Monday, September 12, 2005

City Spotting: Köln [Cologne], Germany’s Oldest and Holiest City

Founded by the Romans in 50 A.D. by the Rhine river banks, the city of Colonia is definitely Germany’s oldest thriving and 4th largest. There is a German adage popularized by the Romans during the earlier times, “You haven’t been to Germany if you haven’t seen Cologne”.

Today, the metropolis is the home to close to one million inhabitants. It has its own special dialect called Kolsch and is still proud to hold the Roman Catholic seat of Germany.

This is one of the three Roman Tower remains left in the city located right in front of the Dome cathedral entrance. That’s the great Rhine river and the Hohenzollern bridge on the second photo.

I am actually here to meet my cousin from the Philippines who is on her European tour. We are staying in Cologne for a few days afterwhich I will bring her with me back to the Netherlands. She wants to see Amsterdam.

Cologne’s Pride and Insignia: St. Peter’s Dome Cathedral

One can just gaze at its magnificence and be amazed at how intricate and luxurious architecture was in the past.

The impressive and mammoth gothic St. Peter’s Dome cathedral [Kölner Dom to the Germans], is nestled nearby the Rhine river waterfronts. The construction of this great church began in 1248 and was only completed in 1880. Wow, it took them eons to finish!

The Dome cathedral also shelters the legendary Magi’s Shrine secured in the center isle of the church. I actually had the chance to take a photo of it but it was too far and too dark from where I stood. Helaas, I could not get closer, there were 2 priests guarding the area making sure that the crowd who got in only have the intention to pray or attend mass.

Cologne’s nickname: The Holy City

Gross St. Martin by the Altstadt [Old town] and the St. Kolumba church. The Gross St. Martin is the most prominent of all Cologne’s Romanesque inspired churches. At first glance, I thought it was a castle!

So why holy? Could it be because of the 250[!] churches on domicile in the city? I have read that the locals in the past were devout religious followers, so no wonder. I guess times have undoubtedly changed. The Cologne of today that we know is a much more laid back and entertaining urban complex.

The city also recently hosted Vatican’s 20th World Youth Day. A large part of the attraction during the event was the visit of the new German pope.

Cologne’s Gastronomy: Kolsch Beer and Pretzels

Lecker! [means delicious]. In Dutch we say it the same but with a different spelling. Lekker!

One must try the local beer. It’s a way of respecting your host city, most especially when Germans take beer brewing seriously. I ordered it with my dinner and it did taste good. Light and bubbly, it was more than what I had expected. I highly recommend it.

Another must try is their yummy pretzels. Chocolate coated, sugar glazed and topped with almonds! I’m not really a sweet tooth person so instead I bought three as a present for the Dutchman.

The Altstadt [Old Town]

The Old Town is the most attractive part of Cologne. A nice quarter to wander around and even get lost on a lazy afternoon. To the budget traveler, the Altstadt [Old Town] is a tourist trap but to the connoisseur traveler, this is the perfect place to sit and relax.

The Fischmarkt> [Fish Market] area sits close to the Rhine river embankments.

Its old conspicuous gable roof burgher German buildings are very pleasant to the eye. My cousin who was with me during my entire stay at Cologne thought they looked like pastel colored paper toy buildings. My cousin and I concluded that they were candy houses from the Grimm brothers fairy tale book.

That’s me in the Heumarkt [Hay Market] square on a bright sunny day.

Later in the afternoon, after hours of walking, we sat down in one of the many café terraces in Heumarkt [Hay Market] for some cold bitter lemon and a green salad with feta cheese. The Heumarkt [Hay Market] square used to hold trading of goods centuries ago and is said to be the largest in Cologne.

Altstadt [Old Town] and its small and narrow alleys...

A peek at the Gross St. Martin, a lovely Romanesque styled church; and Lintgasse, a charming passage from the Altermarkt [Old Market] that exits to the Fischmarkt [Fish Market] and then down to the Rhine river banks.

Eau de Cologne trivia

Souvenirs and the first “Eau de Cologne” retail shop.

Did you know that “Eau de Cologne” originally come from Cologne, Germany? The Farinas who discovered this legendary scent marketed the perfume in the same spot in 1709, making it the oldest Fragrance company in the world. They also say that the French popularized its name.

Cologne Train Station

The beautiful Köln train station.

In German, it is called Köln Hauptbahnhof or Köln Hbf. I gather this train station is not that old, but sure it does look ancient enough. And its design goes well with the Dome church too.

The nice thing about traveling in Germany is the language. With my Dutch, I can get by with Deutsch, at least with the written one. Come November, Cologne will celebrate the “Carnival”, its most popular event and inviting tourist attraction.

Ah, time flew so fast. There were many other things to do in Cologne, but alas, my time came to an end. I must now bid goodbye to my new found German bf. Shhh, do not ever tell the Dutchman =)

Tschüss!

Travel Period: August 2005

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