Cultured Cologne, Germany
Cologne was another city that I hadn’t heard too much about prior to going to Germany. My knowledge of the main Germany cities consisted of Munich, Berlin, and Hamburg, but I’m glad I spent a few days in this beautiful city. It ended up being one of my favorites, along with Munich. Cologne is world famous for its Carnivale during the Lenten season, and if I should ever make it back there, I hope to do so during that time. It’s a week long celebration with different events going on each day. There are brightly colored costumes, parades, parties, and much more!
I arrived in Cologne late in the evening and made it to the apartment of Ulf, with whom I’d be couchsurfing. He turned out to be one of the more interesting people I’ve met through the app. He’s hosted or surfed over 300 people over the last 10 years! Being relatively new to couchsurfing, I enjoyed chatting with him about his different experiences and how the app has evolved over time.
The next morning I headed into town to join up with one of the many “free” walking tour companies that operated in Cologne. I chose to go with Free Walking Tour Cologne, as they had received good reviews via Trip Advisor. My tour guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the city, even though she had only lived there for a few years. The weather was sunny and warm, which also helped to improve the experience of wandering through the city. We even stopped to sample some Kolsch, a type of light beer only brewed in Cologne. Served in 0.2 liter glasses, it’s almost drank in “shot” fashion, (with usually more ordered soon after since it is delicious!). Also noticeable during the walk scattered throughout the city were tiny gold bricks, each of which commemorated a victim of the Holocaust.
After the walking tour, I decided to check out the Ludwig Museum. The Ludwig is famous for its modern art, including pop art, abstract, and surrealism, and has one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe. While I cannot claim to be an art connoisseur, I do prefer modern art compared to the more classical era.
I then made my way to arguably the most famous landmark in Cologne, the Cologne Cathedral. Boy, was it impressive! The cathedral was one of the only buildings that survived WW2, as the planes would use it as an origin point from the sky when they were dropping their bombs on the city. Unfortunately, the tower was closed for climbing for the day, so I would have to return tomorrow.
The next day I returned back to the Cathedral. Another famous aspect about the Cathedral is that it holds the bones of the Three Wise Men! (I mean, supposedly haha). Tucked away in the back of the Cathedral, it is easily missed if one doesn’t know to search it out. After admiring the memorial to the Three Wise Men, I set off to climb the 500+ stairs to get to the top of the Cathedral. The stairs were winding and very narrow as I made countless revolutions en route to the top. I paused shortly before the top to admire what is the largest bell in the world!
I had a late breakfast at FunkHaus, located nearby the Cathedral. The Notre Dame students whom I met back in Salzburg, had recommended the scrambled eggs, and they were delicious! Another museum that was high on my list was the National Socialist Defense Museum, which detailed Cologne’s role in WWII. I found it to be very fascinating, as it was filled with a lot of first hand accounts of people who lived through it. Continuing the museum tour, I next went to the Roman-Germanische Museum. I did not enjoy this museum that much, as it mainly consisted of old rocks and relics from the time of the Roman Empire. There are only so many rocks and teapots that one can see before they all blend together. While I didn’t enjoy the museum, I did enjoy seeing the old remnants of the Roman Empire that are still scattered around the city and that surprisingly survived the WWII bombings!
Cologne is also famous for two luxury items: Perfume and Chocolate! While I chose not to go on any tours associated with these two goods, I did stop by the gift shops to see the different offerings (and I might have purchased some chocolate too!).
I really enjoyed my time in this fun and fascinating city. From what I could tell, it also seemed like a very friendly and liveable city, with always plenty to do. I highly recommend stopping in Cologne if you ever find yourself in Germany!