Cologne, Germany

Posted on October 9, 2011

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I recently was sent by work on a short trip to Cologne, Germany.  Cologne is a beautiful city along the Rhine River in western Germany.  It is in the famous Ruhr Valley, home to the industrial output for this industrious country.  Unfortunately, the cities in the Ruhr Valley were extensively bombed during World War 2.   Cologne was not spared, which has robbed the city of much of the charm you see in the untouched cities of Europe.  It reminds me of Rotterdam, much of it fairly modern with square apartment blocks that lean toward functional as an architectural style.    That is not to say it is not worth a visit though, just as in Rotterdam there are treasures in this city.

Cologne is dominated by an enormous gothic cathedral dating at the center of the city.  The cathedral was started in the year 1280 and completed about 600 years later.  It is enormous, dark, and brooding.  It is one of the worlds largest churches according to Wikipedia.  You can not fail to stand in the large square in front of the cathedral to admire the thousands of details.  Hundreds of sculptures adorn the exterior.  The bones of the three wise men are said to be held in the gold sarcophagus in the church.  The cathedral was hit by over seventy bombs during WW2, but it survived.  The biggest casualty was the stained glass windows, almost all of which had to be replaced.

Strolling around the city is very interesting and pedestrian friendly.  Many of the streets are closed to motor traffic.  There are long shopping streets lined with interesting shops.  There is an old section of town full of twisting streets and tiny pubs.  The old churches dating to Roman times are interesting and dominate the skyline.

The city is known for Kölsch beer that can only be found here.  It is a lighter beer that has a slightly sour and sweet flavor.  A nice pale yellow color it is easy to drink and goes well with heavy German food.  I found one bar in the train station that featured a happy hour from 7am to noon.  Way to early for me, but I did notice there were many customers having a quick beer (or two) before heading to work.

The food in Cologne was good, typical German food.  Lots of schnitzel (pounded flat breaded pork), sauerbraten (beef or horse soaked for several days in vinegar before slow roasting), and sausages.  The bakery scene was outstanding as I have found all over Germany.  Each morning started with a fresh pastry.   One day I even got a few Berliners (remember the famous JFK quote?).

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Posted in: Germany, Travel