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