in this collection were taken, I can be specific only about the next five images. The first four are located on the parapet of the Hohenzollern Bridge, which carries the main railway line across the Rhine, at the eastern end:

Note that two of these include the word ‘NICE’ (the example that I used in Continental Excursion, which was also taken here, includes this word too). However, the writing is not stylistically similar, and only in the first of these two examples does the word appear to be part of the design. I wonder if the word has been added by someone else.

The wall space at the eastern end of the bridge is covered with a hodge-podge of graffiti, but I considered that only the next image was worth recording. The sinuous style is most unusual:

I’ve included the next photo to provide a sense of the milieu in which graffiti appear in Cologne. The designs on these shutters are thoroughly nondescript, and the left-hand shutter, in particular, is little short of mindless vandalism. However, this is not located in a rundown area, and the streets are completely free of litter.

Although I like the colours in the next graffito, the point to note here is the letters ‘FYA’, which also appear in the fourth photograph above (the one with the yellow circles):

The next image is quite dark, which is probably the result of using grey as a body colour:

If you look closely at the photograph of a skeleton painted on the gable end of a house in Street Art Gallery, you will see the tag ‘LTN’ near the bottom. This graffito also includes these letters, but the second and third letters are lower case, and the lettering styles are completely different:

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get all of the next graffito in a single shot:

What I like about the next design is the bulbous excrescences at the base of the first two letters. They may have been intended as serifs, but to me they look like a pair of hobnailed boots:

Finally, here are two ‘classic’ graffiti that I found close to our hotel:

The evenness of the curves in the left-hand graffito suggest muscular aggression to me, although that may be because I’ve made an unjustified assumption about gang culture in New York, where this type of street art appears to have originated.

Friday, 13 July 2018

brussels sprites

Although Cologne was the principal destination of our recent continental excursion, our journey there took us through Brussels, where we changed trains. It seemed like a good idea to stop off for a day and take a look around. I’ve already posted examples of street art that I photographed in the Belgian capital, and this post features the best examples of graffiti that I saw during our brief visit.

The first graffito is an apparently simple example of ‘block lettering’:

The next photo is an example of how, in Brussels in particular, more than one graffito may occupy the same vertical space:

…while this is a more ‘arty’ graffito:

The next graffito reminds me of the characters in the ‘Spy vs. Spy’ strip in Mad magazine:

I’m not sure whether the next photo includes an advert for Levi jeans, or whether the word ‘LEViS’ is itself a graffito:

The next graffito is geometric in style (this is another example of sharing the vertical space):

The next image is my favourite in this collection:

…while this is a photo of two similar but separate graffiti, presumably executed by different artists, on the walls of a skateboard park:

I don’t know what the story is here, but I noticed several large vans with graffiti painted on their sides in Brussels. Did the owners/drivers give permission for their vans to be thus decorated? The nearer of the two vans appears to carry the names of an entire crew, and I wonder if this is the vehicle they use to transport equipment and look for walls to paint:

Finally, the wall to the left in the previous photo, obscured by trees, is absolutely covered in graffiti. Because of the trees, it was impossible to get good photographs of individual graffiti, but this photo does provide a general flavour of this location: