Travel Report: Cologne, Germany.
September 2008. Choosing a location for my stag weekend was not a decision I took lightly. My dream had always been to have a grand bachelor party trip to Las Vegas, but when push came to shove it proved a financial commitment too great for my chosen ones. I then flirted with the idea of Pamplona, but for me it absolutely had to be during the running of the bulls, so this time availability was the issue. In the end I made a practical decision that worked out well for everyone. I was living in Brussels at the time and the German city of Cologne was just a two-hour train-ride away. It seemed ideal as a) I’d never been to Cologne and b) it was a location everyone could easily get to from London and Brussels. Well, except for the one guy coming from Nashville, Tennessee, he was hardcore. Described by Lonely Planet as Germany’s “gothic masterpiece”, the idea was roundly accepted and we began making plans for Cologne 2008.
September 2008. My London based friends flew to Cologne with those budget scallywags Ryanair, while the remaining five of us, including myself, took the high-speed Thalys train from Brussels. Cologne is superbly connected by European rail networks, particularly those from Belgium, France and The Netherlands. Our journey was exactly 1 hour 53 minutes and from my records I paid around €70 for my return ticket. Today’s prices show that a return journey from Brussels can go from anywhere between €60-150, so play around with dates and times. For more info, click here to navigate the Thalys website.
September 2008. This certainly isn’t going to be my standard travel report. In fact, I was half wondering if I could even make an article out of it, as frankly that long ago Cologne trip wasn’t exactly what you’d call a cultural weekend. It was my stag trip after all, so of course there was a great deal of drinking, eating and… general merriment. Much of Cologne’s night revelry can be enjoyed on Maastrichter Street and indeed this is where we dipped in and out of a whole host of bars and clubs.
September 2008. I really liked the vibe of Cologne’s bar scene. Wherever we went it was dark and dingy and they seemed to play excellent alternative music, with plenty of Ramones, Pixies and of course a broad range of Krautrock. These bars were invariably packed with pop art and sprawling graffiti. The above shot was taken in Stiefel Bar, the perfect embodiment of a solid Cologne watering hole.
September 2008. Wherever we went the bars of Cologne all seemed to have table football, so we ended up playing out some epic battles over the course of the weekend. I remember meeting a German guy a few years later who proudly told me “If there’s no fussball, it’s not a real Cologne bar!”
September 2008. I’m proud to say that the weekend wasn’t all about drinking and junk food. I was insistent from the very beginning that, at the very least, we pay a visit to the impressive Cologne Cathedral. We were more than a little hung-over that afternoon as we approached its immense twin-towered gothic facade. The building dates back to 1248 and took over six hundred years to complete!
There are five hundred and thirty three steps in the climb up Cologne Cathedral’s Southern Tower (95m). I remember seeing the large bell on the way up, but in my hungover delicateness I neglected to photograph it, no doubt desperately in need of some fresh air. The resulting views out over the city were decent, despite the ruling greyness. The above photo takes in Hohenzollern Bridge, which safely carries around 1,200 trains over The River Rhine everyday. Which apparently makes it the most heavily used railway bridges in Germany. For a deeper look into Cologne Cathedral, check out their website here.
September 2008. We also briefly popped our heads into Cologne City Museum, which is housed in the charming Old Armoury Building, with its Dutch renaissance style red and white shuttered windows. The museum details Cologne’s development from The Middle Ages to the booming metropolis of today through special exhibitions with archive videos. They also do public tours, though sadly only in German. For more on what there is to see and do here, head for their website.
September 2008. Wherever you find yourself in Germany, you’re never too far away from a sombre World War II sight. In Cologne the narrative doesn’t get any darker than at the National Socialism Documentation Centre, which details the city’s Third Reich’s history. The museum was constructed in the EL-DE House, the former headquarters of The Cologne Gestapo. Chillingly, the exhibition features an actual former prison, one of the best preserved Nazi detention centres in Germany. You can walk right through it and see some of the 1,800 scribblings on the walls from those unfortunate enough to have been held here. For a closer look, pay a visit to Cologne Tourism’s information page.
September 2008. On our final evening in Cologne, a barman recommended some particularly impressive nightclub situated on the outskirts of town. Bundling into two separate taxis, our respective drivers took it upon themselves to make a race out of it! Not that the driving was reckless or anything, but in our inebriated states it still felt like quite a thrill as we whizzed off towards our mysterious destination. In all the excitement and the passing of the years, I have no idea who won. What I do remember though is the venue itself, a huge establishment with abusively expensive drinks, table service and a number of upstairs floors that resembled The Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. Just for the record, I did not meet The Man From Another Place and I had no interest whatsoever in peeking behind the red curtains! Amen.
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