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The layout of commercial Köln is very simple. There are two shopping streets, Hohe Straße and Schildergasse Straße. That is all.

Well, alright, I exaggerate a little, but almost every shop you could need here can be found at some point along both of those streets and there really is very little point in meandering off somewhere else, at least for the purposes of throwing away your hard-earned cash (though there are a few elaborate fountains in the Old Quarter that invite that sort of thing as well). The two aforementioned streets have a range of German and international shops, everything from Currywurst emporiums to Accessorize. There are even two H&M stores on the same promenade. The Apple store – because let’s be real, we all already know that there is one – has gouged out the innards of a classic-looking 19th-century building and features more hovering attendants than customers, ready to swarm you as soon as you put a foot over the threshold and jabber at you in what is probably seriously cool, hip Deutsch. There are multiple shoe shops lining the length of Schildergasse Straße, which for your convenience are all exactly the same (“Kämpgen”). And most significantly of all, there on the corner of the whacking big Neumarkt-Galerie (a word which here means “huge shopping centre that is 75% Primark with a few other outlets”) – there lies Mayersche, the enormous bookshop that I have been waiting for for the last 5 days.

When I say enormous, I mean it. It is three stories tall. The second floor has a dedicated reading corner with a long table and chairs. There is a café and a piano on the top floor for the more uninhibited visitor (and believe me, they are common). Every genre you know and many more that you probably don’t are extensively covered, with several floor-to-ceiling bookcases for each one. Even George R.R. Martin has his name on a section of this shop. There are classics, dystopians, cookbooks, art books, newspapers, magazines, desktop calendars, CDs and DVDs and more guides to Köln then there are people in the city. If there is one problem it is that there is no immediately obvious section for “Foreign Books Translated To German”; there is an “International” corner but that holds global books in their original language, while translated works are scattered in the general “A-Z Novels” section. Still, nobody should enter Mayersche without setting aside at least an hour for thorough perusal and enjoyment, so there is ample time to track down your own nation’s foremost authors if you so wish.

Once I found this bookshop I was determined to make the most of it, and so I passed something between one and two hours there (time has little meaning in the land of literature, as any bookworm will know), and walked out with an audiobook, two films and a copy of David Nicholls’ book “One Day”, which in German bears the unwieldy title of “Zwei Am Eines Tages”, because why the heck not. It was a delightful start to the day, and indeed a high point of the week.
The afternoon mainly consisted of wandering from plaza to plaza on the fringes of the Old Quarter, ogling the Rathaus for a while (a word which here means, aptly enough, “town hall”), making a wonderfully precious purchase at a local leather goods shop and nosing about an oddball fancy dress shop full of clown suits and ammo belts. With the purpose of peacefully rounding off a fantastic day I made my way to an extraordinary little movie theatre called “Metropolis”. This is a tiny 3-screen diamond in a place called Ebertsplatz, decked out like one of the classic movie theatres of the Golden Age of Hollywood and, best of all, showing all-English films. To end the evening with the phenomenal “Baby Driver” sitting in a piece of history packed with Germans who look and sound like they’ve never had this much fun before in their lives is a blissful experience, and one that I am sure to sorely miss.

Auf Wiedersehen,

5. August 2017