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‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown’ in Cologne, Germany: Just the One-Liners

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The CNN host on beer, schnitzel, and why he avoids Carnival

Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

In this week's episode of CNN's award-winning travel series Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain ingests a whole boatload of pork and beer during a trip to Cologne, Germany. Episode seven takes the host deep into schnitzel country to explore what makes the city tick. Bourdain, along with many of the city's residents and fans, characterize Cologne as a welcoming and relatively progressive city, thanks to its long history of trade along the Rhine River and a manufacturing industry that attracted workers from across Europe including portions of Italy. And while some say Cologne is aesthetically ugly due to its post-war buildings, Bourdain disagrees. "I never saw Cologne as ugly at all. I always saw it as, well, charming in the least patronizing sense of the word. I mean this city charms you. It takes you in. It makes you feel welcome."

Cologne has one of the highest concentrations of Turkish immigrants in Germany and due to humanitarian crises, has welcomed more Middle Eastern refugees over the past several years. According to Bourdain, Germany overall has welcomed 1.1 million refugees "fleeing ISIS, Russian and Syrian bombs, and war." However, as the episode recounts, a series of assaults in Cologne last New Year's Eve, during which a large group of men described as "of Arab and North African descent" assaulted hundreds of women, has left some questioning whether or not an open asylum policy is wise.

"This city charms you. It takes you in. It makes you feel welcome."

Bourdain sums up the issue: "Cologne of all places is now the example for both sides of an increasingly bitter argument over whether Europe — and by extension, the world — should turn their backs on the millions of refugees spilling out of Syria, Iraq, and a Middle East spinning into chaos and slaughter."

Starting with many glasses of kölsch at a local brewery, Bourdain explores Cologne's openness and how it maintains a strong traditional identity despite having such a large community of people from different cultures. The host meets with people of many backgrounds, including the children of immigrants from Turkey and Italy. He also pays a visit to Düsseldorf, where citizens enjoy a friendly rivalry with Cologne (this is, of course, discussed over copious amounts of a dark, local brew known as altbier). Here, now, are the 26 best quips from Sunday's Cologne excursion.

1. On Cologne's "non-douchey" beer culture: "I don't mean beer culture in a judgmental neckbeard hovering over you waiting for you to decide between craft beers [way], either. I mean here, decent beer is a way of life. It's a birthright. You don't talk about it too much, ya freakin' drink it."

2. On Malzmühle Brewery: "Democratic, utilitarian, welcoming to all people with a powerful thirst."

3. On the advantage of Cologne's tiny beer glasses: "If you have a giant thing of beer, it's like piss warm by the time you get down to the bottom."

4. On people finishing their glass of kölsch in one drink: "I'm not sure of the exact blood absorption rate of alcohol, but I would think that if you're hammering these things back, it's hitting your bloodstream at the perfect rate."

5. On how waiters keep track of beers poured by tabulating them on customers' coasters: "I don't like this custom, this [pointing to his coaster]. I don't want to know how many beers I've had."

6. On finding his "happy zone" in a plate of "Himmel und Erde" (Heaven and Earth): "That's blood sausage, fried onions, and mashed potatoes with applesauce —which if you don't like, by the way, pretty much removes you from my 'Will Save From Drowning' list."

7. On the pork shank dish that brought him back to Cologne: "It was sweet, sweet memories of this stegosaurus-sized shank of cured pork, boiled and boiled until it literally falls away from the bone steaming, and moist a symphony of meat and gelatin and good, good stuff. God is hiding in there somewhere."

8. On why he avoids Carnival: "My completely rational fear of clowns, mimes, parades, public dancing, and crowds in general really prohibits me from taking part. These days Brian Jones could come back for one-night-only with the Stones and Janis and Jimmy and Jim they could all be there, and you know what? I ain't goin. But the Cologners, god bless 'em, they love it."

9. A rhetorical question: "Will jesters and bards and Medievally-attired pranksters be popping up during my stay here? Mimes? No mimes, troubadours, jugglers, human statues?"

10. On more reasons to avoid the 40-day festival: "Are there parades? I hate parades. Are there clowns? I hate clowns. Jesters? Festive attire?"

11. When someone suggests that drinking beer is part of Carnival: "I have beer right now. I don't need no stinking Carnival to drink beer, man. And as I understand it, I'm urged to drink beer as part of a community of beer drinking with other bros. I hate bros."

12. Don't even mention singing: "Singing. I forgot to mention that. I hate that, too."

13. And jugglers: "My heart is a cold, cold place and there's no room in it for jugglers."

14. On how he knows he's going to like a place: "I often say that the places I go there's a pheromonic decision made very, very quickly. You step outside the airport terminal and you go [breathes in through nose] and you know right away there's something about this place that I think I'm going to like."

15. Responding to the suggestion that wearing a costume might make Germans even more accepting of an outsider: "Sort of like an Eyes Wide Shut kind of a thing."

16. On schnitzel: "... surfboard-sized slabs of veal and pork filled with many wonderful things, dredged in breadcrumbs and fried in magical, magical beef fat. Now that's a Carnival I can get behind."

17. On how German organizational skills makes it easier for refugees and immigrants to acclimate into the culture: "It's almost a cliché that it's organized."

18. On eating currywurst and curry fries with mayonnaise: "Drunk or sober, good is good."

19. On performance art: "Cologne — you've got to love it — they support artwork that might get you punched in the face elsewhere."

20. On whether or not chefs should be considered artists: "As much as we might like to think of them as artists, I think chefs are proud craftsmen or artisans. I think there's one chef who I would argue is an artist — I would hold up Ferran Adrià as an artist."

21. On never eating dog: "I think it's the eyes. Big eyes. It's not for me."

22. On eating horse and making animal lovers angry: "Too bad they're out of panda today. That would piss some people off."

23. On the world becoming more racially homogenous as a way of avoiding discrimination: "It's our only hope is to fuck our way out of this. It's going to take some time, but it's really the only way the sort of Singaporean model where everybody is so mixed up that you really don't know who to hate because everybody is so hopelessly intertwined. But we're a long way from that."

24. On Uerige Obergärige Brewery in Düsseldorf: "It's a marvel of orderliness in an uncertain world."

25. On his "Dead Roman Theory": "I have suggested that the presence of long-dead Roman legions enriches the soil making for good wine and a propensity for frolicking and drinking that wine. It is, I hasten to add, an idiotic theory, but I want it to be true."

26. On the simple things in life: "Give me a good spaghetti with white clam sauce and I don't need much more. Maybe some wine."

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