Melville kept a journal both of his transatlantic and his Rhenish voyage, published on the centenary of his travels in 1949 (Journey of Visit to London and the Continent). Here, we join him in Cologne having "unknowable German currency" conned out of him and enjoying the works of some Dutch masters.
Sunday, 9th December, 1849
Sallied out before breakfast and found my way to the famous cathedral, where the everlasting “crane” stands on the Tower. While inside was accosted by a polite worthy who was very civil pointing out the “curios”. He proved a “valet de place.” He tormented me home to the Hotel & got a franc out of me. Upon going to the Steamer Office I learned that no boat would leave that morning. So I had to spend the day in Cologne. But it was not altogether unpleasant for me to do. In this antiquated gable-ended old town – full of Middle Age, Charlemagne associations – where Ruebens was born & Mary De Medici died – there is much to interest a pondering man like me. But now to tell how at last I found that I had not put up at the “Hôtel de Cologne,” but at the “Hôtel du Rhine” – where my bill for a bed, a tea & a breakfast amounted to some $2, in their unknowable German currency. Having learnt about the Steamer, I went to the veritable Hôtel de Cologne (on the river) & there engaged the services of a valet de place to show me the sights of the town for 2 francs. We went to the Cathedral, during service – saw the tomb of the Three Kings of Cologne – their skulls. The choir of the church is splendid. The structure itself is one of the most singular in the world. One transept is nearly complete – in new stone, and strangely contrasts with the ruinous condition of the vast unfinished tower on one side. From the Cathedral we went to the Jesuits’ Church, where service was being performed. Thence to the Museum & saw some odd old paintings; & one splendid one (a sinking ship, with the Captain at the mast-head – defying his foe) by Scheffer (?). Thence to St. Peter’s Church & saw the celebrated Descent from the Cross by Ruebens. Paid 2 francs to see the original picture turned round by the Sacristan. Thence home. Went into a book store & purchased some books (Views & Panoramas of the Rhine) & then to the Hotel. At one o’clock dinner was served (Table d’hôte), a regular German dinner & a good one, “I tell you”. Innumerable courses - & an apple pudding was served between the courses of meat & poultry. I drank some yellow Rhenish wine which was capital, looking out on the storied Rhine as I dined. After dinner sallied out & roamed about the town – going into churches, buying cigar of pretty cigar girls, & stopping people in the street to light my cigar. I drank in the very vital spirit & soul of old Charlemagne, as I turned the quaint old corners of this quaint old town. Crossed the bridge of boats, & visited the fortifications on the thither side. At dusk stopped at a beer shop - & took a glass of black ale in a comical flagon of glass. Then home. And here I am writing up my journal for the last two days. At nine o’ clock (3 hours from now) I start for Coblenz – 60 miles from hence. I feel homesick to be sure – being all alone with not a soul to talk to – but then the Rhine is before me, & I must on. The sky is overcast, but it harmonizes with the spirit of the place.