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A Visit to Cologne with Friends

[I was out of town for the weekend so be prepared for a blitz of new posts about things that happened up to over a week ago.]

Our first guests from the USA, Keith & Alyssa, came to visit us for a long weekend June 11th. They are currently on a tour of Europe: taking trains from Great Brittan to Sweden with lots of stops and detours in between. While they were here we took the time to cross one of those 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by taking a trip to Cologne, Germany to see and walk up the Cologne Cathedral.

I enjoyed Cologne, so I’ll only take a small detour to say it was our silver-lining around a EURail debacle. Keith & Alyssa have been traveling using a EURail pass and have had nothing but trouble with it. The company told them they could save money on the booking fees by getting all their tickets once they arrived at their first EURail country. Instead it turned out that they have had to book tickets as they went along. And paying booking feeds of course. The Maastricht Station said they couldn’t help them book a ticket to Copenhagen, but we found out that the train station in Eindhoven could so we woke up bright and early to get their tickets squared away. Based on their experience, I’d recommend caution to others considering the EURail pass. It might be better if you only plan on using local & regional train (which are free, but I don’t know how the cost would shake out) or can book everything before leaving the States. Fortunately, Cologne is a straight shot by train from Eindhoven, so it made sense to head there next.

The Cologne Cathedral is truly a masterpiece of Gothic design. One of the largest cathedrals in the world (the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe), its placement on a hill made it tower over the city. Inside there were many shrines including one of the oldest wooden crucifixes in Europe, an early shrine to Mother Mary, and the Shrine and Reliquary of the Three Magi. Contrary to its name, the brochure we picked up said that there are two saints enshrined in the reliquary; not the three wise men.

After exploring the inside of the cathedral, we decided to scale to the top of one of the towers. 533 steps around and around. Exhausting. Rather dangerous too, with all the tourists we had to pass on the way up and down.

The view at the top was breathtaking, of course, and it was fun to see the outside carvings up close. They look almost like lace and frills from far away, but are quite substantial when you stand right next to them. The tower still extended well above the highest staircase.

The bells could also be viewed and we walked around the set up 4 bells of varying size and weight. I was lucky enough not to be in the bell tower when it went off. Alyssa was not so lucky and was caught by the hourly bell. Not fun.

Back on terra firma, the four of us went on a boat cruise to rest our feet. It lasted an hour and the audio tour part wasn’t much to listen to, but the view was lovely. And we can now say we’ve taken a cruise on the Rhine.

Sadly, by that time we got off the boat, the Chocolate Museum was closed for the day. None of us were hungry for a big dinner (we had a big German-style lunch), so we went for the next best thing. Dessert!

We settled in to an ice cream café where they served all sorts of strange sundaes. Keith & Alyssa ordered one loaded with nuts, chocolate pieces, and berries. I ordered a tiramisu themed one which had lots of cream and coffee ice cream. And Dan got the most interesting dessert: a vanilla “lasagna” with a whipped cream filling, flat layers of vanilla ice cream, and red berries for sauce. All around a tasty alternative to dinner.

We got home from Cologne pretty late, but it was a good time. Check out my Flickr for more photos.

The next day Keith & Alyssa checked out the caves of Maastricht with us before catching their train to Amsterdam. But that is a story for another post.

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