National Geographic : 1936 Jun
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE country beyond the Alps to Rome. Still harder to credit had been the story that the fair pilgrims, on returning from Italy, had all been slaughtered by the Huns at K6ln. Myth or no myth, however, I saw the church that commemorates the martyrdom and preserves the amazing, gruesome col lection of "virgins' bones." Many were exhibited in glass cases, others formed bi zarre patterns on the walls. Some of the skulls wore gorgeous crowns of jewels. A half hour in St. Ursula's helped me to understand why the author of "The An cient Mariner" called Kiln "a town of monks and bones." Coleridge saw Koln at its worst, in Napoleonic times. Like other Hanseatic ports, it had rapidly lost commercial pres tige after the 16th century. New trade routes had opened, strong rivals had sprung up. When the French took over the old free city in 1794 they found only 40,000 inhabitants, most of them destitute. The Cathedral was converted into a hay barn during the French Revolution. After Water loo, Koln was incorporated with the King dom of Prussia. Steamships, railroads, and the development of the Ruhr Valley made it once more a thriving export center. "Are there any local industries besides perfume-making?" I asked my hotel man ager. "Many," he answered, "ranging from chocolate, cigars, and textiles to toys, ma chinery-and Fords! The cars you see with the familiar trademark have been made right in Koln ever since the American company opened a plant here in 1931." HALF A DAY AROUND THE "RINGS" Where medieval ramparts once stood, I sauntered along a handsome chain of boule vards, the Ring-Strassen, which describe a wide semicircle round the former town lim its. So fast was Koln's expansion during the 19th century that the old line of forti fications had to be pulled down, and blocks of houses spread out in a vast, thick cres cent away from the river. The "Rings" are not quite four miles long, but it took me almost half a day to walk them. I was sidetracked by remnants of Roman walls and by the city gates, which now serve as museums and are crammed full of interest ing things. Many of the boulevards were lined with attractive residences, well-trimmed shade trees, and flower beds arranged with Teu tonic precision. But this new district was much like that of any other modern Euro pean city, and I was glad to get back to the old town nestling round the Cathedral. A FAREWELL DINNER My last night in Koln I sought out a famous eating-place in the street called Little Budengasse, and there supped on excellent wiener schnitzel garnished with tiny, pickled flower buds. At wooden tables, scrubbed so they shone like white enamel, patrons were drinking the bitter beer known locally as Kiilsch, served in a rotund mug called a Wiederkomm, which means "come again." A sign over the bar advertised in Ger man and English, "We Grow Our Own Wine." "But I have seen no vineyards in the vicinity of Koln," I remarked to the proprietor. "Our wines come from Riidesheim, near Bingen," he explained. "My people have owned vineyards there more than 300 years." I expressed surprise at his family's long residence in the Rhineland. "The vineyards have a much older pedi gree," he said. "Charlemagne himself is supposed to have planted vines at Riides heim." Kiln has changed with the rest of Ger many. The Place of the Republic has become "Adolf Hitler Platz." Brightly colored Nazi banners drape the gray stone fronts of old buildings. Even before the entry this year of the Reich's armed forces, bands of brown shirts often swung through town singing at the tops of their voices, hurling loud echoes down narrow ancient streets. 848 "O"