1988 Europe Bicycle Trip – Part 8

…continued from 1988 Europe Bicycle Trip – Part 7 (my second day in Cologne, Germany).

Today I started out with the Flora Park and Botanical Garden. In St. Louis, we’re spoiled by the Missouri Botanical Garden. Probably the only gardens in the western world that surpass it are the New York Garden in Brooklyn and the Royal Garden in Kew, London. As a result, just about anything else pales by comparison, but it was still a very enjoyable couple of hours with lots of photographic opportunities. I had a little trouble with one lady there. She looked Muslim or Turkish and stood about 4’8″ tall. She came up to me and started speaking to me. I asked her if she spoke English, she said “neine,” then continued to talk to me in German. I tried to tell her I could not speak German, but she seem to think I could understand her. So I politely said goodbye and walked away. She followed me and when I stopped to look at something she started again. Only this time she began pointing out plants as though she were explaining things to me. When I tried to leave, she very emphatically motioned for me to follow her. I did not want to be with this lady, but I reluctantly followed while I tried to think of a way to escape diplomatically. I saw something of interest and began to walk towards it and she told me to follow here, only this time she began snapping her fingers at me. At that point, I said forget diplomacy, I’m getting the hell away from her and made a bee-line in the opposite direction. I don’t know what she wanted but fortunately she didn’t see me again.

Next was the aquarium-insectarium. They had quite a large number of live insect exhibits including a butterfly room that you could walk through. It had all sorts of plants with butterflies flying around, mostly heliconiines. I was pretty hungry by now so I went back into town and did the sausage and pastry snack thing again. Then I crossed the river and went through the Rheinpark. It’s a beautiful park with lots of boldly colorful plantings. There were hardly any people there though. Then I walked along the river before crossing again and actually collected quite a few insects, mostly leaf beetles and hymenops [= hymenopterans, or bees and wasps]. When I got back into the old city, I spotted it, Haagen-Daas! Real ice cream! None of this “Italian eis” business. I was so glad and missed it so much these last two weeks that I experienced a total collapse of willpower and went there three times (oh heaven on earth!).

For dinner, I decided to try one of the restaurants. I went to one of the many Italian restaurants (I think they were more common than German restaurants) and ordered a pizza with salami, champignones, and peperi. I though the latter was pepperoni but it turned out to be whole peppers (as in jalapeño) so I picked them off. When I ordered, I asked for plain tap water. They brought a bottle of Perrier, so I said “no, water out of the faucet,” he came back with a glass of sparkling water. I couldn’t make him understand so I said just water like from the sink. He came back with a menu and asked me to show him what I wanted. I said no, just forget it. I never imagined it would have caused such a ruckus to get a glass of plain water. Finally he came back with a glass of plain water. I said “yah!” He set it down, kind of looked disgusted and walked away. [Ironically, I now always order sparkling water in restaurants, especially abroad—I don’t even know when I started doing this.] The pizza was heavy on the “shrooms” and cheese and light on everything else but I was hungry and it did the trick. When they brought the bill, they had added to it 2.50 DM for the Perrier. I pointed out that that was in error. When I paid the bill, the girl shorted me 20 cents. Normally it would be too small an amount to worry about but I felt they were kind of rude to me about the water so I asked her to check her addition. She had thought she made an error, then saw she did and slammed 2 dimes on the table before huffing off. Gee whiz! You’d think some restaurantiers would actually want to make their customers happy.

[Okay, this is really embarrassing, but I promised to transcribe everything as written, so here goes…] I checked out a dance bar afterwards. It was funny to see, very few couples were dancing, mostly people danced alone, both guys and girls. Also, guys would dance together which is unheard of in the states unless you’re in a gay bar [head now in hands]. I got bored with that pretty quick though so I called it a night. [That’s right, I was in a gay bar and didn’t even know it! Everybody all together—”Not that there’s anything wrong with it.”] I think I’ve seen enough of Cologne so I’ll leave tomorrow morning and start heading for Brussells. I hope to do it in two days so I can arrive at Bill’s Friday night and save a hotel charge.

To be continued…

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 1988, 2013

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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