Wednesday, 12 June 2013

11 June - contrasts

As I mentioned briefly in an earlier post, Malcolm and I needed to go to some office somewhere to register where we live. Well, we finally had everything together so we could, and at the CDC (the language centre) they kindly organised for all the DAAD (Deutcher Akademischer Austauschdienst - Mal's funders) students to go together to the office to sort it all out. This was exciting for me because : 
1) it meant a trip into the city! 
2) I'd finally meet some people! 
I left quite a lot earlier than I needed to, seeing as I bought a day ticket I figured I should make it worth it, and arrived in the city 2 hours before meeting Malcolm. I used this time to wander around the area a bit, and was fascinated by the constant contrasts in the city... 
the old and the new...
so often there are really old building right next to very modern-
looking ones. 
again, the old city wall on the right, and a graffiti's wall on the
this park fascinates me... 
 So this park is now a children's play park, with jungle gyms and flowers in abundance... but before this, it was the "KlingelPuetz" Prison - a Gestapo prison that during the Nazi-era saw over 1000 people executed, and in 1944 alone contained 10 000 inmates. ( The prison was demolished in 1969, and there's now a monument there...
the momument  „Hier wurden von 1933–1945 ├╝ber tausend von der nationalsozialistischen Willk├╝rjustiz unschuldig zum Tod Verurteilte hingerichtet.“

There's another monument close by, where, in 1945, the bodies of 6 men and a women were found, presumably killed by the Gestapo. They were buried there, and a plaque erected, saying "here lie 7 victims of the Gestapo. Let this be a reminder of Germany's shameful time, 1933-1945." The statue beside it was put there in 1959. (

It was really eerie, walking through the park, acutely aware of what had once been there. Standing at the site where murders had taken place. Where I have only read about WW2 and the Holocaust, it seemed strange that I was standing where bits of this history had unfolded. It was lonely, standing there, thinking this through, while the rest of Cologne carried on with their lives, driving by. These reminders are so centrally located, yet seemingly avoided and perhaps even ignored by so many people.
It frustrates me how South African government uses the Apartheid atrocities as a political tool, and I think many of us are tired of hearing about it, being made to feel guilty about it, being reminded constantly about something we want to move on from. However, standing by these monuments I felt a little of what I think it is that some South Africans feel when we want to move on from talking about Apartheid - a sense of "hello?! can you not see what happened here?! Can you not stop for a moment and acknowledge what happened to my mother/father/sister/brother/grandmother/grandfather?? It's history but it's not...."
It's really difficult, I think, to get the right balance when it's so emotive.
And now, what was once a place of agony and pain, is a place where children are playing and people are napping on benches... it somehow felt like the place had been redeemed.

you can see here how close to everything these
 monuments are; in the background is the CDC. 

So after wandering around so pensively, I decided to go wait for Malcolm in the CDC.

the lobby and cafeteria area of the CDC. 
 While I waited, I chatted to Claudine, a DAAD student from the DRC, and we had a good time chatting in French. The language was a good ice-breaker and soon we were joined by Robert from Benin (I think?) and then Said from Algeria, switching between French and German and bits of English. It was SO nice to get to talk to people again - a real conversation! Of course, having Malcolm here as my only friend has brought us so much closer and he's had to fill in for a lot of people and I LOVE talking to him, but it was nice to feel like part of a community again.
Malcolm finished class, and all the DAAD students still needing to register were divided into groups and we followed our guide to the U-Bahn and to Nippes branch of, in SA terms, home affairs. We waited until our turn, a little anxious that something might be wrong, until we went into an open plan office where a lovely lady helped us. There were no problems, and Malcolm and Erica Bartlett (though here I'm recognised as Bentley because I haven't changed my passport) now officially are residents of Cologne :D
Afterwards, we discovered the library...

and then went back to the park I was at previously for a picnic lunch... there are little flowers all over the grass and it was SO nice to lie on the grass again (haven't had a chance since leaving SA!)

We went to a really big music/dvd/computer shop called Saturn, and I was delighted to find "Pixie books" - what a flashback to my childhood!! :D

We continued to walk and found ourselves in the Media Park (I should have taken pictures of the fancy cars parked around here!!)... it was quite stark and concrete, but quite nice nonetheless.

Again, in the theme of contrast, just to the left, is a lake, with this old wall in it, so different to the modern buildings so close by.

It was a really interesting day out, with so much to see. When we arrived at the bus-stop, I finally saw the sign Malcolm had told me about... 

No blowing kisses! One isn't allowed long
good-byes, only dropping off and getting into
cars :)
Finally, after supper, we really wanted ice-cream. With no car and 24 hour spar available, we realised that the shops closed in 20 minutes (8pm), so we hopped on our bikes and sped off to buy some! It was such a jam-packed day, but so good :) 

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