Date: Sun, 05 Sep 2004
From: Lee Lady
Subject: Cologne (Köln)
One of the Germans at Zegg said, "You definitely should go to Cologne. The people there really know how to have a good time." (Especially at Karnival time, i.e. Mardi Gras.)
Well, there are plenty of nightclubs. I only saw a small part of the city. And the cathedral is impressive; even the French acknowledge that.
Cologne has its own dialect of German and its own beer, both called Kölsch. Mostly I didn't get a chance to hear much that seemed to be definitely Kölsch, since usually I don't understand anything when Germans are speaking to each other anyway. But there was one exception. Whenever one orders a glass of red or white wine in Germany, the inevitable question is, "Süss oder trocken?" ("Sweet or dry?") And in Cologne, whenever I would say "trocken," somebody would repeat the word, but saying it slightly differently. Maybe something like "trowen" (with the American "w"sound). I guess they were saying it in Kölsch.
Aside from this, on my very last night in Cologne I went into a very small bar and a woman customer about fifty years old said something to me that I didn't understand even when she repeated it. So I said, "Ich spreche wenig Deutsch und kein Kölsch," which made her and the woman behind the bar laugh. Then she said something completely unintelligible to me, using a German word I couldn't recognize at all: Tsenger. And then she asked me if I were Irish, and I said that no, I was American. But for quite a while later she kept calling me der Englisher, until the woman behind the bar (who spoke no English either) finally straightened her out.
Finally I managed to understand that she had been saying that I have the voice of a singer (which, in German, is simply Singer, pronouced "zinger"). "Ich bin kein Singer," I told her, and she responded that she understood that, but she thought I had a singer's voice. Then the woman behind the bar tried to explain something I couldn't manage to understand, pointing to the stereo. Finally she reached into the CD pile and pulled out the case for the German music playing on the stereo, showing me: "Roger Whittaker Sings German Songs." I got a laugh out of that, but listening more carefully, I wasn't very impressed with his German accent. It wasn't Kölsch, in any case, but the people in the bar seemed happy with it. I suppose it's like it is for us hearing Marlene Dietrich sing in English. Clearly she has a very pronounced German accent, but one decides that it's charming rather than annoying.
Incidentally, Cologne is where eau de colgne comes from.
So if you use cologne, and it doesn't come from Cologne,
you don't have the genuine article.