From Reims we traveled north to Cologne, Germany for our final planned visit with friends. Chuck is a pilot based in Cologne and is 2 years into a 3 year contract, Corinne is a long time friend from Calgary who I used to ride bikes and enter triathlons with, she spends half her time here in Cologne with Chuck. When we found out that our dates in Germany coincided, plans were made to visit them in their adopted home.
Cologne, or Koln in German, is the largest city in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, and it’s 1 million plus inhabitants make it the fourth most populous city in Germany. Cologne was one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany during WWII and destroyed almost the entire city. The postwar rebuilding has resulted in a mixed and unique cityscape.
Construction on the present Cologne Cathedral began in 1248 but as with many European cathedrals, there were prior religious buildings on the site dating back to the 4th century. Work was done on the cathedral sporadically over the next few centuries with the final works being completed in the 19th century. During WWII the cathedral suffered 14 direct hits by aerial bombs, however despite being badly damaged it remained standing in an otherwise flattened city. The twin spires are the tallest in Germany, second tallest in Europe and third tallest in the world. The towers for the spires give the cathedral the largest facade of any church in the world. It is unfortunate that we did not see inside the cathedral, but I suppose we have seen enough cathedrals this past year to last us quite a while 🙂
A fairy tale written in the 1800’s tells of little house gnomes that are said to have done all the work of the citizens of Cologne during the night, so that the inhabitants of Cologne could be very lazy during the day. According to the legend, this went on until a tailor’s wife got so curious to see the gnomes that she scattered peas onto the floor of the workshop to make the gnomes slip and fall. The gnomes, being infuriated, disappeared and never returned. From that time on, the citizens of Cologne had to do all their work by themselves. Scattered around the city are various tributes to this fairy tale.
The Rund um Koln one day bike race was on during our time in Cologne and while it is a UCI calendar race there were no big name participants. These types of races are the training grounds for the up and coming bike racers of the future. The experience was quite different from the major races we have attended, like the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. We got very close to the finish line and had no problem getting a great view point, and into the beer tent afterwards. Any cycling race, in our opinion, is an exciting place to be!! But then we are avid cycling fans 🙂
After watching the bike race we walked into central Cologne to visit Weinwoche, a two week long wine festival featuring 26 winegrowers from all over Germany. Numerous food stalls are also set up so we enjoyed some typical German food along with our wine tasting. This is a very popular event and had we more time it would have been a great place to spend a few hours and sample more wines. Upon leaving the wine festival we continued walking along the Rhine and came upon a beer festival 🙂 There were stalls set up along the riverfront walkway, showcasing various beers from around the world, some of which we sampled. Corinne tells us that Cologne regularly hosts wine and beer festivals making it a fun place to be during the summer.
The Rhine River runs through the center of Cologne and on both sides of the river are bike pathways running for hundreds of miles. With Chuck off flying for work, Corinne outfitted us both with bikes and the 3 of us headed out for a spectacular ride along the Rhine. The scenery was gorgeous as we enjoyed our first real bike ride in a very long time. After 90 minutes of riding we came upon a lovely small village where we stopped for lunch along the riverbank before taking one of the many small ferries across the river. We continued our ride back to Cologne on the opposite side of the river. It was tremendously fun to be out riding bikes again 🙂
Unfortunately our planned 7 days in Cologne was cut short to just 4 days, more on that in our next post, however we were able to see a few highlights of the city and enjoy time with our friends. Before Chuck left to fly around Europe for work we enjoyed a lovely dinner at their apartment and an evening at one of their favorite local restaurants. It has been a fun and too brief visit to Cologne. Yet another city we would like to return to one day…..