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Cologne (Köln) Overview

COLOGNE IS EASY TO GET TO BY TRAIN OR PLANE AND HOSTS THE DOM AND A CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN

Dom does not mean dome, it means Cathedral in German.  As the most highly recognized marker of Cologne/Köln, it deserves every once of attention it receives.  Towering over the city, the two spires have stood since the Middle Ages.  The construction started in 1248 and the first services were held in 1322.  A wonder of architecture, if visiting Cologne for no other reason, this is reason enough.  But wait, there is more!

Smaller and Lots to Do

The city is smaller than some others, such as Berlin, which makes walking it from end-to-end quite easy.  Neighborhoods are distinct, and offer a variety of experiences at various times of the day or night.  For those on the daytime route, some highlights are the Schokoladen Museum which will take you across the river.  There are bridges to cross easily, and a trip to the other side, is well-worthwhile.  It is fun to walk through, see how the chocolate is tempered and whatnot, but the highlights are the views from the glass-ended building and the chocolate fountain on the top floor.  Oh no, it is not just for looks and viewing.  A uniformed lady with white gloves will hand you a long wafer cookie dipped in chocolate that has been dipped in a pool of chocolate. Promptly eat it.  And, if you are daring, you will walk to the end of the line.  Several times.  We did.

 

Museums with a Plethora of History

Crossing back to the Dom side of the Rhine River, brings you back to where the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) is and most of the museums.  From modern art to roman, small galleries, museums and statues dot the city. In the heart of downtown is the Ludwig Museum with a permanent exhibit, special shows and an open, airy restaurant. It was once a private collection and has grown to encompass pieces from a wide array of artists from the 20th C to present.

Interested in Roman roots of Cologne?

The Romano-Germanic Museum is one of the newest museums in the city, with the oldest artifacts.  When a new subway stop ceased production due to the discovery of a few pieces of Roman pottery, little did the diggers know that they had unearthed a treasure trove.  Mosaics are rarely found intact, but the floor that you will see in this museum was found with almost all of the tiles laid out. It was carefully moved, laid out, and grouted.  A glass fronted display shows layers of Roman “garbage.”  Stratified layers show discards of Roman pottery, glass and preserved debris that was cast into an area over centuries and crumbled, but did not disintegrate.  The archeological team that was called in did a most amazing job of removing and preserving their findings and the result was an historical preserve and a subway that eventually went unheeded back into production.

A little off the beaten path, the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst (East Asian Art Museum) is well worth a tram ride.  There are a couple of beautiful gardens to see and art pieces from a span of centuries on view.  It is a small museum, can easily be walked through in an hour, and hosts a restaurant with wonderful pastries and coffee.

Museum Ludwig
Romano German Museum
Chocolate Museum Cologne
Asiatische Museum Cologne

A Grinding Halt, and not the Train

It is common to find archeological and historical artifacts when digging for new roads, buildings and bulldozing farms throughout Europe.  Immediately the activity ceases and the experts are called in. They assess the find, determine how large an area needs to be surveyed and researched, and the project that was taking place comes to a halt until the archeologists finish their work.  History is of significance and every effort is made to educate the public through these findings.

Neighborhoods are plentiful from the refurbished Ehrenfeld to the boutique shopping of the Dürener Straße.  The Belgische Viertal yields some of the city’s best shopping and hip restaurant scene.  A few of our favorites are Ouzaria for tapas, Hinz Und Kuns for breakfast or mint tea, and for a Würst experience, head to Brauhaus Sion, bring an appetite as the portions are absurdly large.   The bar scene is hopping and the place to be is along the Aachner Straße.

On the Checklist

Overall, Cologne is not to be missed.  It is a smaller city than Berlin, has lots of attractions, and is a little more manageable then some of the other history-rich cities of Europe.

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Cologne is vibrant, full of history, plus a chocolate museum with tasting wafers dipped in chocolate. The perfect way to bribe the kids to get there! Click To Tweet

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