Wednesday, July 23, 2003

July 20, 2003: Chocolate disaster

I slept in very late; I was still aching from the grueling walks around Zollverein and to and from the Villa Huegel. Even when I did finally get out of bed, there was little that I wanted to do. It was too hot, inside and outside.

There were several things that compelled me to go outside. First, I finished the previous blog and entry and was eager to post it. Second, I wanted to write to Karen because I could not the previous day. Third, I needed water if I were to survive; what comes out of the pipes is not tasty (I understand that they have problems with lime in the city water. There is even an outer suburb that is called Kalk, which means lime.) Fourth, I did not want to be a boring dweeb. I had to do something.

I had to go a little farther out to post the blog; my usual haunt was closed due to networking problems. After that I started out toward the river. I promised Karen that I would go to the chocolate museum, Imhof Stollwerk, and pick up some goodies. Karen and I had been there before, and it was an interesting museum. The gift shop has some interesting things.

I walked over to the river. There was a LED display that showed the temperature. 38 Centigrade. Can’t be true. It was hot, but was it actually that hot?

I went first to the Museum for German Olympic Sports. This just moved next to Imhof Stollwerk in the last several years. Both are located on a small island that shelters the marina. The museum was interesting. Many of the themes were familiar to me already: the creation of German Gymnastics as the national sport by Jahn, the development of Olympic sports, lots on soccer and racing, ... . They were forthcoming on the problems of the 1936 Olympic Games. There was something that I found odd. In 1938 the world cycling champion, Albert Richter was from Cologne. He is perhaps the only noteworthy Cologne athlete, cycling being a major sport before 1950. I read years ago that he was killed, shot in the back after being tortured by the SS, as he was trying to smuggle money to his Jewish agent who was in exile in Amsterdam. There was no mention of this brighter light in German sports history from the 1930; they only had the cup that Richter had won. (To continue along the tangent, Richter’s death was ruled suicide by hanging even though he was clearly shot in the back and there were no marks on his neck; the German government has not yet rehabilitated him.)

Next, I went over to the chocolate museum. I would not stay long. Just get some goodies and get going. I spent a long time looking over things. Some purchases were more obvious–the tin with varied goodies. But I had to screen out anything that might have nuts because Karen has peanut allergies. One nice thing I found was a chocolate cup that had a painting of a “bourgeois family” enjoying a drink. I was ready to go, but I was curious about what they had in the café. I decided that I would try one of their chocolate drinks (yes it was hot, but the Aztecs would have still served it.) What I ordered was infused with a great deal of shredded coconut. It was excellent. It also came in a beautiful cup (for which I had to leave an 8-euro deposit), and a large amount of very heavy whipped cream on the side.

I intended to do little more. I wanted to watch the three hours of Star Trek that would be shown in the late afternoon. The sky had clouded up, and a breeze had kicked up. It seemed like an ideal time to get back to the apartment. And for several hours I did nothing but lay horizontally and stare at the TV. Did I have anything to eat? I can’t remember, probably just some bread and cheese, nothing more interesting. I walked down to the local store to buy two bottles of sparkling mineral water.

I fell asleep for a while and woke up around 11. It was hot in the room, sweat-dripping-down-my-back hot. I left the window open, but I pulled down the shades and closed them. I had a bad thought–the chocolate. I put it in my luggage, thinking that it would be cool enough in the dark and that I would not let the room get too warm. I looked in the bag. I reached for a chocolate bar. Even in the rapper I could tell that it was soft. I examined the rest. Some things survived better than others. I was disappointed that all the chocolate could be ruined.

July 21 and 22, 2003

Another two days of getting down to business. And not much to report. After I had reached some sort of “equilibrium” with the landlady, I did several stupid and clumsy things that have given her some legitimacy to complain: I knocked over a frying pan that I was cooking with one night, nearly burning myself, and the next I did not turn off the electric burner the next (I just turned it down to the lowest setting; there was no light to show me that the burner was still on.) I have learned that all the people who have inhabited my room in the past year have all been from Strasbourg (the only exception being me, who only lived there for two months.) Through a combination of sports braces, ace bandages, and bionic technology I have been able to rebuild my leg. I have been drinking a bottle of Sylvaner from Hesse; it is a disturbing wine. I have been also discovering what faux-meat products are available in Germany, thanks to the Reformhaus chain (not a good name choice.) The weather promises to cool down in a few days. I am thinking about going to either Liege or Maastricht over the weekend? I need a trip that won’t pick my wallet clean.
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