Köln: day 1

Last weekend was a long weekend for Morgan so we decided to do an overnight trip somewhere and Priceline ended up having a good deal on a hotel in Cologne.. so Cologne it was! We headed down there on Friday morning (it is about a 2 hour drive) and when we arrived we left our car in the parking deck at our hotel (the Maritim). Our hotel was right on the water, but since we did the cheapest room and booked through Priceline, we had a view of the atrium rather than the Rheine. We walked along the river towards our first stop, the Romano-Germanic Museum an archaeological museum in Cologne.

Day 1:

–       Romano-Germanic Museum- It has a large collection of Roman artifacts from the Roman settlement of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, on which modern Cologne is built. The museum protects the original site of a 3rd century Roman town villa, from which a large Dionysus mosaic remains in its original place in the basement (they found it in 1941 while building an air-raid shelter). They had lots of Roman and medieval glassware and jewelry.

Side note– They had a special exhibit set up for artifacts that have been found while digging for the extension of the U-Bahn (underground railway). What they didn’t mention (or maybe we just missed it) is that in 2009 the building of the City’s archive collapsed into the Stadtbahn’s tunnel under construction below it. Poor construction, the theft of necessary iron reinforcements and several ground water break-ins into the tunnel, which were not reported and not controlled properly by construction supervision, are among the alleged causes for this catastrophe. Given that they city had been achieving important documents since the Middle Ages, a substantial proportion of the written records of the city’s history is believed to have been destroyed. So sad! – If you had been incharge Bern, this wouldn’t have happened!

–       Kölner Dom (construction started 1248)- Catholic church and the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne. The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. It is Germany’s most visited landmark and after visiting I can see why! Between the stain glass windows, altar pieces, paintings, the Shrine of the Three Kings, and the relics held in the Treasury, we were completely amazed. The Treasury has a separate entrance and has an entry fee, but it is totally worth it.

–       Coffee and a snack sitting outside at Café Reichard. There was a nice view of the Dom from here.

–       Cologne Rathaus – Germany’s oldest city hall.

–       Farina Haus- The birthplace of cologne!  Italian perfumier Johann Maria Farina began producing Eau de Cologne in the cellar here. The Eau de Cologne composed by Farina was used only as a perfume and delivered to “nearly all royal houses in Europe”.  At the time, a single vial of this aqua mirabilis (Latin for miracle water) cost half the annual salary of a civil servant.Napoleon Bonaparte used an entire bottle of this stuff every day. We bought a 4oz bottle to try out and it has quite a strong smell. – I’m not sure how Napoleon didn’t get a head ache!

–       After checking into the hotel we headed out for dinner and on the way we checked out the colorful houses on Fischmarkt. We ate dinner at Peters Brauhaus, so we got to enjoy some typical Kölner Kölsch (the particular type beer they brew in Cologne). Kölsch comes in a fairly small glass (.2 liters), so until you put your coaster on top of your glass (to signify you are done drinking) they just keep bringing you glasses when you get low.  For dessert we tried out the rhubarb compote (other than the rhubarb liquor that is popular here I’ve never had rhubarb and I’d also never had a compote- so we had no clue what we were getting). It was kind of like a cold fruit soup, it had smashed up pieces of rhubarb and strawberries in it with ice cream and whipped cream.

–       After dinner we walked across Hohenzollernbrücke. Since 2008 people have placed love padlocks on the fence between the sidewalk and the tracks (and then thrown the key in the Rheine). As you can see from the pictures there are thousands of locks… almost the entire length of the fence is covered!