After enjoying a hearty breakfast in our hotel we popped on our coats and scarves and wandered along to Cologne Cathedral which had been closed the previous afternoon as a service was taking place. Fortunately, it was open and we were able to admire the majestic interior with its wonderful stained glass windows.
This UNESCO listed cathedral is the second tallest building in Cologne after the city’s Telecommunications Tower. The vast church is 145m in length and has a capacity of in excess of 20,000 people. Along with much of the city, the cathedral suffered extensive damage during the Second World War. It has withstood the test of time since 1880 and a team of 80 specialists are constantly working on renovating the building.
We had hoped to walk off our breakfasts by climbing the 533 steps to the viewing platform at the top of the South Tower but it wasn’t to be as a decision had been made to close it from that morning. With clear blue skies, the panoramic views would have been worth the climb but putting safety first, it’s something we can enjoy doing on a future visit.
The vast interior is impressive and with the sunlight shining through its five spectacular stained glass windows dating from the early 1500’s it looked even more beautiful. Not to be missed highlights of the cathedral include the high altar constructed of black marble and just behind this is the Shrine of The Magi, an outstanding piece of medieval goldsmith’s art. There is no charge to enter the cathedral with a nominal charge of €3 (£2.75) to climb the tower and a further €3 to view the treasury.
Leaving the cathedral we wandered along to the Rhine embankment by the side of the Hohenzollern railway bridge next to the station. It was a pleasant morning stroll along the riverbank, observing large barges transporting cargo along the river to our left and the quaint pastel coloured pitched roofed buildings of the old town to our right as we continued upstream.
It didn’t take too long for us to reach the Rheinau harbour just south of the old town. Rheinauhafen was the inland commercial port that used to occupy the riverside there. Since the 1990’s some of the old cranes and warehouses have been replaced with cutting edge architecture. The boldest of these are the award winning Kranhäuser buildings resembling colossal hoisting cranes as their upper floors jut out 90° over the water.
At the entrance to the harbour stands the Malakoff Tower constructed in 1855, a defensive tower protecting the entrance to the former port. Crossing an old swing bridge brought us to a small peninsula where we came across a small boat harbour and some waterfront cafes.
Located in one of the old granary stores is the Deutsche Sport and Olympia museum which we had intended visiting as we have had enjoyed exploring several Olympic museums around the world. Sadly, there was a note affixed to the door advising that it would be closing for an indefinite period from that day which was disappointing but with numerous interactive exhibits, not surprising.
Undeterred, we retraced our steps towards the centre, passing the Lindt Chocolate Museum on our way, its building designed to represent a ship. We’d only recently visited York’s Chocolate Story which has a similar theme, also ending the tour by creating a chocolate of your own.
Cups of coffee then seemed the order of the day so we found a cafe on Cologne’s main shopping street, Schildergasse for a light snack.
The sunshine had brought people out and the shops were reasonably busy. Spotting a branch of Peek & Cloppenburg we couldn’t resist popping in for a look around. This five floor glass structure is a distinctive landmark as its glass dome facade consists of approximately 7,000 individual panes creating a light and airy shopping environment,
Shopping completed, we noticed an interesting looking old Protestant church next door, the Antoine Kirche, so we looked inside. This small arched church was built between 1360-1380 and acts as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the Second World War. Despite the ancient building, the interior is actually very modern with some stunning stained glass and a layout of pews facing each other rather than forward towards the altar.
Up until now we had walked everywhere and not made use of our Köln Cards so we remedied this by taking the U Bahn across to the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park. These travel / attraction cards need to be validated on their first use and are then valid for either a 24 or 48 hour period depending on the card purchased.
It only took about ten minutes to reach the park where we enjoyed a stroll beside the small lake and were pleased to see welcoming signs of spring with clumps of daffodils raising their heads. The park was originally known as Aachener Berg but since 2004 it has been renamed the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park in commemoration of the atomic bombing in Japan. The park was created on a gently sloping hill after Second World War rubble and debris had been heaped there. It’s not huge, but a pleasant place for a saunter. Located at one corner is the Museum of East Asian Art which has a small cafe.
On leaving the park we continued our afternoon stroll along to The University of Cologne which is adjacent to the park. This is one of the largest universities in Europe and is renowned for its outstanding scientific achievements. After walking through its parkland setting we returned to the city centre by U Bahn taking a train from the University stop.
Fortunately our next planned activity was still going ahead so we made our way to the Farina Fragrance Museum located close to the cathedral. When we think of Cologne we automatically associate the city with Eau-de-Cologne perfume so we were interested to learn about its origins and development.
Entrance to this small museum is €5 (£4.50) which includes a 45 minute guided tour. Several tours each day are in English and we had reserved places on the 4.00 p.m. tour with one more due to take place before the museum closed at 6.00 p.m. Several tours each day are in English and our group of just over 20 were of various nationalities.
The tour takes place in the oldest intact perfume factory in the world which is still owned by the original Farina family. Our guide gave a short introductory talk where we learnt that Eau-de-Cologne was invented in the 18th century. In those days standards of hygiene were much lower so it was popular to wear a heavy perfume containing musk and sandalwood to counteract body odours. The Farina company developed a lighter citrus aromatic fragrance which soon became very popular. After this background information we were guided down to the cellar where we inspected a 300 year old perfume barrel and some copper stills and laboratory equipment which were replicas of the kind Farina used.
It was then time to smell some of the individual ingredients that are used in the manufacture of Eau-de-Cologne. These included orange, grapefruit, lemon, bergamot, lime and other floral and herbal notes. Finally, we took a look in the attractive shop and before leaving we were all handed a small bottle of the fragrance to take home making it a very good value tour and one I’d recommend.
We then returned to our hotel and relaxed in the sauna awhile before enjoying dinner in Brauhaus Paffgen located quite close to our hotel. Here we enjoyed large portions of chicken and chips washed down with glasses of Kölsch – a perfect way to end our Saturday in Cologne.
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