Sunday, August 21, 2011
Europe 2011 - Day 14 - Cologne/Köln
Today was a transition day as we got off the boat. We took a 5 minute (probably less) taxi ride to our hotel, the Marriott in downtown Cologne.
We have a whole day here before our train to Berlin tomorrow morning so we walked around the old town area. As there isn't much to see, we probably hit everything that's really worth seeing in the town.
Our first stop was the DB Hauptbahnhof or the Deutsche Bahn (German Trains) station of Cologne. The station is quite an interesting place as it feels similar to Amsterdam Centraal in the structure, though it's not quite as big. There's a lot of unique food vendors and I got to try one of the Ditsch mini pizzas which were pretty tasty. An art exhibition was taking place in there too with photos from the World Press Photo 2011 exhibition showing the many winning entries in the competition. The photographs are impressive from a technical and aesthetic standpoint but they were also powerful because of the issues they addressed.
Our next stop was the cathedral of Cologne, Cologne Cathedral, or just Dom. The cathedral is the main highlight of the city and it is a very impressive example of gothic architecture. Upon entering the church, we were able to sit through the second half of a mass. Continuing to walk through Old Town and headed toward the river, we passed by some important city spaces such as Roncalli-Platz (besides the Museum Ludwig and Römisch-Germanisches Museum). We stopped upon an old looking building for our lunch. The restaurant we walked into was the Baxenhaus zum Rheingarten for some pork knuckle and a sip of the local beer, Kölsch. I wasn't really blown away with the food but I found out afterwards that the restaurant is one of the oldest of oldest bars open in town as it has been open since 1276.
There wasn't much else to see/recommended in the town other than the Chocolate Museum, so we made our way to Schokoladenmuseum Köln, which was ironically right beside the cruise boat we were on. None of us really wanted to check out the museum, so we just checked out the chocolate store inside and enjoyed some drinks at the Chocolat Grand Cafe. I got to try some eiskaffee (ice coffee) and the eiskakao (iced chocolate), both drinks were delicious as they had ice cream in both drinks to sweeten them and give flavour.
It was a really hot day and we were already tired in the early afternoon. Walking along the river returning to our hotel, we went by the Hohenzollernbrücke and up the steps to the Philharmonie. At the base of the stairs was a street performer which gathered a big crowd. It was a big let down though as the act wasn't impressive at all (compared to other street acts I've seen), though it was a good break in our tour (as we had no idea where else to go).
There's a conference here that I wanted to go to, the Gamescom 2011 games conference. I saw some people staying at my hotel who were coming back with swag from the conference and I was disappointed that I couldn't go (especially considering I'm here already). There's also the other fact that I'm missing the DesignThinking UnConference in Vancouver right now. Doh.
Cologne is weird. I've noticed that there is a small immigrant population of Asians here and it just seems odd seeing Asians fluent in German. I also noticed an immigrant influence in Frankfurt but it was more of the Eastern European origins such as Turkish and Slavic populations (which doesn't seem as weird as the Asian influx in Cologne).
Our Marriott hotel is awesome, this is the only hotel I've been in where they play ambient/techno in the hallway instead of the standard elevator music fare. Needless to say, I was dancing in the hotel hallway outside my room.