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A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

Cologne Cathedral A Stag Weekend in Cologne

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

September 2008.

Cover photo courtesy of Neuweiser.

In late 2008 I was 30 years old and just a few weeks away from getting married. It was an exciting period in which S and I were incredibly busy with the million and one details that needed attending to. And, of course, completely clueless that ultimately our lives together were not meant to be.

When I look back on that time, some of my favourite memories lie wrapped up in my stag weekend. That’s bachelor party in British English, for any confused readers across the pond. The importance of such an event was not lost on me. After all, this would be the first (and pretty much only) time all my closest friends and I would be together in one place at the same time.

Stag horns art.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne

Choosing a location for my stag weekend was not a decision I took lightly. I wanted it to be a knockout celebration in an epic location. First, I tried convincing my chosen ones that we could all go to Las Vegas. However, when push came to shove that proved a financial commitment too great for some. 

Next, I flirted with the idea of Pamplona. But back in those days I had my heart set on The Running of the Bulls, which had already taken place in the summer. Eventually, after a host of proposed destinations, I settled on a somewhat practical city that would suit everyone. 

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

Deciding where to have your stag night

Decisions, decisions.

I was living in Brussels at the time, just two hours from the German city of Cologne by train. I had barely seen anything of Germany and, after some online research, found myself quickly charmed by its cathedral and vibrant nightlife. This, I figured, should play out well for a weekend of history, culture and booze. Although not necessarily in that order. 

A Stag Weekend in Cologne 2008.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

Cologne would be equally convenient for a number of my fellow stags. My buddy and squash partner Erik (pictured below, yellow sweater) also resided in Brussels. As did Chris, my good friend who I met while working for the Swiss Coffee giant Nespresso.

It wouldn’t be too far for Flo either, my future brother-in-law who travelled down to Brussels from Amsterdam. The bulk of the crew meanwhile, my old college friends Ad, Palmer and Steve C, took a short Easyjet flight from London. In fact, it was only the best man, Jon ‘Goldblum Crisp’ (white shirt), who had to make a major effort with a flight from Nashville, Tennessee.

Train from Brussels to Cologne September 2008

On the Thalys train from Brussels to Cologne.

Our Thalys train from Brussels was one of those high-speed affairs that felt like we’d arrived in the click of a finger. This being a stag weekend, we wasted no time in cracking open the beers. Looking back, I do have to grimace somewhat at the sight of Jupiler, a decidedly bog standard Belgian beer. I guess we simply took what was available that day.

On the way to Germany.

A stag Weekend in Cologne.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

On arrival we jumped on a bus to our modest digs, Station Backpackers Hostel. Boy, did these guys put a capital B into budget, with cramped dorms, creaky beds and discoloured blankets, sheets and pillows. Nevertheless, we could have no complaints… we got precisely what we’d paid for. Except perhaps Erik’s unbearable snoring, which came free of charge.

Station Backpackers Hostel A Stag Weekend in Cologne

Ad (left) and Chris with beers at the hostel.

As a blogger, I would like to think that I manage to go deep into the locations I write about. As you may have figured out by now, I love burrowing right into the history and identity of a place. That said, I should take this moment to hold my hands up and say this is not one of those articles.

While I have never been much of a drinker or party animal, this was my stag weekend after all. There were certain expectations, shall we say, of what the trip would be. Thus much of the weekend unfolded in a fuzzy, bar-hopping dream of alcohol, food and banter.

Indian Restaurant A Stag Weekend in Cologne

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

On our first evening we had a giant feast at an Indian restaurant, the name of which remains lost to the vaults of time. Here, Jupiler was cast aside in favour of Kingfisher, which is the only beer one should have when devouring a Chicken Tikka Masala with pilau rice. Not sure what Palmer found so amusing about his curry.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

Stiefel Bar A Stag Weekend in Cologne

Stiefel Bar.

With our stomachs lined, the merriment began in earnest across several establishments in and around Maastrichter Street. I loved Cologne’s bar scene. Wherever we went it was dark, cosy and unpretentious, the walls packed with pop art and graffiti. 

The standout joint was Stiefel Bar, where the sound system pumped out Ramones, Pixies and a broad range of Krautrock. Indeed I believe this is where I first heard Kraftwerk‘s majestic Trans Europe Express.

Playing fussball A Stag Weekend in Cologne

Fussball!

Moreover, it was here that we immersed ourselves in fussball! Just about every bar we went into had a table or two. And while I was no stranger to table football as a kid, I had no idea that it most likely originated in regions of France and Germany in the late 1800s.

Fussball in Cologne.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

According to historians, it’s not known who actually invented table football/fussball. Most agree that it existed for years as homemade contraptions before several people eventually got around to patenting it.

One of these was an Englishman, Harold Searles Thornton. Another was the renowned French engineer Lucien Rosengart. That evening in Cologne, I remember chatting to a local guy who seemed delighted by our fussball enthusiasm.

“If there’s no fussball, it’s not a real Cologne bar!” he laughed, clinking his beer mug with mine. 

The French engineer Lucien Rosengart.

Lucien Rosengart: A shrewd businessman.

Later that evening, in some forgotten venue, we switched to pool and German beers such as Erdinger and Paulaner. By now the alcohol levels were starting to take hold, but not so much that we couldn’t have a decent competition.

Playing pool A Stag Weekend in Cologne

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

There comes a time in just about every stag night that the group leaves the pubs and bars behind. In favour of… how shall I put it… dance establishments. I won’t say too much about this part of the weekend, other than the fact that some people enjoyed dance performances and some did not.

Table dance A Stag Weekend in Cologne

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

Along the way, shots were consumed and someone even upgraded to whisky. In a dark corner of a place called Stardust, one of the group and I had a heart to heart, during which there was a revelation of some magnitude. It was a touching moment that played out in an unlikely location. Sometimes, this is how life pans out.

Game over A Stag Weekend in Cologne

Somewhere in Cologne.

The above photo is one of my favourite shots of the weekend. It would have been the wee hours of the morning and lord only knows where we were. All I can say, with some authority, is that we all made it back to the hostel in one piece and that there was no vomiting in the street.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

Stag Weekend in Cologne a walk down memory lane

Day 2.

The next day some of us (myself included) were up and about by mid morning. Others not until late morning, while one sorry straggler didn’t make an appearance until early afternoon. At some point we all managed to gather in the same place for lunch and… yes… more beers.

Cologne Coat of arms.

Next on the agenda was a bit of sightseeing, namely a visit to Cologne Cathedral. With a long and complex history dating back to 1248, legend has it this Gothic, World Heritage masterpiece once contained relics of The Three Wise Men

Visit Cologne Cathedral.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

That afternoon us eight unwise men trooped into the cathedral without a single fragment of gold, frankincense or myrrh. Naturally we were wowed by the cathedral’s splendour, especially the nave with its stunning stained glass windows. A gift, don’t you know, from Ludwig I, The King of Bavaria. 

Inside Cologne Cathedral.

Inside Cologne Cathedral.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Robbin.

Furthermore, we climbed the 533 steps to the cathedral’s Southern Tower. During our ascent, we stopped to rest our weary legs and fuzzy heads. And to admire a giant bronze bell, one of 11 such bells that calls the cathedral home.  

Cologne Cathedral.

Inside Cologne Cathedral.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

At the top the views were lovely, despite the day’s uncompromising greyness. In fact, I remember the fresh chill in the air perking me up as I gazed out over Hohenzollern Bridge. Indeed a silence fell over the group for the first (and perhaps only) time that weekend as everyone stood taking in the city, lost in their own thoughts.

Visit Cologne.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

Back on the city streets, our wanderings took us to the pretty Cologne City Museum. Housed in a former armoury building, its fine exterior wooed us in with its Dutch renaissance style shuttered windows. Inside, the various exhibits hold over 350.000 objects related to Cologne’s history, from The Middle Ages right through to the present day. 

Cologne City Museum September 2008

Cologne City Museum.

Wherever you go in Germany, you’re never too far from a sombre World War II sight. In Cologne the narrative doesn’t get much darker than the National Socialism Documentation Centrewhich details the depressing history of The Third Reich. 

NS Documentation Centre Cologne.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

Talk about a giant comedown on what was supposed to be a celebratory weekend. Chillingly, this museum sits in the EL-DE House, the former headquarters of The Cologne Gestapo. In between the info boards and dusty items in glass cases, we found ourselves passing through an actual former prison. One of the best-preserved detention centres, they say, in Germany. 

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

The National Socialism Documentation Centre in Cologne

National Socialism Documentation Centre Cologne.

With afternoon drifting into early evening, we moved back into a carefree flow of bar visits. Much later, towards midnight, a friendly barman recommended “The best nightclub in Cologne!” Situated on the outskirts of town, we jumped into two separate taxis, our drivers seemingly engaged in a race to get us to our destination. Yikes!

Somewhere in Cologne Stag Weekend memories

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

I have no idea who won. What I do recall though is the bizarre venue itself, a huge establishment with smooth trip hop, abusively expensive drinks and attention-grabbing table service. 

Beers and shots A Stag Weekend in Cologne

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

Upstairs, there was floor after floor of corridors and rooms. It was exceptionally creepy, a bit like The Shining’s Overlook Hotel meets The Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. For the record, I I did not meet The Man from Another Place and I had no interest whatsoever in peeking behind the red curtains! 

The Black Lodge Twin Peaks.

The unnamed place we went to in Cologne. Or is it the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks?

It was some ungodly hour of the morning that we finally called for taxis back to the hostel. We were all thoroughly sloshed and unspeakably tired. Particularly Chris, who passed out by the entrance doors while we waited for our chariots.

A Stag Weekend in Cologne.

Retro Cologne Memories of a stag weekend

He’s had enough.

What a cathartic process it has been reliving this 14 year old get together. In the time that has passed I have been married, divorced and traveled the world. And now I’m happier than I have ever been, chiefly thanks to my wonderful Sladja.

The friends in this article meanwhile have had marriages and divorces of their own. Not to mention children, job changes, dearly departed parents and many more of the ups and downs we are all destined to go through. I like how this article captures us at one brief carefree moment. Thanks for reading about my Stag Weekend in Cologne.

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44 Comments

  • thehungrytravellers.blog

    Ah, an old school stag weekend – I think you made a good choice with Germany, where the cities just lend themselves to such an event. In the unlikely event that I ever organise a blokey weekend of similar proportions, I’d do my damnedest to get everyone to Dusseldorf. It’s brilliant there. For blokes. It’s good that you have good memories from the weekend, stag do’s are probably the only time we get such a group of closest friends together.

    April 27, 2022 - 9:58 am Reply
    • Leighton

      I’ve heard good things about Düsseldorf, really must put some time aside for extended German travels one of these years. Thanks for reading and commenting, just dropped you an email 🙂

      April 27, 2022 - 10:19 am Reply
      • thehungrytravellers.blog

        Yes, seen – will reply shortly, just loading the backpacks ready to head to Kairouan

        April 27, 2022 - 10:20 am
  • travelling_han

    This is lovely, what a lovely care free moment with your closest friends. I loved Cologne, and also found visiting EL-DE a moving experience. I got married 10 years ago this year (at the ripe old age of 23!), and I can’t believe how so much of my life, and my friend’s lives, have changed slowly – without even always realising it. It’s good to reminisce 🙂

    April 27, 2022 - 11:49 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Great to see we have another shared location Hannah. I wonder how many stag groups included the EL-DE in their itinerary. You’re right, the passing of time is a strange old thing. Thanks for reading!

      April 27, 2022 - 12:16 pm Reply
  • Sheree

    One of my beloved’s and my proud boasts is that neither of us has ever been respectively on a stage or hen do. However, I know Cologne well and applaud your choice of venue.

    April 27, 2022 - 12:48 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think it’s a good boast, as boasts go. I have never been to another person’s stag do and would run a mile from such scenarios these days. Still, I have fond memories of that weekend, thanks for reading Sheree!

      April 27, 2022 - 2:37 pm Reply
      • Sheree

        Always a pleasure Leighton

        April 27, 2022 - 4:29 pm
  • Lyssy In The City

    What a cool place for a stag, I don’t think you really missed anything in Vegas. I have read a lot of British chic-lit type books so I have heard of hen do and stag, although have read more about hen dos haha. We didn’t have the bachelor/bachelorette parties due to covid, but I went to my friend’s party in Scottsdale, AZ and one was enough for my lifetime ha!

    April 27, 2022 - 1:26 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Totally agree with the “once in a lifetime” sentiment. Thanks for stopping by Lyssy!

      April 27, 2022 - 2:39 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    What a lovely look back on times past. It’s been great reminiscing with you on the fun weekend you spent with your closest friends. Life is all about change and living for the moment and of course the best news is that you have found true happiness now with Sladja. Cologne is memorable to me as we visited just as the world was shutting down in March 2020 but we still enjoyed ourselves and thankfully stayed well.

    April 27, 2022 - 1:35 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion, for reading another piece that is so personal to me. I would like to return to Cologne one day and do it properly. But as with so many other locations, who knows if I’ll get there. Visiting while the pandemic was going down must have been an experience. Were attractions literally shutting down before your eyes?

      April 27, 2022 - 2:42 pm Reply
      • Little Miss Traveller

        They were indeed, we were booked to take the tower top tour but that closed the morning of our visit (gladly the cathedral itself was still open though). Some other venues we were booked into had notes stuck on their doors stating that they had to temporarily close but others, not council run were still open. The hotel was operating as normal and beer halls and restaurants were open but only if you ordered food which was fine by us. Do hope you get back to Cologne to enjoy a few days there with Sladja sometime.

        April 27, 2022 - 3:43 pm
  • kagould17

    Looks like a great stag with a great bunch of mates. No worries understanding what a stag is…it is often called that here too. What better place for a stag than in Germany. The switch to German beer should have been made sooner though. Loved the matching T-shirts….and good on you for retaining any memories of this trip Leighton. Cheers. Allan

    April 27, 2022 - 1:48 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It was a fun weekend Allan and very enjoyable to blog up. This kind of article, I find, writes itself. Thanks for stopping by!

      April 27, 2022 - 3:10 pm Reply
  • Memo

    I’ve only experienced a stag weekend in the movies. Yours actually looks rather tame or is that just a writer’s discretion at work? It undoubtedly was a special occasion that you enjoyed with a group of special friends. Don’t know if I could handle that much beer but the cathedral looked intriguing.

    April 27, 2022 - 1:49 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think it’s a mix, Memo. Compared with the average stag ours probably was tame. Then again, there were definitely a few key incidents I’ve left out 😉 The cathedral was impressive and I know there must have been 101 cool spots I missed out on. Maybe I can make amends one day.

      April 27, 2022 - 2:45 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    I was wondering about the meaning of ‘stag’ … thanks for clearing that up!
    How amazing that Jon travelled so far to join you for this weekend! I like those t-shirts 😄 … almost as much as the inside of Cologne Cathedral and that view. Although life didn’t worked out as planned (actually much better now with Sladja it seems), it’s great to look back to such a wonderful and carefree weekend!

    April 27, 2022 - 4:59 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re exactly right Corna. Life these days is just the way I want it to be and all of life’s varied chapters have been part of the journey. Cologne was one of those, thanks for reliving it with me.

      April 27, 2022 - 5:32 pm Reply
  • Steve Chambers

    Absolutely loved reading this Leighton and reminded me of what was a fantastic weekend. Hope you are well.

    April 27, 2022 - 5:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Steve, this article has been through a few versions but this is the piece finally laid to rest. It was a great weekend, glad you were part of it.

      April 27, 2022 - 5:44 pm Reply
  • Anonymous

    Hey Leighton,
    I enjoyed this piece very much. Thanks for putting out such a personal article.
    Regards,
    Juliet.

    April 27, 2022 - 8:50 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you for reading Juliet and leaving such a lovely comment! Hope all is well with you in sunny Florida.

      April 27, 2022 - 9:17 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    I got a good laugh out of your matching Game Over t-shirts. Sounds like it was a memorable weekend.

    April 28, 2022 - 2:16 am Reply
    • Leighton

      The t-shirts were, I believe, the brainwave of my brother in law to be, Flo. Pretty sure I still have mine in a box somewhere. Thanks for reading!

      April 28, 2022 - 8:19 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    I’ve always found it strange (yet cute) that you Englishmen call bachelor/bachelorette parties stag and hen, respectively. Las Vegas would’ve been an epic trip (if it weren’t for being far from you and many of your mates), but Cologne is a solid one to partake in! I had a brief day trip there almost six years ago, and the Cologne Cathedral certainly is a stunner, especially from up high. Glad you had a wonderful time (and seemingly tamed, by your accounts)!

    April 28, 2022 - 4:20 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah yes, I thought you had been to Cologne, maybe I read something about that? Yes pretty tame I’d say, we were hardly The Wolfpack from The Hangover. Would still love to do Las Vegas one day…

      April 28, 2022 - 8:24 am Reply
  • 100 Country Trek

    Some interesting places to visit in Cologne. So much of a great adventure and fun time with friends.

    April 29, 2022 - 2:14 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Anita!

      April 29, 2022 - 8:20 am Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    Sounds like a riotous good time with your friends! Although I had to laugh that after a day of drinking and a questionable dance place that the next stop was a church 😉 But the reminiscing felt familiar of being married and divorced and then more happily married within such a time. But I’m a big believer in the idea that way leads to way and maybe our less than wonderful first attempts in marriage lead us to the better that we enjoy now.

    May 2, 2022 - 3:12 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha where better than to ask for “forgiveness” eh? Couldn’t agree more Meg, I feel a lot of people have to go on a long journey before they end up in the right place with the right person.

      May 2, 2022 - 8:35 pm Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    A wonderfully memorable good time with friends… not many times those good friends can get together once you/we all start our busy lives in different places. The shirts were great!

    May 2, 2022 - 8:32 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      The shirts were fun, the only occasion I would agree to such a thing ha ha. Thanks for reading!

      May 2, 2022 - 8:38 pm Reply
  • Cuties Blog

    This was a fun read, I like the humor in your writing.

    May 3, 2022 - 4:36 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank for reading and for your kind words!

      May 3, 2022 - 4:46 pm Reply
  • ourcrossings

    I am glad to hear you had a memorable time at your stag party in Cologne, but I bet you left some bits out because we all know that a stag weekend is a perfect opportunity to do something crazy! I think the key to throwing a fantastic stag party/hen party is pleasing the masses and keeping it simple. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    May 6, 2022 - 9:43 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re right Aiva, I did omit a few details that were not for public consumption 😉 Thanks for reading!

      May 7, 2022 - 1:20 pm Reply
  • Alison

    You made some great memories that weekend and probably only remember them by looking at the photos!

    May 10, 2022 - 1:16 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yeah, definitely a few photos I had no recollection of. Thanks for reading Alison .

      May 10, 2022 - 5:21 pm Reply
      • Alison

        I’ve had those moments too especially when you used to have to send your roll of film away, such a shock looking through the photos 😂

        May 11, 2022 - 12:30 am
  • ThingsHelenLoves

    Cologne is a fabulous city, for stag weekends of otherwise! I’m very impressed you included the Cathedral and a museum visit in with the usual shenanigans. Have you been back to Cologne since?

    May 12, 2022 - 1:47 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Helen, sadly I haven’t. I think we’d love to spend a few months travelling around Germany. But with so many countries on our hit list, not sure if we’ll ever get round to it.

      May 12, 2022 - 3:41 pm Reply
  • Cherryl

    Good times!! The thought of that Indian feast is making me hungry lol 😋

    May 14, 2022 - 1:14 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Cherryl, me too. I’m always up for an Indian feast anytime. Thanks for reading!

      May 14, 2022 - 3:20 pm Reply

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