Eine heruntergekommene Stadt

“My Dear Sir,

You will allow that after the tedious proceedings of the tewo days` journey, I had a right to indulge a little more than usual, I accordingly lay in bed till eight, for do what I could, my ever-anxious, ever-insatiable curiosity would allow me no longer; I sat writing the notes of my journal till breakfast, which by the aid of Stenography, I easily accomplished, and after my morning repast, I sallied forth to explore this extensive and ancient city, the Roman colony founded by Agrippa, the son-in-law of Augustus Caesar.
Three centuries ago Scaliger thus eulogises it.

„Maxima cognati Regina Colonia Rheni,
Hoc te etiam titulo musa superba canet;
Romani statuunt-habitat Germania-terra est,
Belgia-ter felix! nihil tibi diva deest.“

I presume not to say, what might then be the condition of the city, and how far the poet flattered or bestowed just praise, but very different is the case now. I should rather apply, as nearer the truth, the language of Ossian, „I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they were desolate.“ Ruin long begun, and still going on, marks its principal streets. The plaster is falling from the fronts of the houses, and no one seems disposed to renew it. The year of 1618, and others of that period, which you see on the outside, lead one to question, if aught has been renewed since then. Waving grass is growing in the streets, and as you enter many of the principal churches, you must keep in the narrow path, „the old path,“ or in rainy or wet weather, as it was when I was there, you will have cause to repent. Indolence seems painted on the countenances of the people, and they seem to move as if they knew not why, or whither, they were going. Many of the houses have fallen down, others are falling, and in many places you see ruins clearing away to add to the gardens, which already fill up two thirds of the space within the walls.
Cologne boasts of its antiquity, and of its greatness. Still Colonia Agrippae may often be seen in public inscriptions, and they tell you that full more than fifty thousand inhabitants remain to listen to its never-ceasing bells. It was once a place of great trade, but the banishment of the Protestants in the seventeenth century destroyed its industry. (…)”

(James Mitchell: A Tour Through Belgium, Holland, Along the Rhine, and Through the North of France, in the Summer of 1816: In which is Given an Account of the Civil and Ecclesiastical Polity, and of the System of Education of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; with Remarks on the Fine Arts, Commerce, and Manufactures, Chapter XIX, T. and J. Allman, 1819)