My dear friend Hannah – who I’ve known for the better part of a decade – is leaving Europe. She’s been living just outside Cologne for the past year and she spent a couple of years in Brussels and was studying in Frankfurt before that (with a lot of time spent in Africa in between) so moving back to the U.S. is a big change for her. As her departure date neared, Hannah planned one last blow-out weekend in Germany with her expat friends and we descended on the charming city of Cologne from London, Edinburgh and Brussels.
We weren’t the only ones who descended – there were more stag and hen parties in Cologne that weekend than I’ve ever seen anywhere before. Apparently Cologne is known for its nightlife – and it certainly has more than sleepy Bonn next door – so maybe that explains it. Or maybe the Germans just love to dress up (we saw lots of Tour de France-themed costumes as well as the predictable and tacky hen and stag attire) even more than the English do.
On Saturday during the day we visited the Dom – the cathedral which dominates Cologne’s skyline. I saw it as I came across the Rhine from the airport on Friday night and mistook it for a German castle – it looks very majestic and important all lit up against the backdrop of the river. The cathedral is one of the world’s largest churches and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe.
As a result of a number of interruptions and set backs it took 600 years to complete. The climb to the top was arduous owing to the very tiny staircase which has to accommodate two-way traffic and while the view was rewarding it was annoyingly blocked by a big wire cage (which I guess keeps people from being tempted to jump in order to avoid having to take the stairs all the way back down).
After the Dom, and a much needed coffee, we hit up the Ludwig Museum which was showcasing a large pop art exhibit. It had everything from Picasso and Andy Warhol to much more obscure and contemporary artists. A very cool collection and worth a visit.
Of course no weekend trip to Germany would be complete without a visit to a traditional beer house for wurst and bier. On Saturday night we convened in the center of town at one of the better known establishments for traditional German fare. I ordered a half a meter of wurst (what was that advice about never eating anything bigger than your head?) and it came with heaping servings of two different types of potatoes. Excessive? Probably. Delicious? Definitely.