|Careful planning helps get everything accomplished|
I was recently talking to another blogger about how we prepare for trips. Here's how we approach travel...When our time is unlimited and flexible, there is something to be said for just "flying by the seat of your pants." That is taking each day as it comes. However, when there are time constraints and we are only in a country for a limited amount of time, there is something to be said for planning very carefully on the front side of the trip so we can make the most of our time limitations. That was the case for this trip. I had 10 days to work in as much as I could, knowing that even with the most careful, preemptive planning, I wouldn't get everything seen. With that being said, hubby had already made hotel reservations, purchased train tickets, routed day trips etc. prior to my arrival.
|There are meats, cheese, yogurt, and soft boiled eggs.|
After spending my first night at the guesthouse, the Rhein Hotel, we got up for our breakfast. As hubby has been living there, Mama makes his breakfast every morning at 9 AM. The breakfast is typical German fare....meat, cheese, yogurt, bread, and soft boiled egg. The breakfasts don't vary much from hotel to hotel. You might get a few extra choices if you pick an American chain hotel.(Notice: I said "you might" so don't get your hopes up.) At one restaurant we went to, there was some scrambled eggs and we were the only people in the place that recognized their "deliciousness.". The fact that my husband ran to them with the same eagerness as a crack addict scoring crack, might of scared the other patrons off...but to be fair he has gone nearly 3 months eating a singular soft boiled egg and sliced meat for breakfast. I gave him points for not physically maiming someone over the little pan of bacon that was on the same buffet table as the eggs.
|Driving into the city center|
In honor of my first morning at The Rhein Hotel, Mama served us apple strudel fresh out of the oven. It really is a shame that smells and sounds can't be incorporated into blogs. While strudel isn't normal breakfast food there...it really should be.
Arriving into Koln has a similar feel of other large cities or at least at first glance...lots of commercial buildings and a lot of traffic. However, as we got closer to the city center, we started seeing some of the charm of the city.
Our first order of business, was to find our hotel. Again, we had chosen a small local hotel over one of the larger chain hotels because we were hopeful to experience a little more of the local flavor than previous trips when we stayed in recognizable chain hotels. As I mentioned in one of the earlier posts, we booked rooms off of bookings.com (the European equivalent to hotels.com) The Cerano Hotel had excellent customer reviews and a lot of pictures that looked as most European hotels do...very contemporary in decor.
|Husband is usually walking ahead because I tend to pause to look at things.|
The hotel turned out to be a lovely place to stay. The group of owners, that refer to themselves as "like family" were gracious and welcoming. The breakfast the following morning, was not only tasty but the presentation was beautiful. The young girl that makes the breakfasts made each dish a work of art. I wish I could of brought myself to be the consummate tourist and take pictures of all her little "tapas style" plates so you could appreciate how pretty everything was. Alas, I couldn't reduce myself to that level and it didn't help that the next table over the people were all speaking French. Eavesdropping on their conversation, I figured out they were from Switzerland. Anyway, I concluded they were the type of people that would NOT take pictures of their breakfast.
|Our room for the night|
BUT...on the day of our arrival, after getting checked in and getting the car into the garage, we set off for the Cologne Cathedral. From the hotel it was a quick five minute walk.
The Cathedral is the most visited tourist site in Germany averaging more than 20,000 people visiting per DAY. No matter what faith a person might have, the Cathedral is jaw-dropping in it's scale and majesty. While we aren't Roman Catholic, I had to respect the fact that at least a portion of the people in the church weren't tourists. I suspect a rather small portion judging by the obvious "touristy" look of the swarms that were milling around the church. Plus...call me crazy, but most worshippers don't bring their cameras to Mass.
[Side Note.....Actually, I found this rather odd that all the towns we visited had historical churches that were wide open for tourists to come into. In fact, I found that a bit unsettling. The people that were actually in the churches lighting candles or praying seemed oblivious to the crowds of gawkers.]
A little bit of history concerning the cathedral....The construction of the cathedral commenced in 1248 and after several stops and starts was finally completed in 1880.
It is 144.5 metres (474 ft) long, 86.5 m (284 ft) wide and its towers are approximately 157 m (515 ft) tall. The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. Its two huge spires give it the largest facade of any church in the world. The choir has the largest height to width ratio, 3.6:1, of any medieval church.
The church houses a number of valuable art and historical treasures but one of the most noted is the Shrine of the Magi. The Shrine is a large gilded and decorated triple sarcophagus that is believe to hold the bones of the Three Wise Men.
The exterior of the Shrine is covered in a total of seven feet of gilded silver and jewels. Images of Old Testament prophets line the bottom while the twelve apostles decorate the top. It is considered the high point of Mosan art. In 1864 the shrine was opened and three skeletons were found inside; one of a young man, another of a middle aged man, and the third of an older man
- The cathedral suffered fourteen hits by aerial bombs during World War II. It did not collapse, but stood tall in an otherwise flattened city. The great twin spires are said to have been used as an easily recognizable navigational landmark by Allied aircraft raiding deeper into Germany in the later years of the war, which may be a reason that the cathedral was not destroyed. The stained glass windows were removed during the war to keep them from being damaged and were later reinstalled.
- Some repair and maintenance work is constantly being carried out in some section of the building, which is almost never completely free of scaffolding, since wind, rain, and pollution slowly eat away at the stones. The Dombauhütte, which was established to build the cathedral and repair the cathedral, is said to employ the best stonemasons of the Rhineland. It is said that once a person is hired to work on the church, the job is theirs for life.
- The Cathedral has 11 bells...four of which are medieval. The largest of the bells is the Bell of St. Peter which weighs 24 ton. It is the largest free swinging bell in the world.
|Perhaps being the only lay person entombed in the Cathedral isn't without it's down side|
- There are a number of tombs in the Cathedral. However, Count Gottfried of Arnsberg was the only layperson to be buried in the choir of the Gothic cathedral along side archbishops and saints in the Middle Ages. During his lifetime he transferred his entire estate to the archiepiscopal state of Cologne. The sandstone tomb chest is decorated with mourning figures, coats of arms, and helmets. The gisant of the count, which is protected by an arched iron grid, shows him in full armour. Legend has it that the grid was put in place to protect the recumbent effigy of the deceased from being vandalised by disappointed relations.