National Geographic : 1936 Jun
COLOGNE, KEY CITY OF THE RHINELAND BY FRANCIS WOODWORTH <" OLOGNE? You mean Koln," Corrected a Berlin travel agent when I asked for a ticket. He added, smiling, "It has always been a Ger man city with a German name." Eau de Cologne, the Cathedral, the Rhine (Rhein)-these are familiar aspects of the strategic bridgehead where, in March, 1936, Nazi battalions crossed the Rhine after their spectacular entry into the de militarized buffer zone between the Reich and France (see map, page 832). As I left Berlin I watched suburbs merge into flat, treeless farming country, with fields of grain ready for the harvest. In another August, years before, carloads of the Kaiser's troops had rolled along this same road, the direct route to Paris. West Germany is the Nation's workshop. Every mile nearer the Rhine brings fewer farms and more factories. Thick black webs of railways and forests of smokestacks mark the approach to Koln, chief empo rium of the Prussian Rheinland-a region comparable to that of Pittsburgh. TWO SPIRES LIKE GIANT PINES The twin spires of the Cathedral, bris tling on the horizon like a solitary pair of giant pines, loomed before me exactly eight hours after I had left Berlin. The Gothic pinnacles held all eyes through the car windows long before the low-lying city emerged from the summer haze (page 835). Then, Father Rhine! A broad, graceful bend gleaming in the afternoon sun, it or he-greeted me. For ages German min strels have personified their beloved river. People of Koln honor Vater Rhein with a monument, as they would a national hero. As the train rumbled across the Hohen zollern Bridge to K6ln, on the river's left bank, I saw Wilhelm II and three of his royal forbears still sitting majestically astride their sculptured chargers, as if keeping the watch on the Rhine despite their dynasty's fall. At the main railway station, where there used to be a private waiting room for the Emperor, I was besieged by venders of eau de Cologne. Travelers buy it as they buy Peiping's jade or Honolulu's leis. Half the shop windows, it seemed, displayed neat rows of brightly labeled bottles, many bear ing the name of Johann Maria Farina, who, tradition says, founded the business more than 200 years ago. Farina's descendants still manufacture the perfume in the old family establishment in the Jiilichsplatz, competing with scores of other makers all over the world. "What is the secret of eau de Cologne?" I asked a shopkeeper. "Expert blending," he replied. "In the original Farina process, flowers, herbs, spices, and drugs are steeped in alcohol, then distilled and mixed with vegetable essences in just the right proportions." "Is it still made this way?" "Yes, but many firms use an artificial method. They dissolve several aromatic oils like lemon and orange in alcohol, dis till, and add rosewater." CATHEDRAL LOOMS AT STATION EXIT Just outside the station I came face to face with the Cathedral, or Dom. Auto matically my head tilted back. Up went my eyes, up and up, past tier after tier of sharp, slender arches to the tips of the pin nacles, 515 feet high. It was as unexpected and thrilling as the sudden view of the Capitol when you emerge from the Union Station at Washington, D. C. The Cathe dral is so near the railroad that passengers on through trains can jump off for a hasty close-up, snatching a bottle of cologne water on the way. Sight-seeing busses, streetcars, and taxis were lined up in the Domhof, a spacious square round which clustered hotels, res taurants, and shops. One of these hotels served as headquarters for the British Army of the Rhine, which occupied Koln for more than seven years after the Armi stice. American troops were here, too, but our main concentration was at Koblenz, about 56 miles up the river (page 839). Carpeting one end of the Domhof was a pavement of tiny stone blocks, red, brown, and black, their intricate curving designs polished by the feet of generations. Here on the square, almost in the shadow of the Cathedral's spires, I found an ideal observa tion post, an open-air cafe in a little grassy park. It was crowded with sight-seers, some drinking tea and others sipping beer or white Rhenish wine. Luckily I spied a German train acquaintance who was taking his family to Paris on a vacation jaunt.