I have to admit I made myself scarce in the last few years. My visits are short and limited to special occasions: dropping by at my parents or parents-in-law, an appointment with the ENT doctor, or paying a visit to the summer festival at Pit, Staff & Co. It has been a long time since I came by just to be with you.
And yet, I have known you since I was born. My parents lived in your south the first years of my life, near the University. When my father finished his studies and started his career as a teacher at the same school where he used to be a student himself, we moved to your north. My father taught German and History, he wanted to show me your many faces and the people that shaped you over two thousand years.
We used to stand on Hohenzollernbruecke near the impressive Cathedral of Cologne. While the passing trains caused the bridge to tremble, I looked down on the river Rhine and wondered where the boats were going, places like the Netherlands or Switzerland seemed so far away. I saw how small you were at the beginning, and how much you grew over the years, even to the other side of the river Rhine. From the beginning, you welcomed people from far away: roman soldiers, merchants, migrant workers.
You offered many cultural activities, I loved it. I don’t know how many hours I spent at museums, the opera, one of your many theatres, the movies, learning to play the flute or taking riding lessons.
Your population always resembled a melting pot. I was invited for lunch by the turkish families of my classmates, and many of our neighbours came from other parts of Germany or foreign countries and brought with them other ways of living. Something new waited at every corner, so many opportunities.
I watched as you continued to grow and became a big service metropolis and it made me proud that you made a big impression on tourists.
When I wanted to move in with my now husband, you showed a very ugly side of you: housing was either non-existent or non- affordable. Today even more so than back in the middle of the 1990s. With a heavy heart, I left you. Getting used to living on the countryside took me a very long time. But I visited you every day, when I went to work. Often I stayed a bit longer after work to shop, have a cup of coffee, or to stop by at my parents or my grandma. And you made me smile every morning when I arrived at the central station and saw the Cathedral.
Since my daily visits stopped, everything I know about you comes from the media or third parties. Of course I know about the terrible things that happened on New Year’s Eve 2015, or that there are now “no-go areas”. But everything really sunk in on New Year’s Eve a few days ago. I thought I had stepped in a kind of war zone. So many police men, so many road closures. I was relieved when we were home again. I never thought I would say this to you.
Until now I was certain I will come back to you when I am old. When I am no longer able to drive and be happy that public transport is available at every corner. But I am not so sure any more that this will happen. You changed, that’s the way it is, but you lost your warmth and humanity on the way. But please, be a safe place for our parents.
And still, I love vou.