Cologne, Germany

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The facade of Cologne Cathedral, the largest church facade in the world. Cologne, Germany ©Jean Janssen

Already in Europe at the end of my British Isles cruise with Ted, I flew over to Amsterdam to meet Boris for cruise number two.  This is a river cruise on the Rhine.  I first saw this itinerary when we looked at holiday market river cruises.  After my winter experience of having to jump up and go outside to take a photo and run back in (due to outside temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit, -7 Celsius), I decided we should try this cruise in the summer when I could sit outside on the sun deck and watch the castles on either side of the Rhine River.

Interior of Cologne Cathedral, Germany ©Jean Janssen

Interior of Cologne Cathedral, Germany.  Note the many different types of stain glass replacements.
©Jean Janssen

My plane from Edinburgh was late getting in, so I ended up not going into town and just stayed at the airport hotel.  The Sherton was very convenient; it was connected to the terminal entrance hall.  There were plenty of places to eat and I can just walk right over in the morning and meet Boris at the baggage claim exit.  He is flying in overnight.  Transfers from the airport to the ship are included in our cruise ticket price.

Our beautiful room aboard Uniworld's  SS Antoinette. ©Jean Janssen

Our beautiful room aboard Uniworld’s SS Antoinette.
©Jean Janssen

Small, but pretty swanky bathroom on the SS Antoinette. ©Jean Janssen

Small, but pretty swanky bathroom on the SS Antoinette.
©Jean Janssen

After a night’s sleep, the good news is that I could start this trip without jet lag.  The bad news, Boris was jet-lagged.  When we got to the ship he wasn’t really interested in touring Amsterdam, even though it was just a 15 minute walk to the heart of the city.  I had an early lunch on the ship and intended to go into town on my own.  I started to rain so Boris said he would just rest a bit and would go with me when the rain stopped.  Unfortunately it just got worse.  After our British Isles Cruise, I was tired of touring in the rain so we waited.  About the time the rain ended, we were told the rooms were ready (over an hour early) so we went and unpacked.  Well I unpacked; Boris finally had a bed and fell asleep quickly.

Amsterdam canal viewed as we left the city. ©Jean Janssen

Housed along this Amsterdam canal viewed as we left the city.
©Jean Janssen

 

About 3 pm the sun came out and I decided to tour a little before dinner.  Reviewing the daily program to see what time I needed to back I realized we actually had a 3:30 call back to the ship for a 4 pm departure.  So much for touring Amsterdam.  Instead I opened our very cool push-button window and almost got hit by a fishing line that was being cast.  After being told that yes, the fishing was pretty good from this dock, I closed the window and decided to open it when the boat wasn’t tied up.

Elf Fountain and Statute, Cologne, Germany.  The statutes recall the fable where elves did the work for the citizens until tricked by the Tailor's Wife into being seen.  They never returned to work again. ©Jean Janssen

Elf Fountain and Statute, Cologne, Germany. The statutes recall the fable where elves did the work at night for the citizens while the townspeople slept until tricked by the Tailor’s Wife into being seen. They never returned to work again.
©Jean Janssen

After the muster drill and the itinerary orientation, we had dinner with a couple from Adelaide, Australia that we had met on the bus from the airport.  Our waiter recognized Boris from one of our other cruises (he can be quite demanding so I am not surprised he was remembered).  It was an early night for us since Boris was tired.  Our first  stop is Cologne, Germany recognizable for the personal fragrance items that were invented here in 1709 and the Cathedral (which Boris has always wanted to see).

Town Hall, Cologne, Germany ©Jean Janssen

Town Hall, Cologne, Germany
©Jean Janssen

We actually made what the cruise line calls a technical stop in Zons, Germany.  We got off the boat here early afternoon to board buses for Cologne.  The boat will arrive in Cologne about 5 pm.  You could opt to stay on the boat if you don’t want to participate in the city and Cathedral tour.  Some of Zons’ medieval walls are still standing.  It originated as a toll stop on the Rhine.  The big news in town today was that a Mosque was under construction there.  Zons is a popular weekend stop for picnickers.

Painted panels in Cologne Cathedral ©Jean Janssen

Painted panels in Cologne Cathedral
©Jean Janssen

As we were leaving Zons, the guide pointed out rental units.  Most Germans prefer to rent because the laws favor renters and make it very difficult to remove a tenant.  To get them out, you have to should that you need the property for yourself.

Women left jewelry in penance for their sins.  Cologne Cathedral, Germany. ©Jean Janssen

Women left jewelry in penance for their sins. Cologne Cathedral, Germany.
©Jean Janssen

There is farming in the region, but the government regulates what your can grow.  There is lots of corn production, not because the people eat corn-it is fed to their livestock-but to prevent high corn imports from the USA.    We did see some beautiful flower fields where you could go in a pick your own flowers; payment is on the honor system.

One of the large, and somewhat controversial, stain glass replacements in Cologne Cathedral reflecting the time of its replacement.  Definitely a 60s-70s vibe. ©Jean Janssen

One of the large, and somewhat controversial, stain glass replacements in Cologne Cathedral reflecting the time of its replacement. Definitely a 60s-70s vibe.
©Jean Janssen

Driving into Cologne, we were on the autobahn for a short period of time.  There are no speed limits on the German freeways.  Traffic mass dictates the speed.  Traditionally this is a coal producing region.  A chemical belt surrounds the city of Cologne.

Roaming around Cologne, Germany ©Jean Janssen

Roaming around Cologne, Germany
©Jean Janssen

18 million people, about 1/4 of the German population,live in this area of the country, more than the entirety of Eastern Germany before unification.  Cologne is the 4th largest city in Germany.  During its Golden Age, Cologne was the largest city in Northern Europe.  Cologne had 100 churches, 18 of which remain today.  It is an important Roman Catholic City; its Archbishop is a Cardinal.

Interesting things to be found among the cobblestones in Cologne, Germany ©Jean Janssen

Interesting things to be found among the cobblestones in Cologne, Germany
©Jean Janssen

In 1910, the city walls were pulled down and a green belt made around the city.  Today there are also small hills, growth over the rumble of WWII that was collected here. 70% of the city (90% of the inner city) buildings were destroyed during WWII.  There are more ruins of the Roman Walls near the center of the city, as they were never pulled down.  They continue to be discovered.

Newlyweds leaving city hall in Cologne, Germany. ©Jean Janssen

Newlyweds leaving city hall in Cologne, Germany.
©Jean Janssen

Detail on some of the Town Hall statutes, Cologne, Germany  If you are charged with raising taxes, you might not be the most popular; check out the extra detail added to the "bottom" of the middle statute. ©Jean Janssen

Detail on some of the Town Hall statutes, Cologne, Germany If you are in charge of raising taxes to fund construction, you might not be the most popular; check out the extra detail added to the “bottom” of the middle statute.
©Jean Janssen

Upon arrival we took buses to the Cathedral for our guided tour (included in the price on Uniworld River Cruises).  Cologne’s Chinatown is right next to the Cathedral.  We had a great guide, Markus; he was very funny.  Because they limit the number of guided tours through the Cathedral at any given time, we did a tour around the city center first.  My first observation was that the most popular hair style for young German men (and some older ones too) is partly shaved with full and long on top raised to heights that defy gravity.

We saw some Roman ruins, the elf fountain, the original site for cologne fragrance, and the statute-covered town hall.  It was raining, so I am not sure if the tour was abbreviated for that reason or there just wasn’t that much to see.  The city was heavily bombed during WWII, which could explain the limited sites as well as some of the functional, but highly unattractive buildings that we saw.

Side view of Cologne Cathedral, Germany ©Jean Janssen

Side view of Cologne Cathedral, Germany
©Jean Janssen

After the brief (or abbreviated) city tour, we finally made it to the Cathedral.  The Cologne Cathedral was hit by 14 arial bombs during WWII, but survived.  Much of the stained glass had been removed and the reconstruction shows various styles of glass as it was replaced over time.  The Cathedral remains in a constant state of repair because of weather, pollution, and reconstruction.  The Cathedral is a World Heritage site and Germany’s most-visited monument with a average of 20,000 visitors a day.

Reliquary of the Three Kings or Magi, Cologne Cathedral, Germany. ©Jean Janssen

Reliquary of the Three Kings or Magi, Cologne Cathedral, Germany.
©Jean Janssen

The Cologne Cathedral is the largest Gothic Church in Northern Europe.  With its twins spires, it has the largest facade of any church in the world.  Construction began in 1248 and halted in 1473, not beginning again until the 19th century.  Construction was completed in 1880.  Noteworthy is the fact that the construction never deviated from the original plans.  The Cathedral holds the reliquary of the three kings or magi, perhaps the primary reason it attracted so many pilgrims and continues to attract visitors today.

As viewed from our pub stop along the waterfront with Great Saint Martin Church in the background and reconstructed period building in the front. ©Jean Janssen

As viewed from our pub stop along the waterfront with Great Saint Martin Church in the background and reconstructed period buildings in the front.
©Jean Janssen

After our Cathedral visit, our guide pointed out a few other places for us to visit including Starbucks with its no-pay restroom, in contrast to most public toilets where the “pee dragon” (attendant) collects the fee.  Next we snaked through the narrow streets to reach the waterfront.  From here he pointed the way back to our ship.  In the shadow of Great Saint Martin Church, we stopped in a pub and sat outside while Boris tried the local beer and a pretzel.  It was an excellent pretzel; we ordered another.  Boris didn’t want to share.

As we strolled along the waterfront at Cologne, we noted all the riverboats at dock.  Most have bicycles on their top deck that guest can check out for day use.  This boat (not ours) also had a parking area for walkers. ©Jean Janssen

As we strolled along the waterfront at Cologne, we noted all the riverboats at dock. Most have bicycles on their top deck that guests can check out for day use. This boat (not ours) also had a large chest set and a parking area for walkers.
©Jean Janssen

After our break we strolled back to our ship along the waterfront.  We were not the only River Boat in Cologne that day.  We didn’t see that much to do in the city, so after dinner we stayed aboard.  Boris is still jet-lagged so he fell asleep early.

Detail on the entrance to Cologne, Cathedral ©Jean Janssen

Detail on the entrance to Cologne, Cathedral
©Jean Janssen

The SS Antoinette is one of three “superships” that Uniworld has.  This is the first of the three, launched in 2011.  It is a longer ship where the standard facilities-lounge and dining room-are just a little bit bigger.  There is also a cinema that shows three movies a day and a covered swimming pool (with a wide back door that can be opened, although generally it is closed during sailing due to engine noise).  Our “juliet balcony” room has a wonderful feature, the window.  It is almost the complete width of the room and can be raised or lowered by a one touch button (or stopped during at a midpoint).  The window opens to half the height of the room.

Cologne Cathedral as viewed from the Rhine at night. ©Jean Janssen

Cologne Cathedral as viewed from the Rhine at night.
©Jean Janssen

Tonight I enjoyed that window, opening it and the curtains as we sailed down the river Rhine, leaving Cologne.  There was a lovely view of the Cathedral, all lit up at night.  Further down the river, I saw some really architecturally interesting buildings that seemed to defy gravity.  I later identified them as the Kranhaus (“Crane House” in reference to the harbor cranes used to load or off load ship cargo) buildings.  Two appeared to be commercial buildings and one looked like a residential building. (I confirmed I was correct later.)  Each are 17 stories and shaped like an upside down “L”.

Part of the complex of Kranhaus buildings in Cologne, Germany. ©Jean Janssen

Part of the complex of Kranhaus buildings in Cologne, Germany.
©Jean Janssen

Tomorrow on our southwardly journey on the Rhine, we reach the German Corner.

About travelbynatasha

I am a retired attorney who loves to travel. Several years ago I began working on a Century Club membership achieved by traveling to 100 "foreign" countries. Today, at 49 years of age the count is at 82. Many were visited on land based trips. Some were cruise ports. Some were dive sites. Most have been fascinating.
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