Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cologne, Germany

I spent this past weekend on the west side of Germany. The country's bigger cities, like Berlin and Munich, are on the east side of Germany and are a little too far to trek to for a weekend. I would love to visit either of those cities, but it takes over over 7 hours to get there from Leuven and I'm not quite sure when I'll have time for that.

Anyway, on Saturday morning I left Leuven for Cologne. I caught a train from Leuven to Liege and then from Liege to Cologne. It took less than two hours to get to the city. The weather forecast for this day was overcast, with several sprinkles all day long. As long as it wasn't pouring all day, I was fine with the cloudy weather.

As you can see, I was pretty excited to head over to Germany.

The second I step out of the train station, I find the Cologne Cathedral. It's Cologne's most famous landmark and the largest gothic church in northern Europe.

I think I'm getting used to the whole self-portrait thing, even though I tried taking this picture at least 5 times.

The construction of this cathedral took over 600 years to complete. Construction began in 1248 and wasn't finished until 1880. The cathedral contains the Shrine of the Three Kings.

The opening of the shrine in 1864 exposed human remains along with 2,000 year old clothes. It is believed that the remains are those of the Three Wise Men. Throughout the entire cathedral are stain glass windows depicting religious events. I'm not well versed in biblical history, so unfortunately I can't make sense of their meanings.

This structure was right in front of the cathedral. I'm not quite sure of it's significance.

After walking around a little bit, I was starting to get hungry since I neglected to eat breakfast. I stopped by this crowded pastry shop. (It was crowded during the day anyway. I came back later at night to take this picture.)

At this shop I picked up 2 berliners for 1 euro, exactly what the sign says. After looking for a definition of a berliner, I found that it's a traditional German pastry made from yeast dough, filled with a marmalade (in my case strawberry), and topped with conventional sugar.

Once I filled my belly with a snack, I was ready to start the rest of the day.

I made my way to a perfume shop.

Cologne (the perfume) was invented here in 1709 with the Eau de Cologne, a spirit-citrus perfume. This original formula was used by nobles of the time. To this day, the original formula is still produced. The recipe, however, remains a secret. Inside the shop, there is a fountain that circulates the formula, which apparently you can take a sip from. I didn't realize you could drink from the fountain until after I got home to Leuven. I wish I knew this fact beforehand.

After stopping by the perfume shop, I made my way to the Lugwig Museum.

The musuem features works from the 20th and 21st centuries and has one of the largest Picasso exhibits in Europe. Since I'm not much of an art buff, I can't really elaborate on my opinions of the artwork. Honestly, I had a really hard time trying to find the inspiration and meaning behind the majority of the works here.

There were suppose to be paintings from Andy Warhol, but I didn't find his exhibit here.

After shopping around along the streets for a little bit, I decided to head out to dinner. I went to a place called Gaststatte Bei Oma Kleinmann where I ordered a schnitzel and a locally brewed beer. The beer tasted vaguely similar Corona light.

It consisted of a huge slab of breaded pork stuffed with potatoes, grilled onions, bacon, and cucumbers. This piece of meat was gigantic. It took me about 40 minutes just to finish it.

After dinner, I made my way to a hostel.

I was hoping to find other travelers or backpackers to chat with and perhaps go out to a bar, but this place was mostly vacant. I checked the lounge, kitchen, and downstairs cafe and only saw one person using one of the computers. Right when I entered the room and said hi, he just left. My room had two bunk beds and a locker for each person.

Cologne is a city of cathedrals and art museums. Besides the main cathedral that I showed earlier, there are 12 Romanesque churches. If you're a fan of churches and cathedrals, this is definitely the city for you.

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