We started our tour of the city yesterday after we arrived midday. After checking into our hotel, we headed straight for the Cathedral of Cologne.
This is the church I've been waiting for since we moved to Europe. It's a gorgeous Gothic-style cathedral; complete with gargoyles, saints, prophets, spires, and bells outside and stained glass, relics, prayer candles, mosaics, and a crypt inside - simply breath taking.
|See the shiny gold box? It's supposed to contain bits of the 3 magi.|
It's one of the city's most proud monuments, can be seen from many places around the city, and adorns all sorts of touristy kitsch and lovely paintings and prints.
|The back of the Cathedral|
Next to the Cathedral is the stop for the Cologne "Bimmelbahn" - a small trolley dressed up like a steam engine that for €6 for adults and €3.50 for kids under 12 (for a round trip) can be taken around town for a brief tour with a recording in German and English talking about the highlights of the city. There are two different routes, but we rode the route toward the Zoo and Botanic Gardens so we didn't have to walk toward the Botanic Gardens. The ride itself was fine, but on both of our rides the audio kept cutting out for both languages, making it difficult to really know what it was talking about. However, we did get to see some parts of the city that we might not see on foot or by public bus. The bus only runs from March through November, but it seems like it's also available in December for the Christkindlmarkts.
|A giddy Little Man, post Bimmelbahn ride.|
Our trip through the Botanic Gardens was nice, even despite the heat. We purposely kept to the shady parts of the garden and spent about 1.5 hours wandering the grounds before heading back to the Zoo/Flora stop for the Bimmelbahn. For a free admission, it was well worth the visit. On the grounds are all sorts of plants (as one would expect), but you can also find bee hives (located and fenced off a safe distance from visitors' walking paths), frogs in the ponds, and various birds.
|Palm trees in Germany - who knew?|
After taking the Bimmelbahn back to the Cathedral, we walked over to the Hohenzollern Bridge for a moment to gawk.
The bridge is known as one of the "love lock" locations around the world, and the number of locks is actually a bit astounding. We didn't add to the number (insert bad joke about love not being bound by chains, etc.) but did watch a few people add theirs or come back and find a lock already added.
|Love locks around the bridge|
In Cologne, the shops are all closed on Sundays, so even the large shopping district is mostly closed. But, we found an unexpectedly amazing taste of Boston and the States in a Dunkin' Donuts, which I relished despite a longer than advised wait in line for a simple iced coffee.
|A taste of home|
Since the stores are closed, the museums are all open on Sundays and use Monday as their "weekend closing day." We made good use of the open museums today, starting with a trip to the Museum Schütgen. The museum houses medieval artwork (mostly from Germany and the Netherlands) in a former church building that is over 1,000 years old. The pieces are beautiful and give you an appreciation for the fine craftsmanship that went into their creation as well as their ability to survive the centuries. And while Little Man's presence often concerns the staff at places with old, priceless pieces, I have to say that the security staff were surprisingly kind and friendly with him.
|Side view of the church that holds the Museum Schutgen|
From there, we made our way over to the Museum Ludwig, the contemporary art museum of Cologne. A surprising number of pieces by Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso are at home at this museum, as well as a number of other interesting pieces. It's worth taking the time to go through the entire museum (about 1.5-2 hours) and viewing each of the pieces.
|Andy Warhol's Brillo and Campbell's Soup boxes... and Mark.|
|Pablo Picasso's Woman with a Mandolin|
The Little Man was a good sport about the art museums and not touching anything, and was well rewarded with the Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolate Museum). The museum is located directly on the Rhine River and has an interesting combination of information about how cocoa beans are grown, how chocolate is processed, the history of chocolate, and a hands-on fun-and-games experience specifically for kids.
I found mixed reviews of this Lindt-sponsored museum online, but we felt like it was very child-friendly and not a giant push to get you into the gift shop.
|Ride the chocolate bunny!|
We did take advantage of the "made to order Lindt chocolate bar" service (dark chocolate with freeze-dried coffee and caramel biscuit balls) and thoroughly enjoyed the result.