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Impressions by Priti Salian
Germany is beautiful and welcoming, but the city of Kölsch is the best
Early in 2019 – when I won Robert Bosch Foundation's three month Media Fellowship from India to Germany – I was asked to pick the city I desired to work in.
My decision to be in Cologne surprised a lot of people (including Germans).
"How did you not pick Berlin or Hamburg?" someone asked.
"Munich would have been a great choice!" another said.
Someone even mentioned that Cologne is ugly and boring.
Well, as I would learn, far from it.
The towering twin spires of the Kölner Dom welcomed me as I stepped out of the hauptbahnhof for the very first time in July 2019, and was greeted outside the station by Alex, an alumna of the fellowship programme.
Both, subsequently, became very dear to me.
Several of my precious evenings after office were spent walking in and around the cathedral, absorbing the atmosphere or just marvelling at the clean air that my lungs could breathe, even in the city's most crowded spot. Some of them were spent in writerly exchange walking along the Rhine or over a drink (or several) with the two past fellows of MBID, Alex and Sonja.
The Cologne Cathedral may be the world's third largest religious building with relics of the Magi, but for me, it stands for the familiarity and comfort the city gave me for over six weeks that I lived in it.
And that comfort could easily be attributed to the people I met during my tenure. Right from the two alumni of the fellowship, to my colleagues at Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger and my AirBnB host, everybody was always eager to extend a helping hand and included me in their life - as if I was always there.
One of my friends, a Köln resident I met in Amsterdam during this trip (did I say I have an affinity for Colognians?) told me about the sayings of the Cologne constitution, which deconstruct Colognian attitudes. One of them, "Et bliev nix wie et wor" means "be open to new things". Another, "Jede jeck es anders" literally translates to "every fool is different", meaning "take all people as they are", pretty much substantiating why Köln is so inviting.
I wonder if my experience in the city would have been the same if the residents of Cologne weren't so open and welcoming. Maybe not. For me, it is people that make a city great.
In the newsroom at Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger
Participants of the Cologne pride
Bonding over Indian food with past fellows and colleagues at Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger