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We woke up a bit before 04:00 this morning, and I thought it was time to get up until I looked at the time. I tried to go back to sleep but it was difficult. Eventually we got up about 06:40 and prepared for the day, eating the bread rolls M. had bought last night. They were small square rolls with large pumpkin seeds on them, and tasted great. I did some stretches and got dressed, and left soon after 07:00, walking along the river again to the Hauptbahnhof.
This time I got the S-bahn from platform 11, after stopping to buy an almond croissant from a bakery in the station. I ate it on the platform while waiting for the train. Quite a few commuters were catching the train and I stood up rather than take a seat, until we stopped at a technology park a few stops out and most of the passengers got off, at which point I sat down for the second half of the ride. I arrived at Horrem quite early again, but went straight to the Image Engineering building so I could log in and check my overnight email to see if there was any news from Canberra about the hosting of the meeting next year.
But when I arrived, the front door of the building was locked, despite me being able to see that some of the meeting attendees had arrived and were in the meeting room upstairs. So to kill time while someone came to open the door I walked around the building, noticing that several people were already working inside as I passed the ground floor windows. After a lap of the building I tried the door again and this time it opened.
The meeting today proceeded quickly, with several ad hoc technical sessions either cancelled or cut short with just a brief report due to relatively little progress since last meeting. We rearranged the agenda and tried to fit everything into today, but the first ad hoc scheduled for tomorrow might have had interested people phoning in, so we couldn't move it without checking for sure. I emailed Bob at the War Memorial to confirm if he intended dialling in, but it was after knock off time in Australia so I didn't think I'd get an answer in time. So we proceeded thinking that we'd have to return for at least a short time tomorrow morning. But after lunch, and after 10pm in Sydney, he replied and said he couldn't make it, so we were free to reschedule and wrap up the meeting a day early!
For lunch today there was chicken pieces in a spicy Mexican style rice, plus chilli sin carne, made with a meat substitute for vegetarians. Both were very nice, and I enjoyed the meal better than yesterday's lunch. Dietmar had said there would be no catering on Wednesday because of it being a public holiday in Germany, but as it turned out we ended the meeting early so didn't need it.
Mexican lunch at Image Engineering
After wrapping up and saying goodbye to the various people and that we'd see each other in Yokohama next year, I left with Margaret to walk to the station. We found Scott and Ken on the platform waiting for the next express back to Cologne, but no ticket validation machine on the platform, so we all had to walk back down the tunnel beneath the platforms to the machine at the tunnel entrance. Fortunately we had a few minutes, so made it back to catch the train. We got off at Cologne Hauptbahnhof and said goodbyes until next time we meet, whenever that will be.
I walked out and it was about 15 minutes until 18:00, when I'd arranged to meet M. So I went into the cathedral to have a quick look around, before heading to the tourist information centre, where I found M. sitting inside waiting.
A quick trip inside the cathedral
Before doing anything else, we popped over to the LEGO shop on Hohestrasse, which was open until 20:00. I wanted to get some minifigures to boost my collection, and Wednesday was a public holiday, so this would be the last chance to check out the shop. We browsed around briefly and found the minifigure assembly bar, where you can put together your own custom figures from all of the pieces, and make packs of three figures for a fixed price. We spent some time looking through all the pieces for interesting body parts and accessories. We made a total of six figures, all female, because I have a lack of female figures at home.
After this, we decided that we'd get some dinner, and we'd try walking along the old city area along the Rhine river bank where we'd seen dozens of restaurants the other day. The area looks full of touristy eating establishments, with spruikers out front and menus in six languages, but we figured there might be a gem tucked in there somewhere. We avoided all the places with heaps of outdoor tables and kept going south where things started looking less touristy, until we found an unassuming looking place with a small staircase leading up to a doorway. A menu was posted outside, and contained traditional German food plus enough vegetarian choices to suit M. The place was called Bierhaus am Rhein. We climbed the steps and found the doorway led to a small foyer with thick, heavy curtains across it. We pushed out way through and found ourselves in a tiny wood panelled antechamber with a wooden door. We opened it and entered a dim brown room with a small bar and some bar tables. Extending around the corner there were dining tables, set up as two tables of four abutted to make a table of eight. A jovial man seated us at a table and gave us menus.
Bierhaus am Rhein
M. ordered the "thick slice of Dutch cheese" with bread roll and butter as a starter, followed by the cheese spätzle with salad. I had the potato soup (with bacon bits in it of course), followed by the Spanferkelhaxen, or pork knuckles, with fried potatoes and coleslaw. M. tried a white wine this time, which was lemony and tart, which pleased her, while I had Kölsch in the small 200 ml glasses. I'd read during the day that traditionally they replace your empty glass with a full one each time, marking the number of glasses on a coaster, until you indicate no more by putting the coaster atop your glass. This is indeed what happened, with me getting two refills before using the coaster to signal a stop.
Pork knuckles and fried potatoes
The food was all really good, and quite generous. The potato soup was delicious, and M. really liked the spätzle. My main had two giant pork knuckles, which were encased in crackling and somewhat salty, almost like baked ham. They were delicious too, but honestly I would have been happy with one and slightly more of the fried potatoes, as they were incredibly filling. I couldn't even think about dessert, other than to crave a single spoonful of ice cream to wash the salty taste away. The coleslaw was not recognisable as coleslaw that I am familiar with, being merely a small bowl of shredded cabbage with a thin, sour creamy dressing.
Spätzle and cheese with salad
Partway through our meal, another couple were seated at the other end of our table of eight places, and other tables were being similarly shared. A lot of people were getting the pork knuckles. Oh, the decor of the place was interesting. The floor was wooden and somewhat sticky, presumably from hundreds of years of spilt beer. The light was dimmish and the ambience very brown with lots of dark wood everywhere. There were paintings hung everywhere, and I think they must all have been replicas of more or less famous artworks, because I recognised the Girl with a Pearl Earring, and the Arnolfini Portrait among them. The stairs to the upstairs toilets were lined with carpet, which also looked worn and sticky. But despite the ancient beer hall ambience, the food was great and we enjoyed it.
After dinner we walked back home along the river bank, ready to collapse into a stupor of over indulgence.
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