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porcupine Cologne - A travel report by Bryan
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Cologne,  Germany - flag Germany -  Nordrhein-Westfalen
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porcupine's travel reports

Drenched In Cologne

  11 votes
In February 2008 I found myself in Cologne (Köln or Kölle locally) and Aachen in Germany during their rainy winter Carnival. For me this was somewhat unfortunate as I really don’t care for such events but I figured I’d share my experience anyway.

Revelry in front of the cathedral
Revelry in front of the cathedral
First of all, why don’t I like these events? Am I a stick in the mud, am I against fun? Maybe I am sometimes, but really I just wanted to see these cities and some of their museums and landmarks while I was passing through the area on my way home from 6 months in the middle east. One would think that I would be ready for a party at this point, but for me it was an interference. I have always wanted to see the cathedral in Cologne as it is undoubtedly the most beautiful Gothic structure in the world. Imagine my dismay to arrive there and find that it would be closed on all but my last day of visiting because of the Karneval. That’s to say nothing of the increased prices and lack of available lodging.

Favourite spots:
Cathedral at night
Cathedral at night
The people of Cologne love their Karneval. It is one of the longest running festivals in the world and it goes for almost a full week, culminating in the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday). If you are the kind of person who would enjoy or who has enjoyed Oktoberfest, I’m sure you would love Karneval in Köln. The streets are filled with cheerful Germans who are all drinking beer like it’s the first time they ever tasted such a recipe. If pretzel, beer, and sausages are your idea of a German stereotype then you will not be disappointed here. At one point I was walking through the streets literally kicking through a path of empty beer bottles and half eaten mustard coated sausages.

What's really great:
There are parades every day, but the final parade on Monday does have some pretty cool paper-maché type effigies of local, national, and international politicians in various compromising positions. In the evening you can also enjoy the spontaneous singing of provincial songs both on television, in your hotel, and at any bar/restaurant that sound suspiciously like a cross between selections from Pope Benedict’s iPod, and the soundtrack of “Triumph of the Will”. It’s my understanding that Germans outside of the Rhineland denounce the annual behavior of their provincial countrymen in embarrassment.

All this aside, one should certainly see the Köln Cathedral as I finally did on Tuesday, as well as the Ludwig museum for modern art in the shadow of the cathedral. Do not miss the Cathedral’s treasury. There is also a fairly large collection of smaller medieval churches but none of them struck me enough to say you must see them. I also enjoyed climbing the stairs of the cathedral’s spires for a wondrous architectural experience.

Since the Ludwig and the Cathedral are right next to the train station, you would do well to only pass through the city and see these items, even if it isn’t Karneval. If you must stay, I can recommend the Meininger hostel which is a bit of a walk from the train station, but a good value in an expensive city. Sorry Köln Chamber of Commerce, but if a friend was traveling there I would tell them to stay in the much more appealing nearby city of Düsseldorf.

The Pfalz
The Pfalz
Similarly the town of Aachen offers little as a destination unto itself, but the Pfalz of Charlemagne is a magnificent and important cathedral of pilgrimage that any one interested in Medieval history should see. The reliquaries in the treasury are unique and fascinating. Giant gold arms encasing the bones of saints, Christ’s leather belt, and the reliquary of Charlemagne, are among some of the intriguing items.

Charlemagne reliquary
Charlemagne reliquary
Anyone planning to go to Aachen to see Charlemagne's Seat should know that the area in the Pfalz where it is located is under restoration. Following a custom begun in 1349, every seven years the relics of Aachen are taken out of the shrine and put on display during the Great Aachen Pilgrimage. This pilgrimage most recently took place during June 2007 so the next will not be until 2014. Plan accordingly.

Published on Saturday April 19th, 2008

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Sat, May 10 2008 - 06:05 AM rating by marianne

good report, difficult to write about Köln as it not a number one tourist destination. You succeeded in making it an interesting read

Fri, Apr 25 2008 - 04:58 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Short report,but nice

Mon, Apr 21 2008 - 06:44 PM rating by bootlegga

Funny title!

Sun, Apr 20 2008 - 06:07 AM rating by davidx

Interestingly different to much on Cologne. Mention of Rosenmontag takes me back about 50 years but it was in a small town in Westfalen!

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