Monday, October 11, 2010

Köln, Germany

The best thing about being a running widow of a husband who runs marathons is the travel. It's like my own little reward at the end of the 6 months of training he does for it! This was my first time visiting Germany and I really enjoyed it. The country likes beer, pretzels, and sausages. Sounds like my kind of place! Here are some observations and photos from the trip:

The Rhein River with a view of the Dom, the tallest building in Köln.

  • My first meal when we arrived was bockwurst, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. This is my food heaven.
  • The city is incredibly dog-friendly. There were dogs everywhere, including trains, shops and cafes. The best part is that people actually clean up after their dogs. After dodging dog poo on a daily basis, this was a refreshing sight. 
  • The architecture - yeah, I had forgotten that there was this little thing called WWII that happened not to long ago. Köln was pretty much obliterated during the war, and we all know that post-war architecture isn't the most eye-catching. There was still an Old Town section of town and that looked like this:
But, most of the city was a mixture of pre- and post-war buildings, like this:

  • The Germans were VERY friendly. I didn't speak a lick of German, but people weren't rude about this at all. One example was the guy who started talking to me on the tram about the marathon. I said that I didn't speak German and he just switched to English and kept talking. When we got off the tram he pointed me in the direction I needed to go. Then, I was watching the marathon and this woman started talking to me. Again, I had to tell her I didn't speak German and she switched to English and we chatted until her son ran by. It was really nice, especially when you feel a little bad about not being able to speak the local language. I left Germany thinking the people were incredibly friendly as well as language geniuses. 
  • Speaking of language, it is possible to watch 2 hours of the German version of X-Factor and be completely entertained. It's probably better because you don't have to hear the judges banging on after each contestent, when all you really care about is if they're going to throw an X up there or not. 
  • The shopping there was fantastic!!! Girls wear sensible shoes and they throw on jackets when it's cold. I didn't see a pair of jeggings the entire weekend and I'd say you'd be hard pressed to find a pair of 6-in heels. It was so refreshing to see feminine clothes that don't make you look like a whore.
  • Probably the biggest thing that made us laugh were the crosswalks. People did not cross the street until the green man made an appearance. There would not be a car for miles and they would stand there waiting and waiting. They must thing the Irish are totally barbaric considering we rarely even cross at the crosswalk.
  • They like to put funny things on the tops (and sides) of their buildings:

  • The Germans are a very sporty people. Not only was there a marathon run that day, they also had a half marathon, an in-line skating marathon, and these crazy scooter-type things marathon:

Here comes Wes! He's the one checking his watch.
  • Two suggestions were made to me of things we shouldn't miss while in Köln: ride the cable car across the river and go to the El-De Museum. We did both and they were great, but perhaps the best time to admit that you're terrified isn't when you're in a cable car headed up into the sky. The views were amazing, but we were happy to get into the station!

The EL DE House is the former headquarters of the Gestapo in Köln. I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside, but it was fascinating. We spent about 3 hours there. The basement was a small prison that they used to detain people prior to questioning. The rest of the building is a museum about the rise of the Nazi party in the city. There was an audio tour in English, but unfortunately the captions on the photos were all in German. Regardless, it was well worth a visit.
  • Did you know that the Dom is home to the remains of three wise men?? Neither did I! They live here:

  • You can help the Dom replace some of their broken stained glass windows by donating enough money to have a window made with your family name on it. This one is my favorite. It's was actually purchased by the owner of a popular music and video shop called, you guessed it, Saturn.

  • Curious about what our hotel looked like?? There were little hotels all over the carpet.

  • And because this post isn't long enough, here are a few more of my favorites from the weekend:


      1. now i'm hungry (and thirsty)!! great report :)

      2. Awesome! I want to go to the old Gestapo house now.

      3. Hi! I just hope this is your most active blog, I see you blog a lot! Thanks so much for the tip, we are further south of Dublin so Herbert Park wouldn't be too convenient for yoga, I'll stick with what I have just wouldn't recommend it as I find the selling pitch way overboard! You seemed to have had a fab time, love the pics! Glad I got to know you a bit more, love, Fran

      4. Thanks for reading, Fran! Bummer about the yoga, but at least it's only until December!

      5. We took a German class a few years ago and the professor told us that Germans don't cross the street against the light because they feel it sets a bad example for their children. Safety first!

      6. Interesting! Thanks for that!