Kasteel Well Week 10: Germany (Part 5) – Cologne
Although I had just spent a week traveling around Germany, the trip didn’t quite feel complete without visiting Cologne. Luckily I had a one-night excursion planned for the middle of the following week. My class schedule gave me almost exactly 24 hours off from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday morning. A few friends had a similar schedule – so always looking for a new adventure – we booked our one night in Cologne.
Even though there were only four of us, we left in two groups due to our class schedules. Rebecca and I got a head start and set off to Venlo where we hopped on a train to Cologne. It was a relatively short journey – roughly two and a half hours from the castle. We arrived in the late afternoon and immediately began to explore the area around the train station. Upon walking out of Hauptbahnhof, we were instantly in the shadow of the towering Cologne Cathedral. I didn’t have any plans for Cologne other than climbing the towers of the cathedral as many people had recommended. We decided to save that until the other half of our crew arrived, so our wandering began.
The area south of the train station was primarily retail, so there were crowds of people milling about. Not really having a destination, we started going into random stores. We let our inner five-year-olds make most of the decisions, so we ended up at the LEGO store and at a toy store along the way. Naturally, we couldn’t leave without buying a package of bubbles at the toy store. We also discovered the Hard Rock Café, so I quickly stopped to pick out a pin before we returned to Hauptbahnhof to meet Courtney and Xandra whose train was just arriving.
Once we had collected everyone, we set out to find our hostel. It was a lot further away than we originally thought, but we had also walked an extra half-mile before realizing we missed a turn. We found our little hostel tucked in along a side street and quickly settled in. The man at the front desk didn’t appear to be much older than us, and he recommended a small restaurant just down the street for dinner.
It was a typical German restaurant, so you just find a few spots and sit down at a table. Since I had just finished a week in Germany I was able to help guide my friends around the menu a little bit. Our waiter came over with a tray of beers and he started marking our coasters as we ordered. I had to explain to my friends how the Germans typically make tick marks on your coaster to count the number of drinks and then tally the marks at the end. The vegetarians missed out on the bratwurst, but I enjoyed it very much!
The next day we woke up and took advantage of breakfast in the hostel. It wasn’t incredibly busy considering it was a Wednesday morning, but there were still quite a few people. There was a group of boys speaking German, and I found it interesting how they shortened “guten morgen” to “morgen” as they greeted each other. I thought it was a display of how similar cultures can be as we also often drop “good” from “good morning” in America.
We knew that Cologne had some unique bridges spanning the Rhine so we decided the riverside would be a good starting point for the day. The sun was shining right into our eyes as we reached the first bridge. A few panoramas and too many group selfies later, we were walking along the river towards the train station. We looped up behind the cathedral and popped into the tourist office before visiting the cathedral.Everyone told us the cathedral was the best thing in Cologne and they were right. Most of the city was razed during Allied bombing runs during World War II, yet somehow the cathedral survived. One of the largest cathedrals I’ve encountered, the cathedral’s twin spires tower over the rest of the rebuilt cityscape. We paid the small fee to climb the towers and started our way up. 509 winding steps later, the wind was whipping as we enjoyed the panoramic view of the city. We retreated to street level and entered the main doors of the cathedral. Only by walking into the cathedral can you really understand its size. The stained glass windows were particiularly unique – one being a multicolored mosaic. The mosaic window was installed in 2007 to replace one destroyed during World War II. The gigantic windows let in large amounts of natural light into the chamber, lighting up the intricate designs on the high ceilings.
We left the cathedral in search of some food before we had to begin our journey home to the castle. As this was the only visit to Germany for the rest of my group, I took the opportunity to introduce them to a few more German specialties. We had found a variety of shops next to each other and ended up with some currywurst and Berliners (jelly donuts).
However, we apparently were too captivated by our food to catch the next train home, so we decided to wait out the next hour in the Lego Store. It doesn’t take much more than a few plastic bricks to entertain a few college students! The hour passed quickly and the time came when we had to say goodbye to our creations and head home.
Due to poor communication, only half of us made it on the train and the others had to wait for the next one. It was unfortunate that we had to split up, but since some of us had classes as soon as we got back we couldn’t have waited another hour with the rest. Over the past week I had developed a love for traveling by train if not solely for the ease of finding uninterrupted work time. My journey was spent cutting the music together for our “Life’s A Happy Song” music video we were planning to shoot in just a few weeks. I finished just as the train pulled into Venlo, and soon were sitting in class back at the castle.
I’m not sure how many castle dwellers opt for a mid-week excursion, but it was a fun experience despite the short timeframe. It was a unique way for me to close out my unique Germany tour.