Not long ago, if you asked me which city in Germany I would like to visit first, Cologne wouldn’t have been on the top of the list. And guess what? I just loved that I was finally introduced to this amazing country through this city.
I knew very little about Cologne, until the day I met a lovely German girl here in Dublin. We became really good friends and, it just so happened, that she was from there. I started to search about the city, getting to know there. And, before I realized, I was already planning a trip. Could you blame me?
Lari (a good friend of mine) and I decided to have a girls trip together, and we didn’t think twice; first trip of 2016 was to Cologne. I was super excited but, at the same time, I didn’t have much expectations. Surprisingly, I fell head over heels for this city. This trip was legen.. wait for it.. dary! ♥
Germany is a country with so much history and I was quite overwhelmed with the idea of getting to visit such a place. I started to think about my school days learning about its history, and the fascinating German language I try to learn by myself. This feeling of getting to visit a country, that was once but a very distant place in your dreams, is something I can not describe easily!
Cologne (Köln, in German) is one of the most important cities in Germany, and the fourth biggest in the country. It is located in the region called Nordrhein-Westfalen.
It’s mind blowing to think this city was nearly completely destroyed during the Second World War. Cologne was one of the most bombed cities in Germany and lost around 90% of its population. Crazy, right?
Luckily the city was rebuilt from ashes to become this wonderful place today, with lots of museums and art galleries – which I didn’t get to visit (More reasons to go back!). Cologne is very popular because of its Carnival. Coming from Brazil, this fact is quite curious. I’m not a big fan of Carnival, but I have to say I would like to experience it there. And, not to mention, their famous Christmas Market, which I also didn’t get the chance to see, as I went there in January.
We arrived in Cologne on a Friday night, returning to Dublin late Sunday. But, we only had time to do things on the Saturday. Have you ever lived a day that felt like a week? This Saturday was one of them for us. An intense day, full of fun and nice things!
This trip was a really cheap one! We stayed in a hostel, sharing an 8 bed room and we payed only 38 euros for the two days. It was really close to Rudolfplatz and it made it easier for us to walk to the city centre. So, no money spent on transport; walking is a nice option and you get to see the place better.
The hostel had a kitchen (I always make sure of that) which saved us a lot of money, as we bought food and cooked our meals there. More or less 16 euros was spent in a grocery shop for both of us for the whole weekend. Perfect! Another great thing about staying in this hostel was the amount of nice people we got to meet there.
We weren’t really worried about checking all the touristy spots from the list. We had an itinerary but, instead, our time in Cologne was spent walking around, stopping in places we liked. I don’t know about you guys but, I really appreciate these moments, taking it easy and not going crazy, visiting all the major attractions of a place.
I have to say we stayed a lot of time around Groß Sankt Martin, these cute colourful houses and all the architecture around just make it the perfect spot to spend time in and take lots of pictures. Walking along the river Rhine was also something we really enjoyed. The day was filled with this beautiful blue sky and low temperatures. This is the kind of winter day I really like.
Crossing the river thorough the Love Locks bridge was really nice; the views from the other side is a definitely a must. You can see the city, the Cathedral, the river and the famous brauhaus.
I have to say I hate this ‘love locks’ things, a lot of people enjoy it, think it is romantic and beautiful. But, to be honest? I just think it’s awful. There are a lot of other ways to express your love for someone and for a city without putting a locker on a bridge, which compromises the infrastructure and vandalizes the place, in my opinion. And, love doesn’t need a locker – love should be free!
We had a really nice time, just watching the view and the life passing by from that side of the river. I also got this souvenir in the shape of a coin, with the image of the view we were just looking at. I loved it!
From there, we made our way to the beautiful Kölner Dom, the most stunning cathedral I’ve ever seen! It’s details and architecture is really impressive. Pictures don’t do this place justice to how beautiful and big it really is. I felt like a tiny ant when I got there and stood myself beside this outstanding construction.
It’s actually tricky to get a really good picture of the cathedral, as it is difficult to fit in one picture.While there, I asked myself how difficult it must have been to build Kölner Dom. I’m not an architect, but seeing it gave me goosebumps. I imagine if you are an architect how amazing it is the feeling to see such a piece of art like this.
Kölner Dom was bombed a lot during the Second World War and despite the fact it was shattered, the cathedral survived and didn’t collapsed. Religious people believe it was a miracle of God, others believe that the aim of the attacks wasn’t to destroy it completely, as it was also a reference point. When flying over the city, they knew they were in Cologne because of the cathedral so, they could bomb the area around it. In other words, it was like a “Pin Drop” of that period. Makes sense, right?
As well as it’s exterior, the interior of Kölner Dom is also very beautiful. It’s not a surprise that this place is one of the most visited attractions in Germany. You don’t need to be religious to feel the magnitude of this place. It’s amazing, and I’m sure everybody who gets the chance to visit it can agree with me how fascinating it is to see this cathedral.
It is possible to climb to the top of Kölner Dom, around 533 steps. We paid only 2 euros as students and we happily say it was worth it, better than any elevator. Views from the top never disappoint; seeing Cologne from above was special. Some people say there are other places with better views from the city and an easier climb. But, doing this gives you an opportunity to appreciate even more its architecture.
The only thing I regret about this was doing it on our first day. We also had the Sunday to explore Cologne, but this climb made us tired. Legs were really stiff and sore the next day, so no energies left for walking around.
To reward ourselves for climbing the steps. we stopped in one brauhaus to sample the local beer called Kölsch. This is also the name of the local German dialect they speak in Cologne. Drinking a language, perhaps? And, to make things even better, we had our beer with some delicious apfelstrudel. It was the perfect reward after climbing so many steps.
And yes, I loved Kölsch!
Our day could have finished there, go back to the hostel, and rest for the next day. But, we were in Germany, in Cologne, this amazing city; and, of course, we had to experience the nightlife (and more German beers!).
We weren’t sure where to go though, so we asked in our hostel and they gave us a few tips. The area of Zulpicher straße was our choice, we were told we could find nice bars there and it was where all the students and young people go (plus, it was a cheap area).
Drinking in Ireland is expensive, and when we got there we could’t believe how cheap it was. Seriously, ridiculous cheap! We went to cool bars, tried new beers, listened to some German rock music and made friends with locals. We couldn’t have ended our day in a better way!
Sunday was a day to relax and take it easy after all the climbing (and the beer) from the previous day. We walked around a bit, went to the river once more and that was it. Pretty chilled.
Some other things I really enjoyed doing in Cologne and the highlights of our trip:
- Stopping in unusual places to take pictures, not worrying if I am wasting my time because I was not seeing the “must see” places.
- Checking out some stores, like the Lego one and feeling like a kid again.
- Finding Yakult at the supermakert and reminiscing on childhood memories.
- Oh yeah, the supermarket it is an attraction on it’s own. I love exploring new products in a new country.
- Walking along the river Rhine and getting to take in all the atmosphere and views of the city.
- Climbing to the top of Kölner Dom.
- Tasting the local beer and apfelstrudel (can you believe I had never tried this before?) – not to mention the delicious Glühwein, I think I could drink that everyday!
- Going to rock bars and listening to Rammstein, in Germany! (silly, I know, but the teenager in me was really happy with that)
- Meeting locals, getting to know more about them and experience a bit of their city together – making new friends is always a win!
- Dancing and “singing” the song Kölsche Jung (it was hilarious!!) with our new German friends and a bunch of other locals – apparently they get very excited when this starts to play in a night club! HaHa!
- Finally, spending around only 140 euro on the whole trip, including flights, accommodation, food etc. Yeah, you read that right – having so much fun without spending a fortune!
Taking this trip with my friend was also a highlight. Lari and I met here on the Internet because of my blog (in Portuguese). How cool is that? One day you meet someone online and years later you are taking a trip together and having so much fun in a new country! Life is good.
Also, I learned this German sentence that I’ll always carry with me “Du bist so alt wie du dich fühlst”.
This trip to Cologne also made me realize what I truly believe travelling means, at least for me. Travel is not only going from one place to another, visiting tourist attractions, and ticking things off a list. It’s getting involved, meeting locals, meeting new people from different backgrounds. It is tasting things you never tried before, feeling the atmosphere of a new surrounding and letting yourself appreciate it in a slow and meaningful way. Not running around like crazy getting to visit everything in a short time.
As always, I left a piece of me behind. And I really hope I can get to experience more of Cologne again soon.
Have you guys been to Cologne before? Also, do you enjoy a slow trip rather rushing around to all the touristy spots?