Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2014 Germany Trip - 1 Day Trip to Cologne (Köln)

Location: Cologne, Germany

Itinerary and full experience of my visit to Germany can be accessed through the link below:

Of all the German towns and cities that I have visited during my stint in Germany, Cologne is the only one I frequented the most. Not even Frankfurt, the closest metropolis to my workplace came close in frequency. And no, it was not because I like Cologne. It was because that was the most convenient meeting point between my friend closer to the north and me who was stationed at the south.

I presumed that most people would link the perfume Eau de Cologne, which is also known simply as cologne, to the city. In fact it is more of a reason for people to recognize the city than the iconic Cologne Cathedral. Although there are more to the historic city than these two, they remained the most impressionistic.

'The' Cologne - Eau de Cologne. If you are wondering why the perfume is named so, this is the place to visit - Number 4711, the plot of shop which created this perfume in 1709.


To the interested readers, here is my 1 day itinerary in Cologne - which could be done under 6 hours. Click into each link to visit the dedicated post to the place of interest.

  • arrive in Cologne Hbf (main train station) around 11 a.m. 
  • visit Cologne Cathedral, climb 533 steps to get a panoramic view of Cologne (1 - 2 hour, take your time here as it could be quite crowded sometimes) 

  • enjoy lunch in Haxenhaus (1 hour) 
  • stroll along Hohenzollern bridge, took some shots of the love locks and the rider statues (<1 hour) 
  • ride up KölnTriangle to get a panorama of Cologne (1 hour, maybe less, dependent on queue, may skip if you are not interested) 
  • took some shots of Cologne Messe-Deutz train station (<0.5 hours, may skip this) 
  • got back to cathedral side of the river bank, and strolled around the Altstadt (old town), although most of the buildings are no longer original (1 - 2 hours)
  • day ends and head back to my point of origin 

I did not visit the 12 Romanesque churches, but the interested tourist could look for the few closest to Cologne main train station. This could be a better alternative to most than my trip to the opposite side of the river to explore Panorama and Cologne Messe-Deutz train station since the latter were more of a personal exploration.

Cologne has always been an important trade center and hub along the Rhine since its founding as a Roman colony in 38 BC. During the Holy Roman Empires era in the Middle Ages, the Archbishop of Cologne was one of seven electors, an important position in the empire. Cologne became a Free City later in 1288 when it gained its independence from the archbishops, leading to complicated affairs between the archbishops and city officials. Its location along the Rhine trade route also made them an important member of the Hanseatic League in 1475, a powerful confederation of merchant guilds. 

The Free City status was lost during the French occupation in 1794 when the city was drafted to become part of the French Republic. It was later signed off to the Kingdom of Prussia during the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and has remained as part of Germany throughout the nation’s different incarnations. 

The iconic Cologne Cathedral with Museum Ludwig in front

The other museum adjacent to Cologne Cathedral is the Roman-Germanic Museum here, which is also adjacent to Museum Ludwig. One could also take the brightly colored Bimmelbahn (mini train) to travel to the Chocolate Factory or Cologne Zoo (more info here).

Abandoned under the winter sky

Winter is leaving and spring is coming

For a historically important city, Cologne was surprisingly lacking, its memories of the past, both the good and bad times, erased by Allied bombings during World War II. Most of the city (about 95%) was leveled, leaving very little that is still original today, one of which was the Cologne Cathedral. The city I saw was actually planned and rebuilt by architect and urban planner Rudolf Schwarz in 1947 and lasted until the 1990s.

Visiting Cologne during the annual Carnival revealed the lighter side of Germans, who were known for being serious to the point of grumpy. As one German told me, Carnival was the time when Germans let loose. In modern Asian terms, one could say that was the largest annual cosplay. Carnival officially starts on 11.11am on 11th November every year, making it a celebration of 11s. The highlight of Carnival is Street Carnival, which lasted a week long from Fat Thursday to Ash Wednesday in March, earning the moniker the Crazy Days. The best part of this is Rose Monday, 2 days before Ash Wednesday, when almost everyone went out in masquerade and street parades entertained crowds with performances and floats. I only visited on Sunday, missing the greatest celebration that would happen a day later.

Cologne Cathedral, being the icon and main reason of every tourist entering Cologne, was unsurprisingly the chosen meeting point between me and my friend. With time to kill and nothing exciting to offer from the city, I usually entered the church to escape the elements. Even after numerous visits, I was still amazed by the fact that the number of visitors never ceased no matter the season. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised as it was the closest major structure to the train station, its dark complex exterior striking visitors with awe even before they left the confines of the station. 

Groß St. Martin - one of the 12 Romanesque churches in Cologne. It was destroyed by Allied bombings during World War II, and reconstructed later.

Looks like a nice scene for some haunted movie

Another shot of Groß St. Martin

Carnival is coming

Up and across

What is an Einstein doing in Cologne?

A shallow pool in a public park

Pool and church

Another angle of the pool in the park


Heinzelmännchenbrunnen - the Pixie's Fountain

Here are the pixies - good beings from Cologne folklore who will emerge at night to help lazy people do their work. How I wish there are some who will help me...

Street artists and kid

Hohenzollern Bridge in itself was a marvel – an important link between both sides of the river bank which saw over 1,200 train crossings daily and guarded by 4 silent statues of past kings and emperors. Crossing the bridge on foot could be a refreshing experience, the colorful love locks along the length contrasted against the stark metal bridge.

I could not resist taking lots of snaps from the opposite bank towards Cologne Cathedral. After all, this was how most postcards and online images depicted Cologne and the cathedral. Walking further away from the river brought me to Panorama, a skyscraper offering a fantastic panorama of Cologne, all the way to the furthest suburbs, for a price. 

Cologne’s main train station was great but I loved the smaller Cologne Messe-Deutz station that was just nearby Panorama. Although the small domed station was small and could handle less than its bigger sibling, it curves were more attractive than the behemoth the latter was. Or maybe I had a soft spot for petite things, buildings included.

Although Cologne Cathedral dominated the attention of visitors, there were another 12 Romanesque churches which were historically rich despite the fact that all of them were destroyed during World War II (the current incarnations were reconstructions). Perhaps I should have paid them a visit but I was deterred by the scattered location and usually decided against it, satisfied with just waiting for my friend’s arrival in Cologne Cathedral.

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