Monday, July 13, 2015

Cologne (Köln), Germany

A couple days ago, my brothers and I took a "Day Trip" (left @ 6:30a on Saturday, came back @ 7am Sunday) with Explore Europe Travel to Cologne, Germany to see the famous Cologne Lights Festival, a firework display above the Rhine River. It was my 3rd trip with them, my past 2 experiences were great, so I figured this one would be fantastic as well. Wrong. 
Drew always drives when we travel, and I've become accustomed to not having to drive, so I jumped at the chance to do a bus tour instead of planning it on my own. Our trip included transportation, and a guided tour. Our tour guide compared the firework display to the firework show we see on the 4th of July.
We left Grafenwoehr at 6:30am. We stopped off 3 hours later in the Wurzburg area for breakfast. To save some money my brothers and I packed food for breakfast. We finally arrived in Cologne at 12:30p. It took about 6 hours to get there. Google maps puts says that it only takes about 4.5 hours to get there with traffic. Yay, for bus tours right?
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city. Cologne was founded and established in Ubii territory in the first century AD as the Roman Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium. Cologne was one of the most heavily-bombed cities in Germany during World War II, the Royal Air Force dropping 34,711 long tons of bombs on the city.
When we finally made it to Cologne it was about 87 degrees! It was going to be a hot day. We arrived with an hour to spare before our tour guide started. 
We were split up into 2 groups for our tour guide. Our tour guide sucked. That's the nice way to describe it. I hope the other group had a better time then us, but our tour guide was very bland, he just pointed at things and told us what they were.
 I can't ever catch a break with all the scaffolding!


Our first tour started off at the Cologne Cathedral. Our tour guide gave us minimal information on the Cathedral, and gave us some free time to go into the Cathedral on our own, on their website  it says it is about 4 euros to enter, but we didn't have to pay anything. What I gathered was to go around the cathedral with a tour guide you would have to pay. Our tour guide told us that he couldn't tell us anything in the cathedral because their were special tours for it and lots of paper work. Our guide told us that it took over 600 hundred years to complete! It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and is a World Heritage Site. It is Germany's most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day. I can see why. It's very impressive. Apparently it is the 5th largest Cathedral in Europe! (Funny thing is that I've actually seen 3 out of 5, St. Peters Basilica, Sevilla Cathedral, and now the Cologne Dom, I still need to see the Milan and Liverpool Cathedral!) The Cathedral it self is very impressive. I can see why when you google things about Cologne it's the first thing that pops up!



Out side of the Cathedral there is a remnant of the wall that surrounded the city back when the Roman's were in charge. Throughout the city you can still find bits and pieces of it. I'm pretty sure we found a piece near the Hard Rock Cafe, but there wasn't anything saying what it was, so I snapped a picture anyways.

One of the old entrances to the city
Our tour guide took us around the Old city of Cologne, besides the Cathedral there really isn't much to see/do. We did find the main shopping area, but since we I had taken my brothers shopping a couple days before hand they weren't interested in it. Our guide took us to see some of the oldest buildings in Cologne, we walked along the Rhine, and that was basically it. 
Little train that takes you to the Chocolate Factory

City Hall

JFK was in Cologne in 1963, after his assassination they put this sign up to remember that this is where he was.

My street is Hohe Str!
Had to take a pic of the HRC for the hubby

 Famous subjects of the jokes in Cologne, rubbing the nose means good luck

Hohenzollern Bridge

When we ended up on the Rhine our guide pointed out the Chocolate Factory and said that they were going to head off back to the Cathedral. I asked the EET leader if we could just leave since we wanted to see the Chocolate Factory. 

So we headed off to the Chocolate Factory Museum. The Factory mostly makes Lindt chocolates, which is my absolute favorite! We walked around the factory getting to see how things were made, It costs 9 euros to get in. If you have a student ID, make sure to bring it, you get a discounted rate! I guess I can still pass for a student, (thank you Asian genes) but they still want proof. We spent about 2 hours at the chocolate factory, not because it was interesting, but because they had A/C! There were literally A/C vents and seats next to them, I guess they know how to please their customers. 
I really wanted to buy chocolate, but it was 90 degrees out, and we had 6 hours before we would be back on the bus, I didn't want the chocolate to ruin because of the heat.


 LINDT! :D Best chocolate
 I wish I could've bought all of the chocolate! 

LOL. I had lots of friends I would've bought this for!

I did some research on the bus before we got to Cologne, and honestly besides the Cathedral and the Chocolate Factory, there wasn't much to do if you weren't into museums. (I'm not into museums)
From the Chocolate Factory we walked alone the Rhine River trying to figure out what to do. We ended up looking for some souvenirs, then heading to dinner. We got dinner at a little restaurant next to the Rhine River, near one of the oldest buildings in Cologne which dates back to 1685!

Dinner was alright, we got a round of the brewed beer in Cologne, and I wasn't a fan. They serve it to you in 0.3L, definitely a change from the 0.5- 1L you get served in Bavaria. And honestly, it tasted like ass. It tasted like Budlight. I'm not knocking Budlight, in college budlight was amazing, but after being in Germany for 2 years and tasting the amazing beer they have here, I have to say I was really disappointed. I think Bavaria has ruined Germany for me. I honestly think it is the best part of Germany, no wonder people from Bavaria are proud to be Bavarian's first, then Germans.

After Dinner we decided to head across the Hohenzollern bridge so we could find seats for the fireworks display. We still hadn't found any souvenirs, but I figured there would be shops on the other side of the bridge. There wasn't. So if you're looking for things to buy, get them in Old town! By the time we realized there was nothing on the other side, the bridge has closed to walkers and we were exhausted. So we followed the crowd of people and took a seat next to the Hohenzollern Bridge to wait for the fireworks to start. 

Love Locks are everywhere!

Around 10:30p the fireworks display had started, but we couldn't see anything from the bridge we were on! The display was on the other side of the bridge and the fireworks weren't even taller than the bridge. It was definitely not like the 4th of July! We decided to head to the Rhine Park where our tour guide suggested we go, we tried to go earlier but there were security guards blocking it off. But we were able to make it through and catch a part of the show going off. By that time it was 11:00p, we still had another hour and a half before we were able to get back on the bus. The 3 of us were beat. Cologne had really disappointed us, so we decided to start heading to the meet-up point. The map we were given said it wold take 30 minutes to walk from the Cathedral across the bridge to our meet up point. That was a lie. We were on the other side of the river, but with all the closures and crazy amounts of people it took us over 30 minutes to get to our meet up point. I was disappointed with where our meet up point was. We ended up finding another 3 person group, Mom and her 2 kids, that was on our tour as well and the 6 of us trekked it to our meet up point.  Our meet up point, was at 12:30a, and to put it nicely was too far away! It was a Radison Blue Hotel, located in the middle of NO WHERE!

The one good thing about heading back to meet up point early was that we got to sit down. The weather had finally started to cool off and we got to see the fireworks from the Parking lot!
All in all Cologne wasn't my cup of tea. Maybe it would have been different if Drew was here, but we'll never know. I do know that I don't think I'll be back to visit.