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A weekend in Koln to visit Carlos and see the Rhein in Flammen, a several hour long fireworks display choreographed to music.  (gallery below)

The day started dreary as I exited my mitfahrgelegenheit rideshare and wandered about a bit before meeting Carlos.  We then ambled about a bit – saw an arch with a boat sticking out of it – and got stuck in the rain.  But we used the opportunity to go shopping for a picnic in hopes of happier weather.  The fair weather came, and we found a happy bit of grass near the Rhine to lie on and enjoy.

Then down to the river, onto the stone walkway which flanks the Rhine.  We managed to sneak in behind the fences, with our large backpacks, and set up at the edge of the walk – no heads of others before us obstructing the views.  Across the river from us bands played on a live stage to thousands of people gathered on the park lawn.  We on this side got to hear the music echoing over the waters and additionally piped through large speakers which were set up all along the river.

They were giving out wunderkerzen – sparklers.  We each got some 6 box’s and wiled away the hours before darkness playing with them, munching on snacks, drinking wine.

The sky darkened and the waterfront filled up with people.  Our experiments, and those of our neighbors, with Wunderkerzen got bigger. We could begin to see dots of light on the other side of the river coming from Wunderkerzen too.  Then balloons billowed into the air – to advertise beer. Hot air balloons were filled and the flames inside them created fun flickering light.

Then the festivity began, the first parade of ships began passing by.  one after another after another and another and yet another and more and on and on passed by.  All had lights strung up and painted wonderful shapes as they drifted down river to the music.

And the Dom was now illuminated and visible upriver.

and the ships are still passing by.  Each one a fresh set of colors to paint with.  The darkness of the Rhine providing a canvas on which to paint.

and rather boring the passing of ships… as the night is black and the river cold you wrap your blanket tight and sip the wine while cracking pistachios.  And you light another Wunderkerzen to paint and dance with as you listen to the choreographed music.

At last it begins!  first a salute to the ships, which have now returned upriver.

Then the main event.  With mighty fireworks and 8 pieces of music representing different nationalities.  They come in rapid succession and soon the air is full of a grey smoke that illuminates with every fresh burst of light.

The fireworks are large and wonderous and varied.  Faces and hearts.  Wonderful long weeping willows, and colors rarely seen – yellow instead of the typical gold.  And you think it ends, but then another volley and finally comes.  Spiraling twisters shoot from the ground.  Pivoting streaming jets of light flow back and forth above the water illuminating the darkness in near daylight.  And high above giant dandelions bloom in blues whites reds…

We return with the masses as it ends at midnight, a solid 3 hours later.  And there are so many people!  special trains are waiting to take people away, and are completely filled.  And they decide to change trains last minute and so we get on the wrong train!

But it kind of works out.  We go down a half hour to Bonn, snacking on pistachios again.  Then we have time to wander about and see a bit of Bonn before the next nightbus comes.

Returning to the trainstation we dance on the streets – to music spilling from a club nearby.  from the entrance the clubbers wave us in, but we smile and dance.  Then the bus comes.  And gets rather full.  Bonn is a university city and a good couple hundred thousand, but surprised me to see such a full bus with such diverse people, and these night buses run once an hour!  A final walk looking amazedly at old old houses – dimly lit – on the route to Carlos’ place.

In the morning the rain has returned.  We eat a most delicious meal of beans and corn cakes before going for a walk in the woods nearby.

A wonderful morning.  Then on the walk to the train I again stare amazedly at all the wonderful old houses.  thick exposed wooden beams frame white plaster walls at slightly off angles.  Old old, from 1600’s! quaint one and two story buildings.  I hope Carlos will send me a picture to share with you..

And that was a short weekend in Koln, to watch the Rhein in Flammen.  Try and catch it next summer, around the second weekend in July.

(more fireworks / light-paintings posted on request)