We have been to Cologne before but it was only a quick stopover of few hours, but even then, the colossal and glorious Cathedral stuck in my mind as one of the most grandiose I have ever been! Add to that is the beer. Kölsch, their local brew served in slim glasses has become one of my most dreamed beer to savour again!
So the opportunity to return, after almost seven years, presented itself when H and I were wondering where to spend my birthday weekend and luckily, the fact that he is working in Brussels at the moment, just a two-hour drive to Cologne, made it the perfect time to do a re-visit!
“Where are you spending your weekend?”, H’s colleague asked (this is a normal question to ask when getting ready to leave the office, Friday afternoon.)
– “In Cologne, and we are leaving tonight!”
– “What? Why tonight?”
– “Because I want to wake up in Germany!”
We arrived in the City just when every pub, restaurant and cocktail houses are abuzzed with TGIF revellers i.e., students, officeworkers, locals and tourists. We already accepted our fate, that of driving endless circles around the block in search for a parking space. Half an hour later, we nearly shouted “Eureka!” when we stumbled upon a spot few steps away from our hotel. H dropped a 2-euro coin to the ticket machine and voila, we would be safe till 9am the next day. This is the parking sign that made me burst with instant desire to learn German!
The first order of the night was to search for a place to enjoy our most-awaited Kolsch-drinking moment to accompany our dinner. As usual, the clumsy me made a mess of creating a spectacle of foam overflowing relentlessly from my glass. So a lesson on beer-pouring began….
After a hearty dinner of sushi (you see, we drove two hours to Germany just to eat Japanese food!), we ambled our way towards the river and this is what we found – a picture postcard night scene of the Hohenzollern bridge and Cologne Cathedral!
Next day, Saturday
After breakfast at the hotel, we went searching for a more long-term parking that won’t cost us a fortune. We found an underground carpark under the Laxness Arena (12euros for 24hours) which is only 2km walk to the center of Cologne. This is the plate number of our neighbour-car. What a lucky number, we thought!
Honestly, German language reads quite scary. All we wanted was to get out of the carpark…
Finally, we found the exit and this is the view that appeared right infront of us – the twin-spired Cologne Cathedral!
Walking past Bäckereien (bakery houses), displays of Pretzels were quite tempting to the eyes.
We crossed the Deutzer Brücke (Deutz Suspension Bridge, 1913-15) which allowed us a good view of the Romanesque Great St. Martin Church (13thC) and the Gothic Cologne Cathedral (13thC). A colourful tram in the foreground.
Cologne trams are moving art in themselves, never a dull moment looking at them!
At Heumarkt Square stands the pedestal of King Frederic Wilhelm III of Prussia (1770 – 1840) riding a horse, but I chose to focus on the figures below him as they look as gallant as the King. They are statues of German personalities from the world of economics, politics, science and art.
We reached the Alter Markt, the largest square in Cologne and the center of the annual Carnival and Christmas Market.
The fountain of Jan von Werth (1884) featuring the beloved maid Griet. The statues in the fountain tell the lifestory of Jan von Werth.
Jan was a poor servant who fell in love with the maid, Griet. Griet couldn’t imagine herself married to a poor man so she refused his courtship and marriage proposal. Jan, hit hard by the rejection joined the army and went to war. He achieved several victories, got promoted to General and found himself a wife. He went back to his hometown and met his former great love Griet who was peddling fruits. He dismounted from his horse, took off his hat and said to her: “Griet, we could have done it!” And she replied: “Jan, if I only knew”. Then he got back on his horse and rode away.
The gothic City Hall Tower (1407-1414, restored). When the clock strikes the hour, the bells play and the tongue
of the “Platzjabbeck” face sticks out
Time to go to the Fischmarket, so-named because it used to be the site of the Fish Market in medieval days. The Fischmarkt is a lovely square with old and colourful gabled houses, beer gardens, and restaurants with the Great Saint Martin Church as a backdrop.
Since 90% of Cologne was destroyed during World War II, much of the buildings are reconstructions and were made to look medieval. The Great St Martin Church (1150-1250) was also rebuilt (1954-1965).
I think the Fischmarkt is the most picturesque part of the Old Town that everytime we went there, there were always artists painting.
The Fischmarkt is the place to see and be seen
Fountain of the Fishwives by sculptor Rainer Walk stands in the center of the Fischmarkt square .
It depicts the women who sold fish here centuries ago.
The Ostermann Fountain (1939) on the Ostermannplatz square.
The figures refer to the songs of Cologne lyricist and singer Willi Ostermann (1876 –1936).
In Ostermannplatz, we saw several tuktuks squeezing their way into a very narrow passageway. We followed them and discovered that it goes out to the charming Salzgasse!
This is Salzgasse (Salt Alley), a pebbled alley comprised of colourful facades of beer gardens, hotels and restaurants.
No trip to Cologne is complete without taking the boat trip along the Rhine. We took this one-hour ferry tour
(8euros for one hour) just to see bits of Cologne from the water. It was fantastic!
We didn’t only see beautiful sights along the Rhine, we also had a taste of the beer culture of the Germans!
This cylindrical structure is the Pegelhaus or Level House. The little hand shows the meter, the bigger hand, the decimeter of the water level. Rhine water level is 3.4m. The last time Rhine experienced a devastating flood was in 1993 when the water level reached 11.3m.
The futuristic Chocolate Museum (1993) and the Prussian Defence Malakoff Tower (1855) at the back.
South Crane house (2009), designed by Hadi Teherani
Done with our boat trip and walking along the promenade, we saw what must be more than a hundred meter- long cruise ship moored at the quai. Are these tourists arriving or leaving?
A flea market was going on at Neumarkt Square
Time to do some window-shopping. But what is this? An ice cream dropped on top of Newmarkt Gallery!
Well, it’s an art installation entitled, you guessed it, “Dropped Cone”.
This is the long shopping street of Schildergasse.
In between boutiques, miscellaneous shops and takeaway counters, bakerei items such as this are all over Schildergasse.
The Romanesque Basilica of the Holy Apostles situated at the end of the Schildergasse shopping street.
Went for a German meal at Engelbertstrasse, in a restaurant that received good reviews from TripAdvisor. Alas, the food was so unappealling and plain! The only thing we enjoyed was the Kolsch! This is the waiter who seems to work on the fast lane. If he sees your beer almost reaching the bottom of the glass, he replaces it with a fresh one. The only way to stop him is to place a coaster on top of your glass to prevent an automatic refill.
Our disappointment with the meal was made worse when we passed by many restaurants that looked gastronomically better and cheaper! Fortunately, we stumbled upon a liquorice shop whose selection of sweets was not only a feast to the eyes but also to the taste! Bärendreck-Apotheke in Richard Wagner Strasse is a must-visit!
Passing by Pfeilstrasse, the whole street was having a festival of food, fashion, cars, etc. This street has turned into a catwalk showing the latest trends of eyeglasses.
As we turned to Schildergasse, our attention was drawn to the chanting of protesters. The group was quite big but peaceful. Reading their banners, my heart suddenly cried for the victims of this war that has been going on since time immemorial….
We were getting hot and thirsty, we needed to stop for some cold drink… This is strawberry ice cream shake and a bottle of eau minerale… Refreshing! I took home the beautiful bluish bottle, souvenir from Cologne!
Fastnachtbrunnen or Carnival Fountain showing figues dancing
(1913 by Georg Grasegger)
‘The smell was like an Italian spring morning after rain.’…( marketing slogan for the original Eau De Cologne.)
As I turned around from the carnival fountain, I saw on a shop window a large display of eau de toilette bottles. I am infront of the Farinahaus, the home of the original Eau de Cologne!
Italian John Maria Farina (1685-1766), created a scent that he named Eau de Cologne in honour of the city of Cologne where he decided to settle with his brother. His perfumery in Cologne dates back to 1709 with Napoleon and Louis XV among his customers, making it the oldest perfumery in the world.
Opposite Farinahaus, we noticed this excavation. A Jewish quarter dating back to 800 was discovered on this site and is now undergoing careful archaelogical work.
Every now and then, we had to stop to give way to passing Segway traffic so I might as well post their photo here. This is a good way to explore the city without getting exhausted, although it’s still not without its dangers. One of the ladies on the Seg did not notice how close she was gliding onto the pavement so she knocked herself down!
Nearby is the Rathaus (Town Hall) where a wedding just took place. I noticed some of the guests were holding champagne glasses in the open. Must be Italians, I thought! And voila! they were indeed speaking in Italians! (I think my experience in Sicilian weddings got me to making this wild guess!)
This is the Rennaissance-style facade of the Rathaus (1569-1573),
the only section that survived WWII
The figures around the Rathaus
Cologne has traces of Roman colonization, too!
The notice says:
Section of Roman Sewage System
Removed and raised section of the main northern sewer of the Roman city.
Runs from west to east at a depth of 9meters underneath Klein Budengasse.
Accessible from the Praetorium below the Town Hall.
It’s been a long day, time to go back to the hotel.
While we took the Deutz bridge in coming to the Old Town this morning, this time, we wanted to walk the entire length of the most famous bridge of Cologne, the Hohenzollern bridge or Hohenzollernbrücke.
Built between 1907 and 1911, this bridge replaced several older versions that date back the Roman times. In 1945, at the end of World War II, it was blown up by the retreating German Army. It was completely reconstructed in 1959.
It is now called the Love Bridge because of the thousands of padlocks attached to it,
placed by couples as proof of their undying love to each other.
In this photo, we caught in action one of those couples.
Not only a Love Bridge, the Hohenzollernbrücke is also popular among climbers!
…..and wedding photoshoots!
Today is our last day in Cologne and we must not leave until we try their baked delicacies. Where else, but in the legendary bäckerei cum coffee shop, the Merzenich Cafe. Glad that there is one branch just infront of our hotel. I took this vintage photo (1960) hanging on the wall, gosh, it really is an old establishment!
Passed by the Köln-Messe/Deutze station (1845) on our way to the Hohenzollern bridge. This is one of the two train stations of Cologne. It is connected to the Hohenzollern bridge and few hundred meters away from the main station of Köln Hauptbahnhof. During the Nazi period, almost all Jews living in Cologne were deported to extermination camps from the low level of Deutz station.
From the bridge, we see how busy the Rhine river is.
It is a busy waterway used for transporting goods and everything under the sun. It’s famous for cruises, too.
It’s really Autumn in Cologne..
It’s time to concentrate on the most iconic landmark in the city, the colossal Cathedral of Saint Peter and Mary.
The building of the cathedral started in the 13th century and took six centuries to finish. It is simply breathtaking, the most awesome Gothic structure of its kind! At 157.4 meters, it was the tallest building in the world from 1880 to 1890, and today, the fourth biggest Cathedral in the world. It is Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting up to 20,000 people each day.
In World War II, Cologne was heavily bombed by the Allies, the city almost completely flattened, but the Cathedral was the only one left standing. Because of its size and easy visibility, the Allies used it as landmark in their aerial bombing to drive the Nazi Germans out of the city.
Infront of the Cathedral is a relief of Pope John Paul II passing the church on to Pope Benedict XV
The Sunday service was going on so we couldn’t do any exploration.
But we were lucky enough to catch the Choir and Orchestra playing. The music was simply majestic and moving.
Since we cannot explore the interior of the Cathedral at this time, we promised to go back when the mid-day service is over. Hence, we decided to take a brunch at Altr Markt and ordered a Mediterranean-style tarte with sour creme base. It looks like pizza but they call it Flammkuchen in German. Nice!
From my seat, it was only while looking up around me that I saw the statue I have been wanting to see since we arrived in Cologne the other night. It’s the Kallendresser statue showing his butt!
Kallendresser (which means “gutter shitter” in German), 1956, created by the German sculptor Ewald Mataré. Some claim that this sculpture is a political statement towards the city hall which is just opposite the house where the statue is “shitting”.
Nice water tap in the middle of Altr Mrkt but the writing says “Not Potable Water”
Seems all towns in Germany that we have been into have their own beer museums!
Cologne has more small breweries than any other German city, and there are countless bierstüben around town where you can try the local brew.
A good souvenir item to buy is Beer stein
or fridge magnets, easier to pack!
Back to the Cathedral, we started our exploration. I have this passion of collecting photos of the Pieta that I see in churches.
Way of the Cross, 13th station, Christ’s body is taken down from the cross
by Utrecht-based artist Wilhelm Mengelberg (between 1893 – 1898)
Early Rennaissance stained-glass windows (1507-1509)
The Candelabra at the Crypt
Altarpiece of the Virgin with Patron Saints
(c 1440-2) by Stephan Lochner
The patron saints of Cologne are the Three Magi/Wise Men, having been given the names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.
The cathedral was built specifically to house the remains of the Three Magi which were sent to Cologne from Milan
in 1164 by the Holy Roman Emperor after defeating the Lombards.
Saints at the Portal
Gargoyles talking to each other
Time to go home. Along the way we passed by a group of Scots. Either they are in Cologne for a beer holiday or to campaign on Scottish independence..
A Triathlon was going on which made the right side of the Hohenzollern bridge off-limits to everyone.
Bye Cologne! Hope to see you again soon!
P.S. For those who wish to try a river cruise along the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers, I highly recommend the blog post of Eko Haryanto entitled, Europe Tour – Part 2 – River Cruise – Budapest to Amsterdam . Their 13-day trip started in Budapest and sailed to many cities of Austria and Germany.