While the passengers were asleep the boat quietly sailed away from Koblenz at 02:00 and arrived in Cologne (Koln in German) 6 hours later.

We slept in a bit late this morning as our walking tour was at 09:15 and this gave us plenty of time. We met our guide, Carsten, on the sidewalk at the top of the ramp from the boat and we discovered that he was the best guide for which one could have hoped. He spoke excellent English and clearly loved both his city and his job as a guide. Before we moved on, he told us a bit of history of the city and that each evening Parrots descended on the trees on this sidewalk making a lot of noise and an awful mess of the sidewalk which was cleaned daily. This must have been done quite early as, by the time that we arrived, it was clean.

Ask anyone about Cologne and they will probably say that it has a Cathedral. In fact, in 2010, when we were on a tour which had started in Oberammegau where we attended the Passion Play. We followed that with a coach tour which ended in Koblenz where we stayed 3 days. On one of those days, we were supposed to go to Cologne but our coach driver said that it would be much more interesting to tour the Moselle River Valley as there was only a Cathedral to visit in Cologne. Well, we visited the city in 2015 and discovered much more than the Cathedral and we spent time discovering the historic buildings and factories on the banks of the Rhine. We also took a tourist boat on the river and learnt even more.

Typical private home in Oberammegau


12th Century RC Church in a town on the Moselle

In some of the history which Carsten gave us we learnt that Cologne was first settled by the Romans circa 3 000BC, creating a walled colony of the area. This was how it stayed until the Prussians arrived in about 30AD. They ruled the area for over 1600 years when Napoleon entered after the French Revolution. The French made a number of good and useful changes to the city introducing the numbering of street buildings, freedom of Religion, street cleaning and various other reforms. Sadly, they did very little for the poor. Besides the historic side to the city, there are many modern plazas and shopping centres, the best one being Hohe Strasse, a pedestrian only shopping zone.

Hohestrasse on a holiday

We left the dock area and walked along the river front, stopping in front of several houses of Gothic origin. The Goths were a Germanic people from the 12th – 13th centuries and they built a number of houses, cathedrals and other buildings of a distinct style. Some homes had what look like steps up the sides of the top of the front facade.

Gothic houses on the Old Fish Market

Along the road from the houses is the Great St Martin’s Church which was built in about 960. It is a beautiful but simple church inside and out. When Cologne was destroyed by fire in 1159, it was rebuilt over the next 12 years.  Nearby is a tower which is from the original church and was damaged in WW2. We didn’t visit the church but were told of its history by Carsten.

Hotel Rhein and old Tower of Great St Martin’s Church

As we walked into the Old City, we passed many restaurants all advertising genuine beer and food but Carsten pointed out only 3 or 4 which he said were truly genuine and not tourist drawcards. He also pointed out the area across the river, the modern part of the city where near where he had been raised. He now lived in the Old City. We stopped at the lower end of a small lane which has looked the same for hundreds of years and at the top of which one could see a spire of the Cathedral. In the photo you can see Carsten being the ‘active and fun’ guide.

Lane as it has been since 17th century. At the top of the facade is a stepped wall of that period.

At the bottom of the lane was a pub and restaurant, Sünner im Walfisch, dating from 1626 and had a sculpture of a whale hanging on the wall. In May 1966, a White Whale or Beluga swam into the Rhine River in the Netherlands and made its way down the lower reaches of the Rhine and then right through Germany. When some locals called the police they were given an alcohol breath test and it was deemed to be impossible. The whale was called Moby Dick and it drew attention to the very unhealthy condition of the water in the river.

Pub from 1626 with whale sculpture on the side wall

We walked on until we came to Willi Ostermann Platz which is completely surrounded by shops, restaurants and apartments. According to Carsten, these are very expensive and he does not live there. Also, it is not a suitable place to live if one has a car as there is very limited parking. At weekends it is a very busy place with eating, dancing and singing. In the centre of the square is a monument and fountain dedicated to Willi Ostermann, a lyricist and singer. The figures depicted on the monument are related to his songs which are still popular today.

Monument & fountain in Willi Ostermann Platz

Also in this square was a most fascinating tree. It was old and gnarled and, one branch had become too heavy and was held up by a metal pole with a specially created cup into which the branch fitted perfectly.

The tree in Willi Ostermann Platz with restaurants & apartments behind

We continued our walk to the Cathedral, passing a steep set of stairs that the other groups had climbed but we walked around. In the square from which the stairs ascended, there was a restaurant where one could experience Time Travel back to the 1920s.

Restaurant offering time travel

Another building in this square was the new Town Hall with an ornate tall tower, covered in a number of statues, behind it. The tower, with a loggia, was part of the Town Hall which was built in the 15th century. (The Italian word for “lodge,” loggia is a covered space running along the length of a building similar to a porch, but with columns or arches on the open side.) During restoration works the Roman Praetorium, Council meeting place, was discovered on the same site meaning that Cologne had been ruled at the same site for over 2 000 years! There is very interesting information on the website so do visit there.

Sculptures on the tower of the original town hall.
New City Hall with original tower behind

From there we went up a small lane, between the City Hall and the red building in the photo, and stopped to look in a gift shop where there were beer steins or mugs and bottles of the original Farina Perfume, which I shall tell you about later. Carsten told us that Germans do not actually drink beer from these well-known mugs whose original name was steinzeug-krug which means stoneware, and never if there is a picture of the Cathedral on the mug, as there was on the mugs in this shop.

As mentioned earlier, when the French ruled Germany after the French Revolution, one of the good introductions was the numbering of houses and buildings in a street. This has a direct link to the naming of the well-known Eau de Cologne, 4711. It was originally launched in 1709 by Giovanni Maria Farina and was named Farina and cost half the annual salary of a civil servant. In the late 18th century by Wilhelm Mülhens who, with the permission of an Italian friend also called his creation Farina after the friend’s wife. He lost the court case brought by Mr Farina and so named it after his home address, Glockengasse 4711. Those of us who are Baby Boomers will remember or mothers and grandmothers using 4711.

Original Farina Perfume

We had to climb 4 or 5 stairs to get up to another large square called the Alt Markt or Old Market. In the centre was another statue, that of Jan von Werth, erected in 1884. The story goes that there was a young couple called Jan and Griet and he wooed her. As he was a servant, she rejected him. He went to war and became a General which surprised everyone.

Jan von Werth fountain in Alt Markt, near the Cathedral

Clearly, there was so much to see in Cologne besides the Cathedral which I haven’t even told you about, I decided to stop this post here. There will be a separate one for the Cathedral as well as our visit to a huge chocolate shop.