Cologne’s my favourite German city. Not beacuse it’s particularly beautiful, like Heidelberg, or wild and vibrant, like Hamburg, but because it’s the one I know best, and holds the most memories for me. Memories from my earliest visits to Germany more than a decade ago. Heartbreakingly happy memories that I now cling desperately to. Bette Middler is fittingly singing The Rose as the train pulls into Köln Hauptbahnhof, and I quickly cut her off, stuffing my iPod earphones into my jacket pocket. The last lines hang in my ears as I step onto the platform beneath the sweeping iron arches of the station.
When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong–
Robert’s waiting for me on the platform, and like Cologne, I’ve not seen him for almost two years, since the Football World Cup in 2006. Quick greetings, and we’re off through the crowds, looking for our first kölsch of the day. It’s not that Cologne can be classed an ugly city, or a dull one, by any measure. The city greets me like an old friend, with the first real sunshine I’ve seen since I arrived in Germany a week ago. The fantastic black gothic precipices of the Dom, Cologne’s main cathedral tower over the Domplatte, which is packed with young people on this Saturday afternoon. Continue reading
The 5.56x45mm Heckler & Koch G36, Germany’s regular battle rifle, entered service with the Bundeswehr in 1995, gradually replacing the venerable H&K G3 assault rifle, after the German ministry of defence had rejected H&K’s earlier two offerings, the G11 and the G3-derived G41. Variants have since been adopted by the Spanish armed forces, as well as several law enforcement organizations. The G36 is probably the first totally new firearm in the last two decades (other than the Austrian Steyr AUG) to receive worldwide acclaim as well as commercial contracts. The world’s most popular and widely used battle rifles are almost all derivatives of older weapons; case in point being the Kalashnikov and M16 families, as well as the H&K roller-delayed G3 series. Britain’s L85 was the first brand new service rifle to arrive on the scene after the desert of the 1970s, however its initial lack of hardiness and overcomplication of design (interestingly the same criticisms leveled at the M16 in the 1960s) scuttled any chance of commercial success. Continue reading