Today we all awoke to a hum of light rain in the silent city of Cologne – a very large contrast from the noise and commotion we experienced yesterday. The overcast sky seemed to cover the city of Cologne like a warm blanket encouraging people to huddle inside on this cold, rainy Sunday in November in Germany. We started our day late, with a delicious brunch in our hostel, and set out to explore the simple aesthetics of the city since most shops were closed on this day. This included a long stroll along the Rhine River to the Schokoladenmuseum, where we learned about the history of chocolate and its production lines from cacao trees to delicious treats and beautiful sculptures. The highlight of this museum experience was the wafers dipped in the delectable chocolate from the golden chocolate fountain, to which I went back several times for more! After a cozy lunch at an Italian restaurant on the Rhine, we headed to the Botanical Gardens, which is one of the oldest and most beautiful parks in Germany that contains more than 10,000 different plant species and is visited by more than a million people every year. We thoroughly enjoyed our relaxing break day from the conference to refreshen our minds for another productive week at COP23.
Yesterday, however, was a direct contrast to the calm day we had today. Not only was it a jam-packed day yesterday, but we also were also able to observe all of the controversy surrounding the launch of America’s “unofficial” pledge, where an alliance of cities, states, corporation and higher education institutions gathered at the US Climate Action Center to protest Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement and demonstrate the majority of Americans are still in to combat climate change. The rally of climate change activism was spearheaded at this convention by the influential leaders Michael Bloomberg, Albert Arnold Gore, Jerry Brown, and even Frank Bainimarama and Patricia Espinosa, who were there to show support for this rally despite the current administration’s lack of support. Isolated from the official Bonn Zone, I never would’ve imagined the US Climate Action Center to be a hub for so much passion for climate action, but must admit it was so nice to be a part of this collective community and finally hear a united voice for America against climate change. Our lively day was finally met with the famous Kölner Karneval, when we landed at the Cologne Central Station, where were met by thousands of people dressed up in colorful costumes and dancing to roaring German music.