Last Chance for German Culture
Today is our last day to enjoy Cologne. Over the past week we have learned about key moments in the 2000-year cultural history of the Rhineland. On our first day we encountered the Roman foundations of urban life in “Germania.” Then on Sunday we visited Aachen, where we learned about Charlemagne and the Frankish empire, which encompassed most of what we know today as Germany and France. On Monday we were back in Cologne. Our goal that day was to discover the culture of the Middle Ages via the great Romanesque and Gothic churches of Cologne. Tuesday was given mostly to Baroque culture, which we encountered at the beautiful palaces of Brühl and various buildings in Bonn. While we were in Bonn we deviated a bit from our chronology by touring the Beethoven Haus and the Haus der Geschichte (the museum of German history from 1945 to the present).
On Thursday, everyone had the day to explore their own interests. Professor Gomez traveled with Aaron Bonar and Tony Scheetz to tour the European Parliament in nearby Brussels. Mike Vick made the short train ride up to Düsseldorf to see Germany’s fashion and shopping capital. Chris Vachon, Mark Schultz, and Matt Wynn spent the day over in Lüdenscheid with guest families that they got to know through a high school exchange. I spent the day visiting a Kindergarten and an elementary school with a former student who now lives in Germany. Ian Scales and Matt Vest traveled to Trier to see more Roman historical sites and to visit the Karl Marx museum. Matt Maher, Jake Huston, Phil McNelly, and Jesse James took advantage of the day to get to know Cologne better.
The last item on our agenda for this trip was a visit to the Museum Ludwig. It houses one of the best collections of 20th-century art and beyond. The highlight for me was the excellent collection of German Expressionists; a close second was the section devoted to American pop art and op art—the best piece for me was a large installation by Edward Kienholz called “Portable War Memorial.” It was made in 1968, but seems particularly relevant today. Post-WWII German culture was profoundly influenced by American cultural trends. In art, Abstract Expressionists like Pollack and pop artists like Wesselman were very influential on the next generations of German artists.
After the museum we adjourned to a traditional restaurant for a farewell dinner together. We reflected on our week and I asked each student what his favorite part of the trip was. Charlemagne’s cathedral in Aachen seemed to be the most common response, but the Cologne cathedral had a lot of fans as well. I also asked rhetorically what the least favorite part of the trip was. If I had pressed for answers, I suspect many of them would have mentioned the Max Ernst Museum in Brühl.
After lunch everyone split up to buy souvenirs and enjoy their last evening in Cologne, at least for this particular trip—most everyone seems certain that he will be back in Germany in the very near future.
Click Here for photos from throughout the week
In Photo: The group eats "dunch," dinner-lunch, at a local restaurant. We were seated just outside the wine cellar.