Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cologne/Köln: We Meet Again

Köln/Cologne - the city of Kölsch, Karneval, and one of Europe's finest cathedrals. We'd already visited it three times - the first as a sightseeing daytrip, the second to participate in some Improv Everywhere goofiness, and the third for my husband to give a talk at the university (guess I never blogged that one).  Last fall, our yearly expat meet-up was slated for Cologne, and despite it not being technically new to us, we were pretty psyched.  The meet-up had already in the past been for us a way to really learn a city that we'd been to already in a new, better, closer way, and we knew enough about Cologne to know that could only be a good thing.  And it was.

Koeln Okt 11

The trip started with a beautiful train trip up the Rhein/Rhine.  After arrival and check-in at the cheapie Hotel Ibis in the Barbarossaplatz, we returned to the center and had a lovely pre-sunset walk along the Hohenzollern Bridge (home to zillions of those love locks I wrote about before) before meeting up with people at a Mexican restaurant on the east side of the river. 

The following morning was a major highlight (SEE THE PHOTOS, SRSLY) which we almost missed due to misjudging the time we needed to get there - a tour of the roof of the Dom (Cologne's very famous cathedral).  I can't recommend this enough.  The views of the inside of the cathedral you get can't compare with anything from the ground level.  Getting to see the pixel window (in the thumbnail above) designed by Gerhard Richter (I really like this guy) up close was amazing - and it was just the right time of day for light to be coming through it.  The details on the other windows and the flying buttresses and gargoyles we could see up close were also incredible.  All of this is followed up by a climb to a little gazebo on the roof where you get views of the entire city.  DO THIS IF YOU CAN!!

That afternoon we got to see the bone room at St. Ursula's church - a church we'd actually visited before, but we didn't know about the bone room at the time.  Resident on Earth has a great post on it here, and I also have some photos in my album above.  Short synopsis: Ursula is the patron saint of Cologne.  According to legend she was martyred along with anywhere between 11 and 11,000 of her virgin friends.  At some point they were digging around in Cologne and came upon a mass grave of Roman soldier bones, which they figured were actually the bones of all those martyred virgins.  A bunch of nuns then used these supposed martyr bones to decorate a room at the church.  Normal stuff, right?  It's really cool if you're into relics and stuff.

We followed that up with cake at Merzenich, followed by some nice views from the Triangle Tower.  Then we staged an expat takeover of the Päffgen Brewery, where we had our first experience with Kölsch As She Should Be Served.  It comes in tiny glasses because it, like most beer, tastes better cold.  With such small glasses, you drink it all before it gets warm.  Then, if you don't cover up the glass with your coaster, there's an automatic understanding between you and the waiter that you want another glass.  The number of glasses you've had is tallied up on your coaster - pretty brilliant! 

The massive drinking fest there was topped off by the annual TQEQE - That Queer Expatriate's Queer Expedition - where Adam of TQE chooses a chill gay bar where we can all enjoy the rest of the evening.  I think the place was called Maxbar but I don't remember for sure...there was a disco ball hanging from a chain outside the door, and we had the BEST bartender ever. If you think you can't get good customer service in Germany, you are wrong and Maxbar is proof. Adam is really good at picking places with friendly service.

If all this got you interested, you should know that we're already in the first stage of planning next year's expat blogger meetup!  If you live in Germany and have an English-language blog, come on over, register, and get involved! 


  1. Great pics! I think the area inside covered in rainbow light Richter window was one of my top spots ever to visit.

  2. I loved that pixel window, even from the floor of the cathedral. It was stunning. And Adam does seem to have a gift for finding bars with the right environment and super-friendly (and patient!) staff.

    Wonder where we'll end up this year?


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