Growing up my father has always been fortunate enough to travel all around the world due to his job. Since he is here in Germany on business, I was able to travel to Frankfurt for a week long “layover” before heading to Rome for my study abroad experience. Although I’m getting pretty antsy to be in Rome already, Germany has certainly taken me by surprise with its rustic but also uniquely modern beauty. This was certainly the case in my first weekend trip to Cologne, or Köln in German. This was one of those places that you do not think much of in a country that is known for its history in Berlin, Bonn, and contains a large city such as Frankfurt, but contains so much to admire and certainly wish I had more time to do so. Located on the Rhine river just one hour away by train from Frankfurt, containing with it so much to appreciate from a centuries-old cathedral to Roman ruins.
Upon my arrival by train, by which I could not for the life of me keep my eyes open since I was so jet-lagged, I was greeted by a massive and bustling train station in the middle of Cologne that was not just a regional train station, but also a subway station, bus station, shopping center, pharmacy, tourist center, food court, etc. I came to realize that this was meeting point for many of the people in Cologne, since people were rushing every which way. The most striking thing about the train station is that the Cologne Cathedral, or the Kölner Dom, is located just meters away from its front doors. Just before entering the giant wooden doors of the cathedral, the small bit of its surrounding is fenced with history of the building, including the extensive damage that was taken from World War II and some of it still being repaired today. When you enter the Cathedral you do not anticipate the ceiling to be so high, which are held up by stone pillars each containing small statues of saints or other important figures on them. One of the most important facts about this cathedral is the fact that it supposedly has the relics of the Three Wise Men that visited Jesus in the Christmas story. As a person of Mexican heritage, the Wise Men are actually held in high regard and are celebrated on the 6th of January, so it was pretty important to me to be able to be in close proximity to their relics that were held in this impressive, gold casing. Although that was very majestic, the most stunning thing in the whole cathedral to me was a large stain glass panel that was to the right of the altar. This panel was obviously constructed to replace stained glass that was destroyed from damage since it was far different from the rest. It was of pixels of all different colors, and when the sun hit it, it created almost the brightest rainbow you could ever see on the altar. It is hard to describe, but I’m putting a picture below of the stain glass window that I’m talking about. Let me know if you think it is beautiful as well! As I left the Cathedral, it began to snow, only adding more amazement to its sight.
The next place I visited was the Romano-Germanic Museum located just around the corner from the Cathedral. I’ve always loved learning about Roman history (another good thing about studying abroad in Rome itself) so this museum that consisted of three floors of extensive archeological findings was quite impressive. Much archeological evidence that is found in Cologne from the Roman time is glass, so they took great pride in displaying it. They talked about the importance of different kinds of glass, and showed how blue glass was especially valuable. In this museum you can also see busts of almost all the Emperors, even some not as well known as Augustus and Nero. I wonder if the busts and statues actually looked like how the real person looked in real life?
The last place I had time to visit during my two days in Cologne was more of just for personal entertainment, the Schokoladenmuseum, or the Chocolate Museum! I recommend to any chocolate lover to visit this museum, and this museum is also located right on the Rhine so it had a wonderful view from the inside. Once you pay the entrance fee, you then had access to see the history of chocolate, where chocolate comes from (you can see a real cocoa tree and beans in a tropical green house, which was a great break from the cold winter in Germany right now!), and see all that it takes to make one bar of Lindt chocolate. You can even make your own for an extra fee and if you have the patience to wait in a line. Unfortunately, I wanted to save my money for later events, but I did manage to snag a free sample of some warm liquid chocolate from a chocolate fountain! Although I’m not the biggest chocolate maniac, I have been craving chocolate more and more recently and this certainly helped me slowly grow a new addiction…
My time in Germany is slowly drawing to a close, but I certainly am taking the time to explore Frankfurt a little more before it’s off to Rome. Cologne helped me realize that it’s important not to just go to the big well known cities in each country, but also take the time to go see the smaller, further off towns that might hold magic waiting to be discovered within them. This certainly was the perfect way to kick off my adventure… 🙂