Just like our mothership, IT sometimes lets stories gestate for a while. Or, at least that’s our excuse for why Emily is only now—nine months after her return—birthing details about her trip to Cologne. Without further ado, she writes:
For phobics, one take-off is significantly better than two. Thus, when I found out I could take Continental’s nonstop, overnight flight from Newark to Cologne, my desire to see the Rhineland outweighed my fear of spiraling headfirst into the ocean. To my chagrin, the 7.5 hour flight was easy, as was the transition from airport to destination: Within 30 minutes of landing, I was off the plane, through customs, into a cab, and standing directly in front of the city’s Gothic icon—Cologne Cathedral. Conveniently perched across the street was our hotel, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst. Lavish by anyone’s standards, the fact that it was independently owned and a historical landmark (not to mention smack dab in the heart of the city) made it the perfect place, if there is such a thing, to drop $350 per night.
Cologne is a weekend city: Two to three days are all you really need to wrap your mind around the place—unlike Berlin, where I felt I needed a month to even break the surface (but that’s another post). With its charming cobblestone streets and miles of sidewalks along the Rhine, walking itself is an attraction and I spent much of my time doing just that. With nearly 6 million people visiting the cathedral each year, the city’s become a tourist mecca; as such, it has a few kitschy attractions. On a second visit, I’d skip the Chocolate Museum (a glorified advertisement for Lindt) and the Farina House (the spot where perfumer Johann Maria Farina began producing his world famous fragrance, Eau de Cologne). Instead, I’d devote more time to the Museum Ludwig savoring its endless collection of 20th-century and contemporary art. I was so enthralled by the place, exploring all the angled nooks of the Busmann and Haberer-designed building (and the paintings of Klein, Chagall, Magritte, and Stella), that somewhere between the entrance and the exit, someone snatched my camera from my open purse.
The food was wonderful, from my evening at the elegant Hanse Stube to my currywurst noshing on a park bench. But even more memorable were my dozen or so glasses of Kölsch: a light, cold beer served in a tall, thin, beaker-like glass. Indigenous to Cologne, Kölsch is as rampant as the tourists who drink it—though, a night out at a beer house proved locals are just as thirsty for the stuff. For the quintessential daytime Kölsch experience, snatch an outside table at the Brauhaus Früh Cologne, order grilled sausages, and down a few beers.
The morning before we left, I jogged across the Hohenzollern bridge to the KölnTriangle tower on the opposite bank of the Rhine. Four dollars gets you a ride to the Panorama Platform, the 360-degree observation deck on top where you’ll get a perspective of the city you’ll never get from a map. I stood up there for an hour, mostly alone, and watched the city wake up.
- Nat Geo Expeditions