A part of me wants to start off by writing about this rail bridge that crosses the Rhine and heads into the centre of Cologne, but since I wrote an entire post about a bridge in Australia that everybody seems to get really excited about, I thought that maybe I should leave talking about this particular bridge, which is called the Hollerzollern Bridge, until another time (particularly since there are a few things that I could write about the bridge beyond the fact that trains regularly cross it and boats regularly go under it). However, you might be wondering why it is that I have a thing about this bridge when I think that other bridge is, well, a bridge and nothing to get all that excited over (just like the radio antenna that people seem to get really excited over in Paris). Well, I can’t really say all that much, except that the last couple of times that I have been here the train I was on crossed the bridge, sat in the railway station for a little while, and the crossed back over the bridge again. If you count visiting a city as simply sitting on a train while passengers board and alight at the railway station then you could say that I have now been here four times (two of those times was when I caught the train from Frankfurt to Amsterdam and back again simply because I wanted to go for a ride on a high-speed train).
Anyway, back in 2013 I remember sitting on the train at the station wandering why it was that I wasn’t getting off here. The thing was that the train hits its top speed on the section of track between Frankfurt and Cologne, and afterwards it then stops at a number of other stations, including Druisburg, Arnhem, and Utrecht, before finally arriving in Amsterdam and it doesn’t seem to go all that fast. Mind you, since I had already paid for a ticket to take me to, and from, Amsterdam (as well as having arranged for a hotel), I decided that it was best to simply stay on the train. Mind you, half the reason that I wanted to jump off the train was because I had spent the previous twenty four hours having a lot of fun running around Frankfurt speaking German, though as it turns out ordering something from a German shopkeeper in German is a lot different than speaking German in a social context. However, by the time I had landed up on the train I felt that I was on a roll with putting my German into practice that I wanted to continue the experience. In a way, the sights, sounds, and smells of Amsterdam were no longer all that enticing.
So, since the plan was to eventually end up in Amsterdam, I decided that this time, since I wasn’t rushing all over the continent, that I would jump off the train (after the high speed bit) and then spend some time wandering around C0logne, if only to get some more practice with my German, and to see a little but more than what appeared to be a huge Cathedral, and some statues at each end of the bridge (though I should mention that the statues, and the Cathedral, where two of the things that did grab my attention when I had passed through the city previously.
Well, there are a couple of things that eventually jumped out at me as I was wandering around Cologne (or as the natives call it Köln). The first thing was that everybody at the hotel said hello to us as we were making our way to our room and back again, and this wasn’t just the staff, this was the guests as well. Interestingly a friend of mine who had been here a couple of months earlier made a comment that Cologne was the only city where this happened, which leaves me scratching my head because if you are staying at a hotel then it is more likely than not that you don’t live in the city.
The other thing that stood out was that the beers actually weren’t all that large. In fact, the glasses were quite small (smaller than even the half-pint, or pot, glasses we have here in Australia). I was always under the impression that the Germans loved their beer and drank lots of it, and I even remember ordering a small beer at the Frankfurt Airport, being given a pint, and then being told that in Germany this was a small beer. I guess it’s one of those things, sort of like the shrimp on the barbie in Australia – it is one of those myths that doesn’t actually play out in reality.
So, after dumping our bags off in our rooms (and I should mention that we got our rooms pretty much straight away, despite arriving here at around mid-day – other places told us to go for a walk and come back at three o’clock), we decided to go for a bit of an explore, and the exploration involved walking under the station, out the otherside, and into the Cathedral. Well, to say that the cathedral is impressive would be an understatement – it certainly made the Frankfurt Cathedral lo0k like a country church. Sure, the inside was pretty awesome in and of itself, but it was actually the gothic architecture on the outside that really struck me – it was as if every inch of the Cathedral had been intrically carved and that not one spot was wasted. Sure, I was to encounter numerous cathedrals like that as I wandered around the low lands, however this was one of the first that I had encountered, and regularly walking past it on our way back to our hotel, the building would regularly grab my attention.
After spending some time at the Cathedral it was time to go and grab a drink, but the problem was that I didn’t have any cash on me (and if you remember, in Germany cash is king, which means that you can’t rely on simply having a credit card in your pocket, though I am sure that there are places that will accept card, though on the other hand having cash in my pocket does tend to put a limit on what I am spending, and allows be to better keep track of my finances), so it was off to find an ATM (or as they are call in Germany ‘ein Geldautomat‘) – though I am sort of wandering whether the term ATM is a particularly Australian term as elsewhere people seem to just call them Cash Machines (ATM stands for Automatic Teller Machine). The problem was that I couldn’t find one, so I ended up wandering all over the Altstadt, including walking along what turned out to be the main shopping strip that was lined with a multitude of fashion stores (including a number of stores, such as H&M and Semphora, which had only just appeared in Australia). Like many shopping districts, particularly on a Saturday, this place was packed. Anyway, I eventually found a Cash Machine (or ATM, or whatever), and decided to head to my next destination.
Oh, before I continue I probably should at least give you a map to look at.
Museums, Museums, Museums
Okay, I probably won’t go as far as suggesting that Cologne has the most museums of any of the cities I visited, but it certainly has its fair share of them. In fact you could end up spending all of your time here just visiting museums (which is what I tend to do these days when I land up at another city, though I also have this habit of visiting coffee shops in the morning and pubs in the evening, that is until you discover that in Europe the coffee shops and the pubs happen to be one and the same, with the exception of Amsterdam – coffeeshops in Amsterdam have a completely different meaning). Anyway, while I will go into a little bit more detail with some of these museums at a later date, I’ll just list a number of them even though I didn’t get around to visiting all of them (particularly since I wasn’t all that interested in what they had to offer):
Diozesanmuseum: Basically the museum connected to the Cathedral, and like the one in Frankfurt, contains all of the stuff that isn’t on display inside.
Roman-Germanic Museum: Since Cologne started off as a Roman fort on the edge of the empire, a huge amount of Roman artifacts have been found here, so they end up in this museum.
Museum Ludwig: This is the modern art museum and basically contains, well, contemporary art. While there is an awful lot of scratch your head, what are they thinking, exhibits, you will also find some pieces by Warhol (though I almost completely missed them).
Stadtmuseum: Explores the history of Cologne from the Middle Ages to the present time.
Museum für Angewandte Kunst: Basically arts and craft from the middle ages to the present time.
Kolumba Kunstmuseum des Erzbistums Köln: A museum containing religious art, though I didn’t end up going to this one because as it turns out there is another museum that also focuses on religious art.
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum: basically art that traditionalists would consider to be proper art, namely stuff that were painted by the old masters up to the impressionists.
Schnütgen Museum: the museum dedicated to religious art that I actually ended up visiting, though the building that is inside of also has two (or is it three) other museums here as well. Mind you, due to time, and interest, I only ended up going into the Schnütgen.
Cologne Chocolate Museum: A museum dedicated to everything chocolate though don’t ask me anything about this place because I have absolutely no interest in chocolate and would only go into a chocolate museum if there was absolutely nothing else to do.
German Sport and Olympic Museum: Okay, I have been into the sporting museum at the MCG, but half the reason was because I happen to live in Melbourne so I can afford to waste my time wandering around there. However, in Cologne, I have no interest whatsoever in going to a museum dedicated to sport.
Europe on Sunday
So, while I spent some time visiting museums, because it does tend to fill up your day, particularly since there is only so much of the city that you can wander around, and I really don’t go overseas to shop (well, I do go into bookshops and such, but that is about it), so museums do tend to fill up my day, especially when you end up learning things from them. However, when we arrived we were only able to visit a couple of museums, namely the German-Roman Museum and the Lugwig Art Museum, before it was time for them to close. As such, it was then that we grabbed something to eat, and then went for a walk over the bridge and back again. Oh, an here is a video of a train crossing the bridge:
The next day happened to by Sundae, and while there are a couple of English speaking churches in Cologne, they were a bit too far out of the way (one of them involved catching a bus, which is something I don’t like doing at the best of times), so we simply slept in and then went for a wander around the city. As ut turned out the city was dead – really, really dead. In fact we wandered up Hohe Straβe, which was the main shopping strip we wandered up the previous day, and with the exception of a couple of tourists, there was nobody around, and none of the shops were open. This, I have to admit, is a massive contrast to what I expect in Australia when the shops are open for as long as, and as often as, the laws allow them to (and if they could they would remain open twenty-four hours a day, and force the stop assistants to work that long as well).
Fortunately it turned out that the museums were open so we were able to at least keep ourselves occupied that way (and in particular with the Schnütgen and the Walrof). However I did discover that my ability to make my way around Cologne was a little off, particularly since I was attempting to get to the Stadtmuseum and didn’t realise that the Hohe Straβe headed in the opposite direction. We did eventually find the museum, and then after spending the morning there, decided to attempt to catch one of the trains (actually, they are light rail), only to discover that there was nowhere to purchase tickets (we didn’t have any coins and the machines didn’t take notes, or credit cards), so we ended up walking, only to find ourselves, once again, heading in the opposite direction. This time we ended up at the Hahnentorburg, though standing in front of a medieval gate is still pretty cool.
I eventually managed to get to where I wanted to go, namely the Schnütgen, and then the Walraf (fortunately before it closed) and then for a bit of a wander around the Alter Marktplatz and the Altes Rathaus (and the interesting thing about the Rathaus is that it is covered with statues much in the same way the cathedral is covered in statues, but unlike the cathedral the statues on the Rathaus aren’t necessarily of saints – then again it is the town hall, so we are dealing with politicians here). I also wanted to go to the Altstadt Pub, but as we walked past it I noticed that it wasn’t exactly the type of place that tourists would visit, so instead I went and looked for some other pubs, including one called the Salzgass, of which the bartender reminded me of somebody that you would encounter in a classic medieval pub. Oh, there was also a pub dedicated to Einstein.
The Eigelsteiner Experience
With all this talk about pubs I probably should finish off with what I will call the Eigelsteiner experience. Realising that we needed to wash our clothes, I asked Yelp where the closest, and best, laundromat was, and it pushed out one on a street called Eigelsteiner. Initially I was just going to sit in there with my laptop doing stuff while my clothes washed, only to discover when I arrived that there were a number of bars along this street. Instead of sitting in the laundromat I decided to go and check them out. One thing I noted was that in Frankfurt you could still smoke in some of the bars – this is not the case in Colonge, or any of the other cities I ended up visiting. Anyway, I visited a couple of the bars, and then returned to the laundromat (or Waschsalon as they call them over here), and then went back to the hotel.
However I was still a little intrigued, particularly since the next day, when we caught a train up to Bonn, I saw a 12 Monkeys mural on one of the houses. Unfortunately it came, and went, so quickly that I wasn’t able to get a photo of it, so I decided to go for a walk once we got back into Cologne in an attempt to find it again (though I should have just caught another train – there were plenty available). Also the previous night I had seen another medieval gate near the Waschsalon and also wanted to go and check it. As it turned out I wasn’t able to find the 12 Monkeys mural, so instead settled for taking some photos of the gate, but still, I thought it certainly added some character to the city, particularly since 12 Monkeys is one awesome film (though I haven’t had the chance to watch the series, which I am told isn’t all that good anyway).
So, while it was still light, I decide to go and pay a visit the the bars that I didn’t visit the night before, however it turned out that I was in for a bit of a shock. I wandered in to one of them in which there were a number of woman standing at the bar, and after ordering a drink one of them came over and introduced herself to me. Okay, maybe I should have struck up a conversation but I have the feeling that they weren’t all that interested in discussing the location of the twelve monkeys mural. Actually, they were only interested in one thing, though I did try to play stupid by conversing in French (though ordering a beer in German sort of gives the game away, yet the girl that was attempting to talk to me, with whom I was conversing with in French, didn’t realise that I had just ordered a beer in German, and the bartender didn’t say anything either). Mind you, as I have discovered, pretending to only speak French generally doesn’t work in Europe because it seems that the dodgier the people are, the more langauges they seem to know. In fact it seems that knowing more than one language is essential to being a crook in Europe.
Anyway, I did eventually visit all the bars in that particular area (which wasn’t all that hard, and considering beers in Cologne are actually quite small, it meant that I could visit a few of them as well). Mind you, after my experience that night I decided to check out the Yelp reviews, and even though there was a review, and it was in German, I was able to gather that my initial gut feeling of this place was pretty correct. Eventually I made my way back to the hotel, and then over to the railway station, where there happened to be another pub hidden away in the corridors that meander around underneath the platforms. Mind you, there was also a couple of underground platforms, but they were for the light rail service as opposed to the suburban, national, and international services. Still, I did get a video of one of the trams down here.