Depending on where you go, Europe has mobs of cats. My girlfriend Daphne and I visited Rome in 2003 — and we saw hundreds of cats. Literally. If you don’t know already, Rome is known for having huge colonies of feral cats as well as free-roaming domestic cats throughout the city. They’re cared for by rescue groups as well as just regular folks. In fact, I believe there’s a law in Rome that says if you move into a house or apartment that already has a cat in residence, you cannot evict that cat. Rather, you have to care for the animal. In December, when Daphne and I visited Belgium and Germany, we didn’t expect to see the same amount of cats, but we hoped to encounter a cat cafe, or at least see the random domestic cat or feral.
We saw two.
And no cat cafe.
But that doesn’t mean we saw no cats. In five cities — Brussels, Bruges, Berlin, Rothenburg, and Munich — we saw cats all over the place. We saw them in the form of ancient statues. Architectural fixtures. Holiday lights. Business names and logos. Pillows. Ceramics. Paintings. So I photographed every cat item (and, yes, every cat) I saw. Here are the results.
This first one is a collection of Hello Kitty items from an exhibit of Japanese toys at San Francisco International Airport. While it’s not European at all, it was on the first leg of the trip, so I’ll take it. Besides. Hello Kitty. Duh.
I shot this one in Brussels. Stretched across the streets were representations of constellations that lit up after dark. I thought this one was Leo, but it doesn’t look like any Leo pattern that I could find, so who knows? Regardless, it’s a cat. Click!
It was our first day in Brussels that we saw this real cat, who darted about between restaurants. We saw no collar, but the cat looked clean and under pretty good care, so who knows whether he or she had a human?
The next cat was part of a very cartoony statue in Brussels whose characters I don’t recognize. Still. It’s a cat. Click!
This is a doorbell in the small medieval Belgian town of Bruges.
Here are pillows I saw in a shop in Bruges. Where are they from? Downton Tabby?
Here’s an artist’s mannequin of a cat. (I have one of these at home given to me by Managing Editor Vicky Walker.)
Translation: De Kat Quality Clothing.
This ceramic cat family inhabits a store window in the German city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
This is the second real cat we saw — a gorgeous little gray tabby held by a woman traveler outside Munich’s main train station, or Bahnhof. The photo is poor quality but it’s the best we could get. The area was extremely crowded, and we didn’t want to startle the cat by getting too close (although the cat seemed very much at ease and glad to have a break from the carrier, which was on the ground nearby). In case you’re wondering, the cat was also on a leash.
This plastic lion stands outside a hotel entrance in Munich.
This nightclub poster, which includes a lot of English (which is common in German cities), uses an image of Catwoman.
This gorgeous painting we saw in Munich Residenz, a museum that was (and part of it still is) the great palace home to generations of German royalty.
This concrete lion (being ridden like a horse by two playful humans) stands across a small square from Munich Residenz.
This bronze statue of a lion is also outside Munich Residenz. Notice the little face below it. It’s shiny and polished because it’s part of some ritual like kissing the Blarney Stone or rubbing the Buddha’s belly. I saw numerous people run a hand across it as they walked by.
Below are some shots of Daphne and I on the trip. In the first, Daphne drinks a beer in Bruges.
Here she is at our Christmas Eve dinner in Munich.
Here I am at that same dinner.
Here she is photo-bombing a shot of a very cool old racing motorcycle at the BMW Museum.
Here Daphne stands outside the walls of Rothenburg and looks at the city.
Here we are wearing cold-weather hats in very cold weather.
Which brings me to my special announcement: Over the MLK Day weekend, on a trip to a beach near the coastal town of Pescadero, I asked Daphne to marry me for a second time. (Yes, we’ve been married before. Ours is a fabulously weird story — but a good one.)
She said yes.
I’ll end with a cute image of us on New Year’s Eve 2012, well, just ’cause it’s cute.
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About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster and Dogster.