On the weekend, Femke and myself travelled to Cologne, Germany. This is a large town in the north west of Germany. We chose to do this as it does look more and more likely that I will be returning to Australia in a week thanks to the bad visa situation.
I wanted to ensure that I had travelled to several countries. So I have now officially been in Belgium (2 days), Germany (2 days) and Holland (nearly 3 months)!
Now.. on to Cologne.
We got up reasonably early on Saturday morning and caught the bus to Den Bosch again. We got a huge shock when we realised our return tickets to Cologne was going to be 200 Euros. That’s $400 aussie dollars. WTF? The distance from Den Bosch to Cologne (as the crow flies) is the same from Brisbane to Ballina. Sounds like a huge rip off just because we are crossing into Germany.
Ah well. there was no other options so we paid up and settled in for the ride. We had to detour at Utrecht due to rail works in the south, but for most of the way we were on these high speed trains where it was very smooth and fast (up to 160km an hour).
We arrived at Cologne at about 2pm. We stopped at an info centre to get a map. On our way there we were exiting the train station and were immediately greeted with the sight of the Dom Cathedral. My god. This is one of the largest churches in the world. It is smack in the middle of Cologne and it is truly a stunning sight to see.
We then walked to the hotel and after resting there for a few minutes we were off again on a long walk to the Claudius Thermal spa and sauna.
This was my first time in an European Spa/Sauna. Half of this site is a a collection of pools where you can splash around and relax in your swimming costume. The other half is a collection of sauna rooms around some cooling pools and open showers. And yep everyone in the sauna area is nude. For me it takes a minute or two to get used to it as it is a new experience. Of course everyone is looking at everyone else, but it’s not sexual, and there’s definitely no touching. After a while, you don’t really notice it anymore and you instead just relax and become more focused on the extremely hot air you are breathing and how much you are sweating. Overall I enjoyed it.
After a few hours of nice relaxing, we then showered and got dressed and had a nice dinner at the restaurant that was there as well. It was a nice meal and Fem got one of the largest desserts I have seen! We then half bussed and half walked back to the hotel that night.
The Dom Cathedral
On the way back, we saw a view of the Dom cathedral at night with it all lit up. It was even more stunning then when we first saw it. We did not take our cameras with us to the Claudius and I still didn’t have a tripod. I decided to return later that night to get some shots of the church. Luckily our hotel is a short walk from it. Femke stays behind to relax leaving me to shoot the Dom by myself. I was really really wanting a tripod at that stage, but I just had to make do with a high ISO and as steady hands as I could manage.
Above is the best of a few shots that I took that night. Absolutely stunning.
On Sunday we enjoyed a nice breakfast at the hotel and then we were off again. Today we wanted a closer look at the Dom Cathedral. We first walked along the river Rhine to get some back shots of the Dom, similar to what we saw the previous night.
Climbing the tower
We then eventually entered the Church and saw you could climb the southern tower. After paying 5 Euros, up and up the 590 steps we went. No… we didn’t take any water. Hoo boy… we were huffing and puffing a bit as we neared the top.
There were lots of people coming down the staircase as well, so you really had to hug the walls. At the end of the staircase it opened up into a large chamber. In the middle was another metal staircase to the last part of the climb. After we rested we both then climbed to the top.
Looking up we were then able to to the top of the tower from the inside. It was rather cold and windy up there so it didn’t take long for us to cool down.
At the top there is a walkway around the outside deck of the tower. It is fully enclosed over with bars and a wire mesh so it was hard to get clear shots of the city as you can see below.
Once we were finished and happy with our shots, we had to go down a very narrow one way stair case back to the main chamber.
We then had to shimmy down the slightly wider main staircase this time trying to avoid all the people on the way up.
We were ready to go into the main church area, but since it was Sunday, they had mass on at that time. We then decided to go and have some lunch and come back in the afternoon.
An average meal
After having a rather average meal, followed by us being overcharged for the meal. After a slightly heated discussion with the waiter who informed us the English menu was 2006 prices we accepted our free drinks and gave the moron waiter one hell of a frowning. If you ever go to Cologne don’t go to the Chicago Steakhouse. It’s crap.
Inside the Dom
We then returned to the church and I was very impressed. I have now seen a LOT of cathedrals in a few countries and it takes a bit to impress me. It was mid afternoon and the sun was streaming in through the southern windows. The reflections were against the walls and boy did it make a pretty picture! There were a lot of people there, but there was enough space for us all. You certainly felt in awe of the grand size of the architecture and the attention to detail.
After spending some time in there and taking lots and lots of photos, we had enough of churches (again).
The Chocolate Museum
We had been told by Nga-chi (one of Femke’s friends) that the Cologne Chocolate Museum was good, so we walked south through the city and then along the Rhine river to get there.
It was reasonably ok. It seemed to focus too much on the history of the cocoa bean and not enough on the actual production of chocolate. One good part was an actual working chocolate factory in the middle. A lot of the machines had glass sections so you could see the automated process of the chocolate mixing, stencilling, cooling and so on. That was pretty interesting to see. We didn’t get to see that much detail in the Cadbury factory in Dunedin, New Zealand. At the end of the hall where the machines were located was a large chocolate fountain. Here the staff would give out wafer sticks that had been dipped into the chocolate. There was also a nice smell emanating from the fountain.
By the end of the museum we were rather tired. We walked back through the city and got our bags from the hotel and waited for the train ride home. To pass the time we both had a German pretzel which were big and very very salty. Hmm don’t think I would have one of them again.
After 3 hours of travelling we were back in Waalwijk late that night. Another great time in another country!