It's Christmas!

Cologne Travel Blog

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Lauro

On Sunday, my long awaited trip to Germany to see Köln and meet Lauro and Luci came around at last. Of course, I overslept.  My flat mate, Eva, one of the loveliest people in the world, came and banged on my door to remind me that I said I was leaving at 10.30 and it's 10.00 now and shouldn't I be eating breakfast?  Eek, I thought, and dragged my hair back into a ponytail out of my way.  I checked I had both mobile phones, my passport, some paper, some lipgloss, a pen, a notebook, my camera, my music, some snacks... and then remembered that I was going to Germany, not Outer Mongolia, and took all the heavy stuff back out again.  And I arrived in the station exactly as Ilka called me to let me know that she was there too.

Luci
  My coffee addiction was kicking in at this point, and luckily, I had enough time to get a caffeinne fix before we went to the platform.

The train was nowhere to be seen on platform 11, but no-one else was bothered so neither were we.  There was an announcement for a platform change, so we all went to platform 14.  Then we all watched the train pull into platform 11.  If I'd had more luggage, I'd have been stressed out, but as it was, we all went back to platform 11 and got on the train.  ICE Internationals are big, sleek, muddy, and look a little like older, more tastefully decorated versions of the Virgin Pendilino, train fans - quite comfy, but nowhere near as pink.  Virgin have the pinkest trains I've ever seen.

taking photos
  I digress.  Back to the journey.

A very nice man gave us some of his chocolate holly leaves, and I hope that very nice man had a very nice day too.  They were very good, and it started to get Ilka and I feeling a bit more festive.  Ilka in particular misses the Christmas traditions of home - she's German, and the Dutch focus on Sinterklaas means that there's less in the way of Christmas decorations and things.  So her enthusiasm for the trip was catching - not that I wasn't excited on my own! - and by the time we were as far as Arnheim we were getting quite giggly. 

Arnheim has hills, and looks quite pretty, which I was surprised about - I don't know why, but no-one has ever mentioned that Arnheim was hilly and pretty to me so I was quite excited.

chocolate fountain
  We crossed the border and got stuck in Duisberg for a while because there was something on the rails.  It looks totally desolate.  But Düsseldorf looked quite cheerful on the way through and we were making up time - and the weather was getting better too, which was amazing.  Ilka and I amused ourselves by playing guess-what-the-other-travellers-do, and managed to guess that the group in front of us were back from a paintballing trip right before they started talking about it themselves.  We were pretty impressed with ourselves.

Köln station is on the other side of the Rhine from the direction we were travelling, and the Rhine really impressed me.  It's huge.  Really - almost as wide as the Thames at Dartford, with several hundred miles still to go.

The Rhine
  I looked it up on a map once and discovered that the delta is - well - the delta takes up the whole Netherlands.  The river cruise vessels are the size of channel crossing fast cats.  It is a very, very large river.  I was getting even more excited now.

We met Lauro and Luci without any problems at the Dom side of the station.  The Dom really is right outside -  A huge, black presence dominating the square, towering over a surprisingly modern city.  And it was the first thing I wanted to see.  We went in, and I walked around with my mouth hung open, in genuine danger of walking straight into a pillar because I was looking at the windows.  It's absolutely stunning, and there's no way I can do it justice in either words or the few pictures I let myself take.

Dom from the station - good arrivals!
  Lauro mentioned that we could climb the tower and I jumped at the opportunity -  my parents tell me that travelling with me hasn't changed since I was a little girl, and it's still like trying to keep track of a hyperactive four year old - so there I was, with the chance to climb a tower and three bemused fellow travellers trying to keep track.

The tower is quite high, and there are no places really to take a break. The staircase is narrow.  ABout midway, my lungs remembered that I am a) asthmatic and b) totally out of medicine.  I was really, really glad to get to the top!  But the view over the Rhine and the city was so worhtwhile.  The only niggle is the graffiti - if you're going to deface a place of worship, several centuries old, could you not do it more attractively?  And there were a few "F*** God" type comments - some people, huh? 

We took a bunch of photos of each other with our hair all over the place and our faces all red, and walked back down.

windows
  I wanted another look at the rest of the cathedral.  As the nearest available Christian, however lapsed, I did my best to explain the legends and guess which saints and prophets were which by what they were carrying for the others, which was fun.  Then we went to the markets.  After briefly losing Lauro, who was taking photos in one direction whilst we were looking at a bronze camel in another, and almost losing me when I got over excited about glass ornaments that dive in a bottle of water, it was time to go to the chocolate museum.  Of course, first I had to try almost every variety of honey on the arctic honey stall.  I am sincerely hoping they'll import to the UK, because I don't think my life will be complete unless I get more of the coffee honey, unless I can have peppermint or lemon instead! 

The chocolate museum rocks.

St Michael
  Excellent.  The money I could have spent in the shop if I let myself!  And you get to see a chocolate tree.  And try some chocolate - proper Lindt - it was great.  It's also quite big - was amazed to find that it was already 17.00 when we left.  it turns out that the 6 hours that I had hoped would be enough to meet some friends and do some shopping were far, far too short.  We really had to ignore the other five or six markets and get some food.

Near the Dom, we found a Mediterranean restaurant that looked pretty nice.  Dinner was great - a chance to chat, really laid back restaurant where the service was attentive, the food took quite a long time but they were cooking it fresh, and the food was just lovely.

the Dom
  I had some local beer and we took some more photos, most of which I think are in Lauro and Luci's cameras.  Lauro really kindly bough us a Gluhwein, which was great, at the market.  Unfortunately we had to rush for the train a bit, and I had to drink the gluhwein a bit fast.  I was happy that both the boys were able to stay, because I'd have felt a bit guilty leaving Lauro so early otherwise - next time I go somewhere like that I'll try to get a more flexible ticket, but they were too expensive this trip.  Ilka and I had a fairly smooth journey home, although we were a bit cramped coz the guy opposite us had very long legs and they took up the whole table area!  I was really sleepy and got a coffee to keep me awake - too much Gluhwein I think!  I had a really great trip and wish I'd had longer. 

sarahelaine says:
it was ace :)
Posted on: Dec 10, 2007
Aopaq says:
Sounds like a truly wonderful early Christmas gathering that you enjoyed! :)
Posted on: Dec 10, 2007
Luci26 says:
awesome :)
Posted on: Dec 10, 2007
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Lauro
Lauro
Luci
Luci
taking photos
taking photos
chocolate fountain
chocolate fountain
The Rhine
The Rhine
Dom from the station - good arriva…
Dom from the station - good arriv…
windows
windows
St Michael
St Michael
the Dom
the Dom
gargoyles
gargoyles
Old testament prophets
Old testament prophets
window again
window again
stone work in the tower
stone work in the tower
Window
Window
stone stonemasons
stone stonemasons
camels eye view of the nativity
camel's eye view of the nativity
graffiti
graffiti
chocolate machine
chocolate machine
chocolate truffle coating machine
chocolate truffle coating machine
really, really big ceremonial hot …
really, really big ceremonial hot…
Lauro and Luci
Lauro and Luci
Chocolate dispenser
Chocolate dispenser
Chocolate dispenser
Chocolate dispenser
Arctic honey
Arctic honey
Chocolate Tree
Chocolate Tree
Cologne Sights & Attractions review
Cologne Cathedral is a spectacular cathedral in Cologne. A UNESCO heritage sight, it is one of the largest churches in the world, and seriously tall … read entire review
Cologne Sights & Attractions review
This is the chocolate museum of the Lindt chocolate company. The displays cover the manufacturing of chocolate, where it grows (including a greenhous… read entire review
Cologne
photo by: lauro