Cologne or Köln to go local I characterized as sweet and charming. It was my very first impression and happy to confirm it lingered on. It is a small city with around 1 mln inhabitants and here again the city is divided into old and new and is spread on the banks of all-mighty Rhine. Well rivers follow in our traces… They also make cities charming and romantic with promenades and gorgeous views, given that there is anything to see of course. In case of Cologne the Deutz promenade offers stunning views of the old city and the cathedral so don’t miss your chance of a romantic stroll.
Our introduction to the city started with friendly Cologne-Bonn Airport, which even boasts an in-house supermarket. I don’t think I have encountered that one before. It was in November that we travelled to Cologne and the Christmas spirit was already prevalent, even in the airport. So I guess that made our arrival extra welcoming
One thing that Germans can be proud of is their superb public transportation system. 15 minutes S-Bahn ride from the airport and you will find yourself in the city center. Take S13 direction Horrem Bf and get off at Köln Hbf – Cologne Central Train Station. How handy! Before coming to the handiness though I had to admire the cuteness of trains and train tracks. They were so low that you just wanted to jump down and hug the trains. Crazy thought I know…
Cologne Cathedral & Churches
What else is there? Well they have this huge Cathedral – Kölner Dom – in the middle of the city. You walk and walk and pretty much always end up there. All the roads lead to Dom… It is truly magnificent to say the least. Reminded me of St. Vitus’s Cathedral in Prague, but on a much grander scale. Each of its spires is 157 m long and when your gaze follows the cathedral and wanders up up up… you feel dizzy and mesmerized by the breathtaking scope of it. Inside is no less grandeur, with mosaic windows and beautiful halls. No wonder it took more than 6 centuries to complete the cathedral (1248-1880). In of the rooms you can also find the Shrine of the Three Holy Kings. Finished admiring the inside, then it’s time to climb up approximately 530 steps of a very spiral staircase of the right spiky tower. It will leave you most certainly breathless, but I promise you the view that will follow is well worth the sweating. The ticket costs only 3 EUR and 1.5 for students. For times and more info visit the Dom web page. At first you will reach a big platform, where upon our arrival crazy teenagers were skateboarding. Nice choice of venue what can I say??? But don’t give up yet this is not the end of your journey. Just a little more effort and a couple of more dizzying steps and there you are at the top of the world, even if the world in this case is constrained by beautiful Cologne. Don’t rush outside because you will miss a strange looking thing with a sword stuck in. Our initial reaction – what on the earth is Excalibur doing in here? but it was a mechanic lever Watch out for the gargoyles. Don’t rush outside because you will miss a strange looking stone-metal thing. Our initial reaction – what on earth is Excalibur doing in here? But that was the fatigue talking after climbing all those stairs. Turned out to be some kind of mechanical lever for bells. Now buy your unique top-of-the-Dom postcard, quickly run outside and take in the 360 degree view over Cologne. Don’t be surprised when you find the walls covered in nonsensical scribbles of proud visitors. I guess it is a universal stupidity that makes people turn historical relics into their walls of fame. Oh and watch out for the lovely gargoyles. They are everywhere
As if the Dom wasn’t big enough, the city boasts also 12 Romanesque Churches all standing within the old city. Together with the Dom they earned Cologne the reputation of “Rome of the North”.
Right next to the Dom is the Ludwig Museum of modern art. For art lovers this is an absolute must. They have wonderful works of Pop Art, Abstract and Surrealism and the third largest Picasso collection in the world. The reception and guards are very friendly and the ticket costs 10 EUR. You can also get a very useful audio guide for additional 3 EUR, bringing your perception of the painting beyond the oil on the canvas No just kidding. The galleries are light and airy and the collection is to be envied. You can easily spent a few hours and even a whole day there, however at 18:00 the insistent but friendly guards will push you out.
Another cultural wonder of Cologne is the Philharmonic Concert House. No, we didn’t go there, we didn’t even see the building we just managed to walk on it. Literally… The Cologne people decided to put the concert house underground in the space between the Dom and Rhine. Don’t ask me why? No idea, but the concept is still cutting-edge. During concerts guards stand on the square above the concert house and close off the space for pedestrians because the roof is so thin the footsteps echo off. A little impractical if you ask me.
The Scent of Cologne
So much about Cologne’s artsy scene, now let’s get back to the perfume business.
“I have discovered a scent that reminds me of a spring morning in Italy, of mountain narcissus, orange blossom just after the rain. It gives me great refreshment, strengthens my senses and imagination.”
Giovanni Maria Farina
The original and world-famous Eau de Cologne was developed and launched in 1709 by Giovanni Maria Farina. In the same year Farina established the Farina House, which is today the world’s oldest fragrance company. The famous house still stands intact, the secret of the perfume is guarded heavily and transferred from generation to generation and the fragrance is still available in the store. 4 ml flacon costs 4 EUR, and 30 ml spray will set you back 26 EUR. To book a tour at the Farina Fragrance Museum call in advance, admission is 5 EUR.
As with anything unique there has got to be copies. This concept is not new and is not Chinese-only, although they certainly are the masters of copying. In Cologne you will find another house called No. 4711 selling 4711 Original Eau de Cologne. This is yet another famous perfume brand from Cologne. The history of this house is quite interesting and turbulent. It was established a century after the Farina’s. If you are interested in the history you can find some details here.
Staying on the romantic note there is a special place in Cologne that stands a humble witness to thousands of love proclamations. It is the Hohenzollern Bridge connecting the two banks of Rhine and bringing you from Deutz district right into the Altstadt. The love bridge is heavily armed with thousands of padlocks of different shapes and colours but mostly the same content – the cute Hans+Greta=<3. First time I saw this concept of attaching padlocks to bridges in Riga, and ever since then love padlocks keep following me. But here in Cologne it has gone to an extreme and very soon they will have to dedicate another bridge to this loving cause. The idea is that you attach the love lock to the bridge and throw the key into the river to safeguard your love forever. In Cologne such a lock with your initials / message costs around 40 EUR, but a hardware store and a felt-tip pen will do the job much cheaper. Good for the Schnäppchenjäger.
During one of our walks in the city we discovered an Armenian surname on a carpet storefront. Of course that made us very curious and despite the after hours and the store being closed the lights were still on and we could see the owner was still hard at work. So we took a chance and knocked on the door. The owner was very friendly, who ended up not being Armenian, but Persian, although I still think he might have some Armenian ancestry in him with the surname Taherian you never know. He had an amazing carpet collection and of course Tufenkian pieces. We found our perfect carpet, that was a little over 12,000 EUR but you gotta set some target, huh? If you are ever in town and in need of exquisite carpets make sure to pay him a visit.
Places to Eat & Drink
Are you hungry yet? After all this running around you must be starving and thirsty. Fancy a beer, or local Kölsch? It is tasty but according to my husband it comes in kid-size glasses – 0.2l. Of course he has Danish standards to compare to Don’t worry friendly waiters won’t leave your glass unattended for long.
Brauhaus Sion – for a true German meal head to this old beerhouse. Food is amazing here, try the schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) and be prepared to consume a lot of meat.
Ständige Vertretung – it was the favourite dining place of politicians. Try the German pizza – Flammkuchen, a very thin pizza without tomato. Tastes absolutely delicious!
For the sweet-toothed don’t pass a chance to indulge on nougat bretzels from Merzenich bakery that are spread around the city.
This turned out to be a rather long post. It was sure nice to reminisce about our adventures though. If you are ever in the neighbourhood enjoy the friendly city, but be careful not to slip anything about their eternal rival Düsseldorf. The same is true for Düsseldorf, if you order a beer there and call it Kölsch the friendliness of your hosts will be lost forever!
Happy travels und bis bald