Sad but true; our trip is winding down. We are staying in Cologne for a few days before heading back to Frankfurt for our flight home.
I had noticed the Cologne Cathedral when we had a train change in Cologne on the way to Brussels. It is hard to miss – it has the largest façade of any cathedral in the world. What I didn’t realize that it is literally right next to the train station! You step out of the HBF, and there it is. Even better? Our hotel room looks directly onto the cathedral. It is quite magnificent.
We arrived at our hotel just in the nick of time. There was a protest that started right outside the door to our hotel right after we got to our room. We weren’t sure exactly what was being protested, but it turns out that it was against immigration policies in Germany. The Nationalistic viewpoint that supports the policy of sending immigrants back to unsafe nations is not a popular one in this area. I took some pictures from our window, but missed the sign I saw posted on-line from Reuters: “There is enough Cologne’s beer for everyone”.
We found a very highly rated Chinese restaurant for dinner (The Great Wall) and were shocked at how busy it was on a Sunday afternoon. We got there around 3 pm; by 3:30 it was completely filled up. The food was really quite delicious. We were a bit surprised at how “authentic” the menu was – the food choices reminded me of the food in Hong Kong. Let’s just say that all parts of the animal are used!
The next day we started our day at the cathedral. It opens at 6 am, so if you get there early, it is pretty much empty. Tourists don’t show up until later. We have seen many beautiful cathedrals in our travels; the one in Cologne is right up there with the best! The bones of the 3 wise men reside there. The cathedral was originally started in 1248 as a place to house the holy relics. It took over 600 years for it to be completed.
Later, we took a HOHO bus tour. My advice? Don’t waste your money. The interesting parts of Cologne are easy to reach on foot. The tour took 1.5 hours and we were very anxious to get off the bus by the end of the route. One of the issues was that there was a live guide giving commentary in German. The volume was so loud that it made it difficult to hear the English commentary over our headphones. The other issue was that there really wasn’t that much to see. I did learn some facts, such as that Cologne has 250 churches. Many of them are quite lovely, but I couldn’t really get good pictures through the bus window.
There were originally 12 gates in the city walls; only three remain.
The waterfront area is being modernized. The Crane Houses were built to resemble the working class origins of the area. One can find a chocolate museum there!
We crossed the river; pretty much everything on the other side is comparable to what you would find in any major city. We passed a sports arena, a big shopping mall, a park, etc. before crossing back to the opposite side of the river. There is a nice zoo and a free botanical garden that one can visit.
We finally completed the circuit and could get off the bus. There is also a one-hour Rhine River cruise included, but the route only takes you along the river in Cologne. The interesting, and beautiful parts of the river are found outside the city. Take a day trip on the KD boat line and view some castles instead!