For my first holiday away without my wife, I decided to visit Cologne, with my good friend, and old work colleague, Jim Lewars. Jim and I have similar tastes and share a good sense of humour and we get along very well. Over the years we had both been helping with the Cologne Exchange groups who visited Glasgow, we were encouraged by Hiltrud Regnery to visit Cologne, so when we were looking for a suitable destination, the conversations regarding that city sprang to mind.
Leaving Jim to sort out the arrangements and to make the bookings, I was quite happy when we left from Edinburgh Airport with everything sorted for me.
After we arrived on Wednesday afternoon, it was a quick train journey into town and a short walk to our hotel, the Allegro on Thurnmarkt, once we had checked in and unpacked we went for a stroll around to get our bearings and a bite to eat.
Thursday 10th May, saw us doing the usual tourist type things, we visited the Dom, (Cologne Cathedral), discovering that it was ascension day, which was also fathers day in Germany, when we visited the Dom, there was a service underway and we enjoyed just sitting listening to the choir and the music. We visited the treasury and marvelled at the relics within, this led us to the tower climb, as usual, we got a bit mixed up by not realising the extent of the climb, which was a lot higher than we expected, I was quite knackered when I reached the top. Being near the largest single-cast bell in the world when it rang out, didn’t help matters too. After our efforts, we earned our afternoon tea in Cafe Reichard.
On Friday, we were invited to visit the Cologne Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for a tour of their facilities and training centre, we were suitably impressed by what we saw, the staff at the training centre were highly skilled and motivated, using a range of superb equipment. After our visit, we were treated to lunch where we met Hiltrud and Ferdinand, after lunch we went into the city with Hiltrud and her husband Stefan, stopping again in Cafe Reichard.
We had decided that we would like to go on a Rhine cruise the next day and Hiltrud and Stefan helped us buy our tickets and informed us of the best way to travel, they suggested that we take a train South to visit the picturesque town of Rüdesheim am Rhein, then board the 1913 steamer RMS Goethe for a cruise back up the Rhine.
Stefan left us after we had purchased our ticket leaving Hiltud to give us a guided tour of the city, she showed us to the interesting, Roman-Germanic Museum before taking us across the Hohenzollern Bridge, famous for its ‘love locks’. For several years now, love locks have been considered one of Cologne’s most charming traditions. As proof of their love, couples fix padlocks to the railings on the Hohenzollern Bridge; to ensure everlasting love, they then throw the key into the Rhine river below. Experts estimate that the padlocks weigh over two tonnes. And more padlocks appear on a daily basis, as not just the residents of Cologne, but also tourists want to become part of the tradition, we met with a couple from Alice Springs in Australia, someplace I’ve always wanted to visit.
Once over the river, we visited the Cologne Triangle, a 103 metres tall building and a prominent landmark in Köln. The top floor and roof house a publicly accessible observation deck with panorama views all over Cologne, in particular, Cologne Cathedral, directly opposite on the Rhine.
On our return to the city, we went for dinner at what became one of our favourite haunts, Haxenhaus, a traditional German hostelry, we stopped by here to eat because I wanted to have the real German food. And it was very good, of course with plenty of Kölsch beer on tap. It was a pleasant place which looked old and very authentic, most of the times we visited we sat outside and enjoyed the views of the river Rhine. Most evenings, after dinner, Jim & I would finish the night off in Papa Joe’s Jazz Bar, we had some great nights in this bar it had a really good atmosphere, with music playing from the band and loads of people enjoying a proper bar. I especially liked the robotic cocktail machine.
On Saturday we went away on our ‘adventure’, a trip by train from Cologne to Rüdesheim am Rhein via Koblenz. Changing trains in Koblenz was easy and straightforward and we enjoyed the journey South with nice views of the scenic Middle Rhine with its Castles and Fortresses on the hillsides on our way to Rüdesheim am Rhein.
Rüdesheim am Rhein is a town in the Rhine Valley, Germany. It’s known for winemaking, especially of Riesling wines. In the centre, Drosselgasse is a lane lined with shops, taverns and restaurants and we stopped there for a lunch of Wiener schnitzel. We even found a ‘Scottish Pub’ in the town, needless to say, we stopped off for a beer (I had a half pint of Guinness!)
The highlight of our stay in Rüdesheim is the ride in a cable car up to the Germania monument. The awe-inspiring panoramic views over Rüdesheim’s old town and the shimmering waters of the Rhine dotted with green isles made the smooth glide over the vineyards an enjoyable experience. I have since discovered that cable cars play a big part during my travels, I always end up using them wherever I find one.
For our return to the Koblenz, we had booked a cruise on RMS Goethe, which came into service in 1913, is reputed to be the largest side paddle steamer left in the world today. Just like our Waverley, the sight of the turning paddles and a visit to the engine room brought back memories of a time gone past. The saloons with their art déco fittings and furnishings and smart liveried waiters made us feel that we were travelling back in time. Once back in Koblenz we made our way to the train station and luckily managed to catch the last train back to Cologne, where we finished the night off in Papa Joe’s Jazz Bar again. It really was a great day out with good weather.
We had left off a trip on the hop-on-hop-off bus until the Sunday, thinking that it would allow us to see the part of the city we had missed. This was a good choice as it was a pretty wet and miserable day and not one to be walking around in. It quickly became apparent that during our wanderings throughout the city, that we hadn’t really missed many of the tourist attractions, but at least we were out of the rain, after leaving the bus we sheltered from the rain in the Roman-Germanic Museum, which was very interesting as we never realised that the Romans had ventured so far North. A little bit of last minute shopping finished off the day and our time in Cologne.