We set out early this morning for the longest drive of our trip, a 3-hour journey north to Cologne. Cologne, the largest city in the Rhineland, traces its history back 2,000 years. Largely devastated in World War II, it has been rebuilt into a bustling and beautiful modern day city.
The drive was relatively uneventful until we were in the city center and our GPS system bugged out. This might have been caused by the fact that our accommodation — the Dom Hotel — was located on a pedestrian walkway, just a stone’s throw from the famous Cologne Cathedral. Yet, with twisting streets and maddening traffic, we could not figure out how to get there.
Getting desperate, we turned up a one-way street to be met by two police officers. “30 euro fine,” one of them demanded. “Sorry,” we replied. He looked at me, looked at his partner, and let us off with a warning. Finally, we decided to park the car and walk to the hotel. Our persistence paid off. The hotel lobby was beautiful and the staff let us know that they were at our service.
But it wasn’t until we were up in our room did we truly experience the place. Here’s the view from our windows toward the square and up at the cathedral.
Starving, we made a beeline for the Christmas market, just steps outside the hotel and, thankfully, not closed until tomorrow. Visiting such a place while really hungry is never a good idea — we were beyond indecisive before we simply started eating everything. There were delicious thick ham and slaw sandwiches on baguettes; humongous potato pancakes with applesauce and garlic cream; and super duper sausages that Peter demolished.
Properly fed, we took a couple of baby steps to massive Cologne Cathedral. It’s the largest Gothic cathedral in Germany and the second largest cathedral in the world — after St. Peters Basilica. Construction began in 1248 and after several starts and stops, was completed in 1880. Photos fail to put its size in perspective. In fact, it was impossible to get a photo that took it all in.
We walked around the massive interior, taking in the soaring ceilings and colorful stained glass.
To burn off lunch, we began our claustrophobia-inducing ascent to the top. Around and around we went up the tight spiral staircase, stopping to check out the ginormous bells before the last leg up an open staircase. Not good for vertigo. But the views were spectacular.
Back on terra firma, we joined the masses and cruised the main shopping drag. Unfortunately for us, the prices were in Euros and a bit more difficult to stomach. Instead, we retreated to the hotel and relaxed before dinner — at a surprisingly good Italian place called 12 Apostles. Thin crust pizzas and local beers all around.