Imagine the best museum you've ever been to. It's hands on, it's interesting, it's really informative.
Now imagine that it smells like chocolate. And when you get your ticket, it comes with a piece of chocolate. And instead of a gift shop, it has a chocolate shop.
I was in that museum today, the Schokoladen Museum in Cologne. It covers the history and production and marketing of chocolate. I'm pretty sure God picked the truffles that I bought there fresh from his truffle tree. For the last couple hours, I've been carrying around a bag of chocolate that includes, among other things, a piece of chocolate with lavender, a piece with strawberries and green pepper, and a piece of chocolate covered dried mango. (I can't find the hyphen on this keyboard. My bad.)
I also went to the Cologne Cathedral today and climbed up the 533 steps to the top of one of the towers. I must say, I was pretty pleased with myself; I was the only one not huffing and puffing upon getting to the top. Now, my injured leg has since taken its revenge, but the marathon has had at least some long term effect on my ability to not be a pansy. This cathedral has the remains and the treasures of the Magi.
And this morning I left Wiesbaden on a train that I wasn't sure was going where I wante to go. I bought my ticket yesterday, but the actual ticket had a tiny amount of information on it, and most of that was in German. However, I knew what time I was supposed to leave, so I wrote that down and figured I'd ask the agents this morning. Well, the office doesn't open until 10 on Sundays. My train was leaving at 9:33. I spent a couple of minutes wondering what to do before hitting on a solution: look at the gate assignments. Sure enough, there was a train leaving at 9:33. I found the train in the booklet I'd picked up yesterday that heretofore had been gibberish, found the train and discovered it arrived in Cologne the same time I was supposed to. Score! I felt really good for about 10 minutes, until I realized this train wasn't going to Cologne; it was going somewhere else. I looked at the map, looked back at my booklet, pulled out my phrase book and discovered that I was changing trains. I went back to feeling really good.
Hence began two of the most beautiful hours of my life. The train went north through the Rheingau, or Rhein River valley, which is what I'm now going to see when I imagine the Garden of Eden. The Rhein is such a clean, inviting river, completely unlike the other rivers I've seen in Europe. (I'm looking at you, London.) The valley comes down sharply on either side; for most of it one side is covered almost entirely with vineyards. The rest is made up of castles, ruins, old churches and buildings that all look like gingerbread houses. The best picture could barely hope to mimic that.
I changed trains at Koblenz, not the train I was supposed to take (in my defense I was on that platform when it was supposed to leave, and the train was not), but on the next one, dozed for another hour and then got to Cologne and commenced the fun having.
Tomorrow is Berlin!