The train ride between cities is so eye opening! it’s fun to see what the houses in suburbia look like, what businesses are on the side of the road, what’ the countryside looks like, and what crops are in the fields now. On Saturday we took the train an hour north to Cologne to explore this 2,000 year old city which is considered the cultural hub of this region. On this train ride, we found countryside with cows, lots of house on hills and steeples popping up here and there, windmills, smokestacks, McDonald’s, bus hubs to Fantasialand (who knew that was a thing), fields of gourds, a field with a single blooming sunflower and lots more. It was a gloomy Saturday but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the day.
When we arrived we needed some lunch, so naturally Sean found us a pizza place that had good reviews including one review noting that this place had “big and delicious pizzas.” Perfect for fueling up for wandering around. Well, we learned our lesson: always ask HOW BIG the pizzas are. It wasn’t listed on the menu and at 7 euros a piece we didn’t think they would be that big – personal size, right? NO, THEY WERE APPROXIMATELY 20 inches in diameter EACH!!! So, um, yeah we ended up lugging our leftovers with us all over town because that would have been a waste of perfectly good pizza and we’re pinching our pennies! Anyway, it was delicious and Italian, so it met our needs, and gave us dinner too. yum.
Walking around we noticed that the architecture of the city is extremely varied – you can tell there was great effort to preserve Pre War architecture as best as possible, so you have traditional German looking buildings next to modern structures everywhere. That’s just typical everywhere you go.
We headed first to the two spired Gothic cathedral that’s always pictured looming over Cologne. It was absolutely one of those structures you gawk at and think just how much time, material, man power, it took to build this cathedral. The cornerstone for this cathedral was laid in 1248, but was only completed in 1880, due to a 300 year break in construction due to lack of funds and lack of interest. This impressive structure has absolutely beautiful stained glass, a great variety of art mediums, and it houses the remains of the Three Wise Men. UNESCO deemed this cathedral a World Heritage Site in 1996. I realized later that I didn’t get a good picture of the entire thing, but it was just so huge, so here’s a link to a pic just in case you’re curious.
Next we walked to the love lock bridge, the Hohenzollern Bridge, that crosses the Rhine in Cologne. Here we enjoyed some of these love locks, the alarming art over the river, and the view of the Rhine. It’s a tradition on the bridge for lovers to place a lock on the fence on the bridge and throw the key over the side. There are 40,000 love locks that weigh the bridge down an additional 2 tons, not to mention the abundance of keys in the river, too. Locals rightfully wonder when they should stop this tradition!
Next, we wandered around Cologne’s Old Town with a plan to go to the Chocolate museum, but the lines were insane, and with the cost for entry, we figured we’d just head to a cafe for a different, probably more pleasant experience (though, I’d totally go back to the Chocolate museum on a week day!) So we found a cafe, had a coffee and cooled our heels, before wandering around a bit more.
After wandering a bit more, we ended up going into a family owned Kolsch brewery, the Suenner house. We tried some Kolsch and made friends with a Polish couple, the gentleman who had quite a few beers, was amused by how few we were having. His wife spoke English, but he really only knew Polish, so we just had a jolly good time smiling nodding and speaking in our native tongues. The Suenner house was this tiny German restaurant and beer tasting room. The only space we could find was two barstools at the bar, so we sat here, tried our Kolsch and watched how they handle being in such a tiny space. They had what I deemed a beer elevator that they loaded up to send the empty keg down to the basement and then sent back up a fresh full barrel shaped keg. Similiarly, they had a modern day electric dumbwaiter that they delivered food wth from the top floor down to the main dining area. Ever since having seen Thomas Jefferson’s dumb waiter at Monticello as a kid, I have had a love for dumbwaiters. A love that is often chuckled at with bemusement by my dearest friend who shall remain unnamed (cough cough). So seeing this modern day dumbwaiter really made my heart flutter. (yes, flutter!)
We can’t wait to go back to Cologne for Carnival in November, and for the Christmas Markets once they open in December!