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A walk around my childhood in Cologne

Posted on Dec 26, 2012 in Cologne | 1 comment

On Christmas Day we went for a walk around my childhood neighbourhood on the outer edges of Cologne. Large old homes are characteristic of this area. From here, it is easy to zip into downtown Cologne by streetcar or S-Bahn, but getting out into rural areas for excursions is convenient as well.

It was also convenient for my parents in other ways: we lived across the street from my father’s old family home in a rental apartment, my father worked in my grandfather’s architecture firm in yet another building around the corner, my dad’s brother and his brother-in-law also worked there for a while, and my mother helped them out temporarily with office admin duties.

My German family's home

My great-grandfather built this house in 1904. He brought his family, but also his mother — my great-great-grandmother — to live out the remaining years of her life there. This means it has been home to five generations of my family. The sixth generation, which are my cousin’s children, are not growing up there. My grandfather was 8 or 9 when the house was built and lived here until he died. My father, uncle and aunt, and my two German cousins were born here. My aunt has remained here her whole life until recently.

The backyard of my German family's home

The backyard of my German family’s home.

A bust sculpted by my uncle is gathering moss in the backyard

A bust sculpted by my uncle is gathering moss in the backyard of my German family’s home. My uncle lived in the family home for a long time. He was a sculptor and pottery artist. He passed away a few years ago at age 83.

Fountain on Theo-Burauen-Platz, Cologne, by Klaus Albert

My uncle, the sculptor Klaus Albert, designed this fountain on Theo-Burauen-Platz in downtown Cologne.

My grandfather designed this house

This is one of the many houses and buildings my grandfather designed around the neighbourhood where I grew up. He was an architect, so was his father, and so is his son, who is my father. That continuity of profession is a very German/European custom. And I became a graphic designer, which is a related profession, except that my books and publications can’t kill people if they collapse.

Where I grew up in Cologne

I grew up in this second-story apartment on the right side of this building in Cologne almost right across the street from the big family house where my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins lived, until my parents moved us to our new house in a neighbouring city.

Where I went to Kindergarten

I went to Kindergarten in this house. It was run by a couple of old Catholic bachelor sisters, if I’m not mistaken. My memory from first day of Kindergarten is getting admonished for biting into my yummy lunch sandwich before prayer. This may be why I now eat dessert before dinner whenever I can, generally try to not miss out on anything fun in life even if it means missing out on sleep, and I am a big advocate for letting people, including children to a point, live their lives the way they see fit. Oh, and I don’t bother with the prayer thing either. I am with Christopher Hitchens, who wrote something to the effect of “If there indeed was a God, she would not be so insecure as to constantly require us to tell her we love her.” 😀

View of Cologne from near my aunt's retirement home.

After our Christmas Day visit with my aunt who recently moved to a retirement home, we caught a glimpse of the remarkable twin towers of the Dome of Cologne in the distance.

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Christmas with my German relatives

Posted on Dec 26, 2012 in Cologne | 0 comments

Christmas Eve was a wonderful reunion for my German cousins and I. It was a time to relax and celebrate.

Christmas is never a stressful time for me, as it can be for many people. Jeff and I usually go to his parents or to mine. We don’t have kids, so we don’t feel any urge to decorate, shop for a lot of gifts, or go on major cooking or baking sprees. We usually take care of cooking a nice meal for the whole extended family while we stay at his parents.

This year, we did not give each other anything since we are already taking this Germany trip together. And we are more interested in accumulating experiences rather than more stuff. Yes, we are total DINKs — want to sign up? There is a form provided at the bottom of this page. 😉

So the holiday season is a great time for us to take a well-deserved break from another hard-working year and to relax into the New Year before we get swept up again in our routines.

Christmas Eve at my cousin's

Christmas Eve at my cousin’s place, with his wife and their two kids, and his sister, my other German cousin came from Heidelberg with her husband. That’s Jeff at the left with the wine glass in his hand, doing his best to impersonate the character Julian from the Canadian cult show Trailer Park Boys. Julian always has a rum and coke in his hand, even when he’s climbing out of a crashed car.

Christmas Eve fondue dinner

The table is set for my cousin’s family’s traditional Christmas Eve fondue dinner. With my two cousins, their partners and kids, there were 8 of us enjoying a long leisurely meal after opening the presents.

The reindeer and I

The glitter-reindeer and I on Christmas Eve. One of us may have had a few drinks by this time. I am not showing photos of any other reindeer for privacy reasons.

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