The Kölner Dom hangs heavy on the skyline. No matter where you go, there it is behind you, looking over your shoulder, its towers watchful. The browning stone spires are a smirking visual reminder of the heavy-handed status quo–once dealt down by the church and now by capital–that rules the city, our big stone brother.
The first time I visited Köln I was 17. Our exchange group came to look at the Dom and eat lunch. We snapped a few photographs and were on our way. I recall being impressed by the Dom, its imposing stature and the impossible architecture common to European cathedrals. I recall feeling that way about just about everything we saw on that trip, my first time outside of the United States, armed with 17 rolls of film.
Six years later I would sit in front of the Dom hungover and waiting for a train, watching a group of brightly dressed emo teenagers sitting on its steps and snapping photos and wonder why so many people traveled so far to see this, the Kölner Dom, a miniscule corner in an otherwise (mostly) unattractive city.
Then again, I find a lot of cities unattractive at first glance. It’s only later– once I’ve explored the abandoned buildings crumbling in every industrial district, once I’ve climbed up onto rooves and seen the secret views and shooting stars–that I begin to find these places attractive, having finally realized that these cities have personalities after all, despite everything the tourist industry has done to pretend otherwise.
*This is a slogan hanging fucking everywhere in the city as part of some schmuck’s campaign for mayor. It’s incredibly irritating and is generally accompanied by photos of smiling white people.