This morning we cruised along on the Rhine River from Amsterdam and then reached Cologne, Germany at around 3:30 p.m. Cologne (Köln a.Rhein) is one of the largest cities in Germany, with a population of approximately 1 million people. Our tour guide told us that there are about 23 million people in all of Germany and, in terms of population, it is the 4th largest city in Germany.
Cologne is also very old. According to Wikipedia, the first settlement in the area was called “Oppidum Ubiorum, founded in 38 BC by the Ubii, a Cisrhenian Germanic tribe.” Then, around 50 AD the Romans arrived and named the village “Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium.” Cologne is situated on both sides of the Rhine River: the Germans and Celts had settled on the east side of the river, and the Romans settled on the west. Because of the Roman Italian ancestry in this and other areas of Germany, many Germans have dark hair and dark eyes. Our pretty young tour guide was a good example!
The local dialect in the area is called Colognian, “Köelsch,” or “Kölsch”. “Kölsch” is also the name of the famous beer that is brewed here, and has been since 1830. There is even a Bier Museum in town!
Unfortunately, Cologne was heavily damaged during WWII, having been bombed more than 600 times. Even the towering Gothic-style Cologne Cathedral was not spared, though unlike most of the other buildings in the old town area, it suffered only a small amount of damage. According to the newsletter we received on the ship, the Cologne Cathedral is “Germany’s most-visited building and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” The tour guide said that the building of the Cathedral was begun in 1248, after an earlier cathedral burned down. The Cathedral was not completed until 1880. It reaches a height of 515 feet (157 meters). The Cologne Cathedral’s claim to fame is that it houses the relics of the Three Magi that were given to the Archbishop of Cologne in 1164.
There is a museum, the “Römisch-Germanisches Museum,” near the Cathedral, which has “stunning Roman exhibits centering on the vast Dionysus Mosaic (2nd century) and funeral monument of Publicius,” according to our ship’s newsletter. Unfortunately, since we were only in Cologne for about 2 hours, we had no time to take a look inside.
While we were walking around the city listening to the tour guide, a bride, groom and their group hurried past on their way to the “Rathaus” (Germany’s oldest City Hall), where all marriages here are obliged to take place. Because of this law, the guide said there are on average 9 weddings per day at the Rathaus! After the marriage, however, the wedding couple may hold a ceremony in a church of their choosing.
Cologne is the birthplace of cologne. It was invented here in 1709 by an Italian man named Johann Maria Farina, who made it for Napoleon. Napoleon was said to have used 2 bottles of it every day! The bottles were tall and narrow, just the right size for him to carry around inside his boot. He named the product “Eau de Cologne” because French, at the time, was the language that would reach the largest audience. People here and in other areas of Europe mostly did not take baths or showers during this time because they were afraid the water had been poisoned (some said by the Jews), and that’s what was causing the Black Death.
Speaking of Jews, Cologne is the home of Germany’s oldest Jewish community. According to my Avalon Guide Book, “the arrival of the Black Death in 1349 saw Jews being blamed for the catastrophe. Pogroms and massacres followed, many Jews fled or were driven out of the city, and their quarter suffered widespread destruction.” We saw an area in the city where there was an ongoing archeological excavation of a large Jewish Medieval quarter, called the “Judengasse” (Jewish Alley.)
In the “Altstadt” (historical Old Town city center within the city walls) area of the city, which is where the bulk of our tour took place, as I mentioned, most of the original buildings had been bombed during the War. The tour guide pointed out the one remaining original building still standing in the market square area. All of the adjoining buildings have been rebuilt in a newer style.
Other interesting information the tour guide gave us included the fact that there are approximately 190,000 students in Cologne, and the average age of all the people of Cologne is 29 years old! As in Amsterdam, there are lots of bicycle riders in this city, since owning a car can be too expensive. Pedestrians need to be aware of riders at all times and get out of their way or risk being run over.
After the guide left us, we had a bit of free time before we had to be back aboard the ship. So a bunch of us found our way back to the brew pub that Bill G. had noticed along the way and all ordered a tall glass of Cologne’s famous Sünner Kölsch Bier. We befriended a young German guy there, who was kind enough to snap our photo. He was astounded to hear that we were trying to see Cologne in only 2 hours. He said that we would need several days in order to see all that Cologne has to offer. We were saddened because we had to leave so soon, but on the other hand, we knew that the ship must move on to even more adventures awaiting us! While in the brew pub, a group of other young men (the drinking age here is 18 years old) ordered what can only be described as a “beer tower” with a tap! Take a look at it for yourselves!
After we boarded the ship, listened to our Cruise Director, Jeannette’s, daily “Port Talk,” and ate dinner we were entertained in the lounge by a fantastic string trio, “La Strada.” (Did I mention that we were on a special “Music Special Interest Cruise”?) This was a lovely end to a wonderful day in Cologne! Enjoy the rest of our Cologne photos!