***image1***You’ve probably seen the signs for Köln or Cologne while traveling in Germany.
The big city right on the Rhine River with its mighty cathedral is only about three hours away from Kaiserslautern and makes for a great weekend visit.
The most famous building of Cologne is its old two-spire cathedral or Kölner Dom. Built in 1248 and fully completed in 1880, it is the largest cathedral in Germany. With the beautiful stain glass windows and its gothic architecture, it is always worth a visit. A must-see is the Golden Shrine, which contains the relics of the Three Wise Kings or Three Magi. It was brought from Milan in 1164.
Don’t forget to climb the churches’ south tower with its 509 steps and magnificent view of the city. Back down on the ground, you can visit the little church museum with medieval sculptures, relics and insignias. English guided tours that last 45 minutes are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and cost €4 for adults and €2 for children.
Located on Glockengasse, you’ll find another famous building, the 4711 Eau de Cologne Headquarters, birthplace of Kölnisch Wasser or famous scented water. In 1792, the secret formula was given to the house owners by a monk as a wedding gift. But what does 4711 stand for? In 1796 when the city was occupied by the French under Napoleon’s troops, all houses were numbered for better orientation. The Eau de Cologne-Headquarters received the number 4711, written on the wall by a riding soldier (what later became a famous image) and so the number became part of the trademark.
Today, on top of the house, you can find a little carillon, which will play any full hour between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. with little figurines turning about. Inside the house, there is a souvenir shop with a great selection of gifts, including Eau de Cologne, soap, shirts and towels. Upstairs, there is a little museum telling the history of 4711, showing old exhibits from the beginning. As you leave, don’t forget to refresh yourself with a splash of Eau de Cologne from the spring near the exit.
If you like sweets, you should not miss the Imhoff-Stollwerck chocolate museum. You can learn about the history of chocolate, watch chocolate production, see the cocoa grow in a rainforest and much more. The museum spreads over three stories. What most people like best, is the museum’s chocolate fountain, where employees offer you wafers dipped in fresh chocolate. The museum costs €6 for adults, €3.50 for children under 14 and free for children under 6. There are reduced prices for groups and large families.
For a little distraction, we ventured to the zoo. We arrived during feeding time, and it was a pleasure to watch the sea lions as they clapped their paws, balanced a ball on their nose and barked like dogs before receiving their fish. You can easily spend hours in the zoo, watching the monkeys, elephants, lions, bears, giraffes and many more.
***image2***In the museum of applied arts, you can see design objects, furniture, clocks, ceramics and everything you would find in a household, from the medieval age to the 1980s.
Don’t miss the shopping area on Hohestrasse, with souvenir shops and clothing stores. The Fischmarkt along the Rhine River is home to cozy little restaurants with great views and airy patios. Be sure to try the local food and “Kölsch” Bier – the real Cologne beer.
During our stay, we left our car in the hotel’s parking garage, avoiding the stress of traffic and finding parking spaces. The city is easy to navigate by foot or by using the underground trains and trams. The city sells welcome cards to tourists, allowing free rides on all city trains and rebates on most museum admission fees.
Visit www.museenkoeln.de to read short descriptions and obtain opening hours for Cologne’s museums, most which are closed on Mondays. Also read about other attractions at www.koeln.de/en and www.stadt-koeln.de/en.