Cologne, Germany. August 2016
In the final and perhaps warmest week of August, I traveled to Bad Honnef and swiftly onto Cologne with two colleagues for a weekend of city sightseeing and a local rock music festival, Rheinspaziert. It was my first time going beyond the Bavarian boarder- and I was not disappointed with what the Rhineland had to offer.
We drove the 6 hours on and off the autobahn to my colleague’s family home (stopping only for traffic and McDonalds), and then headed to the local (and only?) bar in town for some Kölsch- the locally brewed larger style beer, regularly served in a thin 0.2L glass. In comparison to the 1L Oktoberfest masses and the more commonly found 0.5L Bavarian standard-sized beer, drinking a Kölsch was like taking a shot. We played a German drinking game involving dice (I’m still hazy on the rules) which I proceeded to lose, meaning it was my responsibility to buy the round (figures…). We left the bar as empty as we found it and surprisingly at a reasonable hour, making plans to set off early for Cologne the next morning.
The next day we took the train into the city to explore and visit the breweries. I knew I was going to love Cologne when I found a Dunkin Donuts in the train station (Still a Boston girl at heart), and enjoyed a breakfast of delicious coffee and donuts on the steps of the breathtaking Kölner Dom overlooking the Rhine. We Climbed the Cathedral’s south tower (costing 3 EUR and consisting of 533 steps, but feeling like 1000 in the stifling heat) approximately 100 m up, where we enjoyed views over the city and river, and took sweaty pictures of our mildly athletic accomplishment.
Upon our descent, we already had our first beer hall in mind- Früh Brauhauskeller located one street over- and enjoyed a few shots of Kölsch in the cool cavern bar. We went to Brauhaus Sion for lunch, where our waiter Sebastian Kauder (I know this because he gave me a postcard of himself after I asked to take a picture of his Kölsch carrier, which now decorates my cubicle) served us traditional Köln delicacies including “Himmel un Ääd” (Heaven and earth). Now, as someone who is vehemently sick and tired of tasteless German food (I’m talking to you, schnitzel), this meal was incredible and I wholeheartedly recommend it; black pudding (blood pudding), with mashed potatoes (earth) and mashed apples (heaven). Anyway, we sat and ate, growing merrier by the minute, while watching wedding parties dance by us in the street, and merrier men than us offering the brides and grooms beer from their tables. The friendly energy of Germany’s gay capital was contagious, and it was impossible not to join in. We spent the rest of the day exploring the riverside, finally catching a train back to Bad Honnef for our nighttime festivities.
We returned to Bad Honnef (which by this point I had renamed Bad Hornet because it amused me) for a BBQ and the Rheinspaziert festival held on a small island situated in the Rhine River. The BBQ was at my colleague’s friend’s house, and to my surprise was the first time since moving to Germany that I was immersed in real German culture- with everyone speaking German around me. After a few drinks and nervous nibbles on the assorted food, conversation began to flow more smoothly, I made friends, and we were soon laughing over accents and pronunciations, as well as my ignorant inability to speak any foreign language (except Spanish, but this didn’t help me at the time-no bueno). We went to the concert after the sun set, and enjoyed some German- style AC/DC covers over even more beers, eventually going to a nearby night club until the early hours of the morning.
We awoke (late and hungover) the next morning and spent a few hours lounging and lazing on the terrace, stomaching what we could of typical German breakfast of bread rolls and cold meats (paling in comparison to a full-English…), before loading up the car and driving back to Freising.
Cologne left me slightly sunburnt, dehydrated, and with a better knowledge of German than when I arrived; All and all eager to see what the rest of Deutschland had in store.
Borrowed Clothes: For this trip, I borrowed a necklace from my Mom that I wore frequently, as it transformed seamlessly from day wear to night wear (as most of my outfits do, laziness and practicality governing my wardrobe choices), however, because of the sun and sweat, the fake gold chain turned my neck green! (Which, even though it is my color, did NOT suit me) Luckily, day soon turned to night and under the cover of darkness and alcohol, no one seemed to notice.
Pro Travel Tips:
- If you are drinking Kölsch at a bar, the bartenders will keep refilling your glass unless you put a beer mat over your drink. So after few- you know what to do!
- They speak a different kind of German in Cologne compared to Bavaria- so some words/ pronunciations may not be the same
- I was told many times that swimming in the Rhine is very dangerous because of the current- not that I ever attempted to do so- but it’s worth mentioning
- Cologne is home to the real Carnival celebration!