So try to swallow your bitter disappointment at not being treated to a pun (I know, I know, it's hard, but my Dad will probably be along in the comments to suggest something) and let's forge ahead with the substance of today's post. That being, this weekend's impromptu trip to Cologne.
Why Cologne? It turns out it's only about 2 1/2 hours' drive from Luxembourg, and I'd heard nice things about the cathedral, so it was the perfect choice for a spontaneous weekend away. Even just typing "spontaneous weekend away" makes me happy, and it's definitely one of the fringe benefits of living/working somewhere there are 5+ countries within a few hours' drive (Luxembourg, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland...) Really, it's hard to find a better argument for living in Europe than that you can travel so easily to another country with a different language, food, culture and history. That goes double for those of us who come from a small island country which is about as far away from everywhere else as you can possibly get. Drive 2 1/2 hours from Auckland and you end up in Tokoroa:
|The 10th result in Google images for "Tokoroa"|
|In case you think the other top results were full of hidden gems: police, fights, carparks, fields, a weird tree, a cow and a statue of a guy with a chainsaw which is notable enough to appear 3 times|
At first glance, however, Cologne doesn't appear to have much more charm than the mean streets of Tokoroa. After parking in Europe's longest underground parking garage (I was told to put that in) (despite taking a photo of our lot, we managed to walk about 600 metres in the wrong direction when retrieving the car - the whole thing is nearly 2.5 miles long), and checking in to our lovely hotel on the banks of the Rhine, we headed out to see what Cologne had to offer early on a Friday evening. Wandering around the deceptively-named old city, it looked like pretty much everything had been bombed to oblivion and rebuilt c. 1965. This turns out to be not too inaccurate - Cologne was effectively razed in World War II, so other than the cathedral, something of a lone survivor from the bombing raids, we were struggling to find much to look at as we wandered through the city in search of a promising-looking cocktail bar that ended up to be non-existent. I spent an inderminate amount of this period, by the way, walking with my skirt inexplicably hiked all the way up at the back. Not tucked into my knickers or anything, it just somehow decided to head north of its own volition. Mortifying.
|View from our hotel room, with bunny|
|In front of the Colonius TV tower|
|Oh hai! It's Jules|
|Friend, head friend|
It was fine though, we managed to grab a cocktail at a tapas bar that was too full to eat at, and had dinner at what looked like a classy art-deco-style restaurant from the outside but which turned out to be a touristy German beer-hall on the inside. But hey, while in Germany, why not do the cheesy thing and chow down on some Wiener schnitzel and super salty fries (even if those are Austrian and Belgian respectively), washed down with French wine? Authentic!
The next day, we visited the Roman museum and the cathedral (separate post to follow), and had lunch and dinner at separate spots next to the Rhine. I think it's fair to say that Cologne grew on me a little more on further acquaintance. The museum was interesting, even if museum fatigue set in a bit towards the end; it was pleasant eating flammekueche outside on the banks of the Rhine while I basically stared at a guy on another table while trying to eavesdrop on enough of his conversation to determine whether or not he was a fellow Kiwi, and we had a nice dinner accompanied by champagne and some surprisingly half-decent German red wine. The banks of the Rhine have been developed in a nicer way than much of the rest of the city - there's that (somewhat generic) modernist style that's common to many port areas around the world, but it works well and certainly feels a cooler place to hang out than some of the fairly grim urban neighbourhoods we walked through on the Friday. I also had a bath while drinking wine (that's got to be in my top ten favourite activities) and we watched the F1, which are not Cologne-dependent pursuits, but which were fun nonetheless.
On Sunday, we were planning to visit the cathedral crypt and/or the chocolate museum (whose giant golden bunny, visible from our hotel room, had been luring Jules to a frankly inappropriate degree), but it turns out Cologne gets up fashionably late on a Sunday, so we wouldn't really have had time to wait around for them to open up. Instead, we made the most of the blue skies and sunshine to walk around the city a little more, in a quest for Sunday brunch that took way longer than it should have (the place we found online didn't start serving until 11 am, and everywhere else just had people drinking coffee or beer - they might rise late in Cologne, but they start drinking super early: there was an impressive collection of really quite drunk people out and about from around 7 pm on Friday). We finally got our bacon and eggs (me) and sausages and gross lard spread (Jules) and enjoyed the last of the sunshine before heading back to Luxembourg. (This trip was my first autobahn experience, by the way. Mum will probably be horrified that we were going up to 140 kph, but it didn't actually feel that fast.)
|Jules and the evil chocolate bunny|
|Just look at that smug bunny face|