Let's be honest: how much do you want to read about a day on the Moselsteig that involves zero Moselsteig? Not that much, right? Well, tough, because that's what your'e going to get.

Some backstory here: back in the early 2000s, a website called LiveJournal was a thing. It's now some random Russians doing I don't know what, but nearly twenty years ago it was a good place to have some interesting discussions with then-strangers about all kinds of things. For example, I struck up a friendship with a fella from Franconia originally, now from Cologne, and he trekked over to Berlin to say hello back in 2007, came and visited in San Diego in 2010 I think, and we've stayed in contact over the years. I didn't want to miss out on spending time with Thomas if I ever got back to Germany, so I figured that I should spend my third and final zero on the trail by taking the train to Cologne to catch up in person.

At breakfast, I chatted up the other two guests at Frau Seibold's, who turned out to live outside Cologne and who were aghast that we would intentionally go there on a Saturday, which I totally get if you work there during the week and can't stand crowds of people. I asked them to do me a favor and cover for us if Frau Seibold worried where we were, because we were probably going to be back very late. Long story, but there's a bear bar in Cologne called Cox (get it??) that used to be run by a guy named Arno (another old friend), then a guy named Darko, and which is now run by some other guy. This was supposed to be their last day in business, and it was an invite-only affair, and it seemed liked we were going to be able to get in, so we'd booked a late train ticket home. Spoiler alert: the owner kinda waffled on the invite, so we didn't go, so we had to buy another train ticket for an earlier train, but what are you gonna do.

Anyhow! After breakfast, we hoofed it back to the train station (so much easier without a pack!), taking the bike path this time - safer and nicer - and waited for our train while watching a bunch of Germans chain smoke and drink beer through plastic straws that you could also wear as eyeglasses. Oh God, Germany, it's not even nine AM. Grow up already.

The first train ride to Koblenz was unexceptional; in Koblenz, I availed myself of their fancy pay toilets (alas, still dealing with the fallout from the Halfenstube), then we boarded the next train to Cologne. It was jam-packed, we had no reservations, but I managed to talk our way into two decent seats. To be honest, I think the younger women thought we were way older than we are and let us jump the queue because that's what you do for senior citizens. White beard score! I texted Thomas saying about when we'd arrive, we agreed to meet up later in the day, and before I knew it were passing Bad Godesberg, where I'd stayed in US Embassy housing for a bit in 1989, and then boom, Cologne.

Train station looked exactly the same as I remember it, right down to the Bremen tea shop and the never-functional bag locker system and the beggars and pickpockets. Good times. I went to the tourist information office to ask about a museum pass, which it turns out you have to buy at a museum. Good to know. So I went to the Roemisch-Germanisches Museum, where a security guard with a heavy Slavic accent informed me that no, she would not sell me a family card museum pass because the sign says that it is for families with two children only. Wait, what? I argued the point for a bit, asking why I should be penalized for not recreating, she didn't budge an inch, and I left, asking what her problem was with gays. She just replied "sure, go try at another museum, you'll get the same answer."

So I tried at another museum, the Ludwig museum, and the answer was "thirty euros please." Well, duh. Because this guy wasn't a homophobic asshole, we were soon staring at dozens and dozens of amazing things, from Duchamp's bicycle wheel on a stool to Beuys to Warhol to Dan Flavin to pretty much ALL of the things that I love. Heck, I was even moved to actually kind of like one of those monochrome blue what's his face paintings. Yeah, it rocked. Hooray for the Ludwig and for the guy at the admissions desk who had no problems with families that don't have children (or mismatched chromosomes).

We met Thomas at the train station - damn, it was good to see him again - and then we took the trams over to the east side of town, to a Turkish neighborhood where Dan could get a killer doner kebab (also scene of an unfortunate yogurt accident, but I won't talk about that). There was a free lending library on the street, where I bored everyone with talk of Martin Walser teaching Brandung in person at Berkeley as well as brief discussions of both Peyton Place and Valley of the Dolls. Then, what next? Well, it was a great day out - sunny and warm - so there was a lot of aimless wandering. I'll spare you all of the details, but here's a short list:

  • Malzmuehle for a bottle of their $20 beer, served in Champagne flutes
  • Salem Grun to see where a tree in our backyard came from
  • Multiple failed attempts to buy a pair of size 47 Birkenstocks
  • Multiple failed attempts by shoe salespeople to talk me into another size
  • Multiple failed attempts by shoe salespeople to talk me into another width
  • A stop at Gentle Bears for a real Czech Budweiser
  • A wander around a suspiciously hipsterfying neighborhood
  • Deciding that bars that looked hipster weren't because their cocktails were boring and they weren't making their own shrub
  • Saw a groovy calendar that cost more than this entire vacation cost, thought better of it
  • Called a hipster restaurant to book a table and failed (sold out)
  • Booked a table at a Burmese restaurant but didn't even go in after seeing the place in person (eww, gross)
  • Eventually decided on a Flemish restaurant that turned out to be insanely good, with grilled rabbit livers, Franconian Silvaner, various flammekuchen, an elaborate plate of salads and pates and other delicious things, and then orange-chocolate macarons for dessert

And that was basically it. Having decided to opt out of trying to talk our way into Cox in person, and being pretty dang tired anyhow, we bought replacement train tickets for an earlier train and said our goodbyes to Thomas at the train station. From there, it was smooth sailing; the only amusing thing was me gently telling a DB researcher no, I wasn't in a mood to be surveyed about my ticket and no, I wasn't even going to let him look at the ticket because he wasn't the conductor. Not in a cranky way or anything, just in a tired I've had an amazing day and I just want to sit here and enjoy the memories and not talk to you about why I chose the Sondertarif instead of the Flexpreis or whatever. I said good night to the survey guy on the way out of the train in Treis-Karden, we had a quick walk back to Frau Seibold's, and that was that. Good night!