30 July 2013

Calling on Cologne (Part II)

We decided that we should include a Little Man centered activity during our visit Cologne, and yesterday we did just that.

Mondays are typically days that the museums are closed, but luckily, the Kölner Zoo has it's special reduced rate "Zoo Day" on Monday. What's also nice is that the zoo doesn't charge for children until they reach 4 years old, and between 4 and 12 years will receive a discounted rate. The zoo has been around for 150 years, but has kept up with the the changes over time. The zoo is fairly large - it houses over 500 species of animals - and sports a fantastic elephant house, a large ape house, a neat hippo enclosure, and idyllic-looking big cat enclosures, as well as plenty of nice habitats for other animals.

Watching the penguins during feeding time

Elephant shirt by the elephant house


Prowling cheetah - photo taken from just 10 feet above

Hilarious bowl full of sleeping meerkats

In particular, we marveled at standing just inches from the rhinoceros, with just the heavy glass/plastic shield and concrete wall between us.

Rhino out for a morning stroll

Just on the other side of this window, the rhino was inches away from us

There's also an aquarium, and though there aren't any "big" aquatic animals (i.e. no sharks, sting rays, sea turtles), the building is the perfect size for a 30-45 minute visit after cruising through the zoo for a glimpse at Nemos (clownfish), reptiles, and insects.

We found Nemo...

...and Dori.

We finished at the zoo mid afternoon, so we decided to cruise around the shopping district since it was open (unlike Sunday). There were far more people than we'd seen over the weekend, but moving around was easy enough.

Cologne is one of the many cities that boasts Roman roots and many of the walls built by the Romans are still visible, and in some cases are still in use. Taking time to wander around the city centre before heading back to the hotel, we were able to find one of the more impressive walls still standing and a plaque showing the extent of the original city walls.

Roman wall still standing

Today, we had an adventure of another kind - the Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces in Brühl, just 23km outside Cologne. When taking the DeutchBahn trains, you're dropped as close to the main entrance as you can get, and the walk up to the palace is nice and tree-lined. The Augustusburg Palace was built in the mid-18th century for the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, Clemens-Augustus of the Wittelsbach family. The palace is an amazing piece of art that has been kept in a beautiful state and was maintained as an important (and impressing) building for the President of the Federal Republic of Germany to receive important guests. In 1984, the palace was added to the UNESCO list of cultural world heritage sites. 

Mark and Little Man by Augustusburg Palace

The main visitor's entrance area

I wish the had allowed photography (for the preservation of the amazing interior, it's forbidden), because it's really impressive. And since the family fostered a love of delftware during Augustus's father's time as stadtholder of the Netherlands, we were able to find all sorts of Dutch blue and white tiling around the "summer" rooms. Fortunately, the gardens are open to all and can be photographed. 

Beautiful grounds

The Palace from the gardens

The Falkenlust Palace is a "hunting lodge" built to entertain Clemens-Augustus's love of falconry about 2.5km from the main residence. It's a far cry from the Lincoln-log-lodges you build as a kid - It's modeled after the main palace with all sorts of "comforts" only the extremely wealthy would imagine necessary for a "hunting lodge," such as a coffee room, a cabinet room covered with mirrored walls for easier display of porcelain curios, and 10,500 hand painted Dutch tiles to cover the walls of the stairway. But thankfully, both buildings are open to the public to satisfy curious appetites like ours, and you can appreciate the art and maintenance that go into both buildings.

The scenic "woodsy" walk to Falkenlust


Tomorrow, we head up to Düsseldorf for the last leg of our vacation. More ruins, museums, and views of the Rhine loom in our future!

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