Say Germany, and Cologne is definitely one of the cities that come to one’s mind. And not without a reason – Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city. Its actual name in German is Köln (if you do not like the German letter “ö” feel free to write it Koeln instead). Situated over the two banks of the Rhine river, it is the biggest city in the German province North Rhine-Westphalia – much larger than the capital Düsseldorf. One of the landmarks of this huge metropolitan area with population of over ten millions is the Cologne cathedral (in German the “Kölner Dom”) that attracts thousands of worshippers and tourists annually. Reaching out towards the sky, this gothic building is definitely a convincing attempt of man to reach out God. No wonder that many cruise-ships use Cologne for a stop.
Colognes Roman roots
Like all cities situated on the Rhine, which has been an important trade route since Roman times, Cologne boasts an impressive history. Its architecture alone that reflects the cultural heritage of the city suffices for several days of sightseeing. From gothic to baroque to romantic, just name it, Cologne has it all. Being a modern city with universities and highly developed industrial and business area, the place has a lot of the post-modern mixture of urban lifestyle encompassed by testimony of the in-transient nature and the culture that has been trying to tame it and bend it for the use of its purposes.
Party on in Cologne
If you like festivities, you should definitely visit the city in the times of the grandiose Cologne festival that takes place in November. Not without a reason the famous carnival is referred to as ‘the fifth season of the year’. In this time the city’s streets host countless parades and musical and theatrical performances. The whole city takes part in the festivities. People are dressed up, pubs and restaurants work around the clock and the city is transformed into an endless party. The Heumarkt square, where the carnival officially begins, is said to gather not less than 70 000 revellers.
The Old Town of Cologne
For those of the people, however, who prefer promenades down the Rhine or strolls down the beautiful streets of the Aldstadt (Old Town) of the city, there are of course more peaceful times to visit Cologne. Spring, summer and early autumn would reveal this city in its best light to the casual visitor. The succulent nature that surrounds the microclimate created by the humidity of the river contributes to the uniqueness of the beautiful and rich with flora and fauna of the nature surrounding Cologne despite of its being a modern metropolis. And that is rare, isn’t it.
Just like in Paris, in Cologne there is a bridge where in addition to a nice view to the river, one could lock a padlock on the rails as a representation of one’s romantic love. This is the so called Hohenzollern Bridge that spans over the Rhine. Even if you don’t have a padlock in you, you can take a picture of this abundant with the locked love of the people from all over the world place or buy a padlock from the obliging peddlers around.
Expect: Many churches!
The indisputable trademark of this multifaceted city, however, is the Cologne Cathedral. The splendid building that could be practically spotted from every corner of the city soars high up in the skies. The cathedral is enchanting not only with its outstanding gothic architecture, but also with its size – it is 145 metres long and its towers rise at above 155 metres. It is curious to know that the towers were finished in 1880, while the foundation of the building was laid in the 13th century. The construction of the building was suspended in the 16th century due to lack of both means and interest.
The Cologne-cathedral has seen the reigns of many monarchs. In the Middle Ages it was a pilgrimage place as it was said to contain the mortal remains of the Three Kings. It was king Friedrich Wilhelm IV that inaugurated the official completion work of the building in 1842. The whole work for finishing the cathedral was accomplished in only 38 years till the official finishing in 1880. Call it a mystery or a divine miracle, but the Cologne Cathedral survived the extensive bombings of the city during World War II and remained intact. In fact, it is the environment and the weather that wreck havoc on the building that is being constantly restored by handy craftsman and specialists. Mind you that the cathedral has opening hours and an entrance fee, but the latter is well worth it for the treasures, paintings, relics and fine religious art, as well as divine atmosphere, that you will experience inside.
Cologne is definitely a place abundant with art and culture. It has a rich theatre scene and a lot of art galleries and museums that could fill one’s senses around the year. The city is definitely one of Germany’s pearls and culture hubs, so a cruise down the Rhine should include at least a few days for sightseeing in Cologne and hiking in its vicinities.