Cologne: back on the road

04/05/2012 at 7:02 pm Leave a comment

It’s great to be back on the road again even if it is only for three weeks this time. Having a full time job means that I can’t take three months off like I did last year.

This time I’m travelling alone which adds a whole new dimension to the travel experience.

Cologne was the first city that I decided to visit on the mini tour. Prior to my arrival I knew very little about the city and only really picked it because I thought it would be easy to get to be train.

My journey began early on a Saturday morning with a ride on the EuroStar to Brussels. I had planned to arrive in Brussels and almost immediately jump on another train to Cologne. However my plans were scuppered by the notoriously inefficient Germany rail network who arbitrarily decided to cancel the train. Thanks I.C.E.

It was an agonisingly long five hour wait until the next train. I could probably have jumped on a train to Liege or Maastricht but I couldn’t be bothered twatting about with connections.

To make matters worse I didn’t have any euros with me. Only a credit card. Prior to my departure I had called the nice people at Santander (other banks are available) to tell them that I would be travelling to Germany, Czech Republic and France in the hope that they would not block my card. I had deliberately missed Belgium off the list as I did not plan on spending any great length of time there.

I.C.E however had different ideas and made the executive decision that I would be spending the whole afternoon in Brussels-Midi. This meant a call to the bank so that I could withdraw some money and buy something to eat and drink.

I hate phoning the bank to ask for anything. The service is fine and everything but I always get “the fear” that I might fail security and have my card blocked. What if I accidentally forget my mother’s maiden name or the name of my first pet? I’d be stuck in Belgium with no food and no money and no prospect of ever returning home. I’d be one of those homeless people you see in Europe rooting through bins for empty bottles so they can take them to recycling points in exchange for money (or more beer).

Getting back on track. I passed security, had my card authorised for use, withdrew some euros and bought some food.

Eventually a train arrived as well and I headed off to Cologne. Some other people on the platform had been waiting around all day as well which made me feel a little less shit about the situation.

It was around 8pm by the time I arrived in Cologne. Much to my surprise the main train station is situated right next to Kölner Dom, the large gothic cathedral which is one of Cologne’s main points of interest.

From there I headed to Barbarossaplatz and the Black Sheep Hostel where I would be staying for the next three nights.

After checking in and dumping my stuff in the room I headed out in search of something to eat and drink. I met with a couple of German guys who had travelled over from Munich for the bank holiday weekend. Cologne is a major university town and pretty hip and happening by all accounts. The area around Barbarossaplatz in particular is home to many bars and restaurants.

Drinking on the street is very much the done thing in Germany. Go into any corner shop, buy a beer and the shop assistant will open it for you. You could never operate a system like that in the UK. Someone would definitely get bottled in the face. Beer is Germany is really cheap as well. You can get a large bottle for around €1.50 which further adds to my belief that cheap alcohol prices in the UK are not the problem. Anyway, that’s a subject for another day.
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On my first full day I went for a walk in one of Cologne’s many parks close to the university. The weather was superb and many people were out having barbecues, cycling or playing football. Coming from a relatively small town the equivalent at home would be gangs of teenagers drinking Smirnoff Ice in the park on a cold Friday night.

In the city centre itself I paid a visit to Kölner Dom. Amazingly it survived the second world war whilst most of the rest of the city centre was flattened by allied bombers. Consequently the cathedral now really stands out as a great piece of architecture amongst all the modern buildings.

A walk along the river Rhine is well worth it. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants although they are a lot more expensive then anything in the rest of the city. Another point of interest is the Hohenzollern Bridge, a train and foot bridge which crosses the river. All along the fencing between the train track and the footbridge people have attached “love padlocks” with their names engraved. How cute.

In the evening I headed back to the hostel and met with a group of Canadians who had travelled over to Europe to watch the world ice hockey championships. Later we were joined by a lone Australian who had been travelling the world for the past year. After exchanging stories over several beers we headed out for some traditional German bratwurst and sauerkraut.

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Entry filed under: Germany. Tags: , , , , , , .

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