A Weekend In Köln

Continuing on my longstanding trend of seeing new cities because there’s a concert there that I want to see, I went to Köln (Cologne) to see Owl City.  I’d seen them once before, in Orlando, and the previous show was bigger- more people on stage, real stringed instruments for the violin and cello bits, and so forth. This time around, it was in a smaller club with a smaller lineup.  Still a great show, though.

There’s more to Cologne than a happening concert venue, though.  While I didn’t see the entire city by any stretch of the imagination, I did see some nifty parts of the city.  Here are some interesting things about Cologne.

The Beer Is Tiny:

The local beer, called Kölsch, is a pale and tasty drink which is usually served cold in very small cylindrical .2 liter glasses.  The picture below is an abnormally big one.

In pubs in Cologne, the common practice is to immediately bring you a new one every time your glass is empty without any prompting.  To make the beer stop flowing, you have to leave your glass half full or put your coaster on top of it.

It Has A Pretty Neat Bridge:

If you arrive to Cologne via train as I did, you come in on the Hohenzollern bridge, which crosses the Rhine river.  This is the most heavily used rail bridge in Germany, with around 1200 trains passing through it every day.

The bridge also has a pedestrian walkway alongside the tracks, and since 2008, the fence between the footpath and the train tracks has been covered in love locks much like the bridge here in Regensburg.  While I was taking these pictures, a couple got married a few meters away from me, and then placed their own padlock on the bridge.

Their Cathedral Looks Just Like Ours*, Except Way Bigger:

You can’t miss the Kölner Dom when you come out of the train station.   The cathedral is enormous and it was constructed in Gothic style, just like Regensburg’s Dom*.  As a result, the look and feel of the place is very similar.  It’s just much, much larger.   It’s huge.

No, really, it’s enormous.  Here’s a closer shot to give you a sense of scale.

Climbing the spire is a pretty popular tourist attraction.  It’s 509 spiralling stone steps to a viewing platform just over 322 feet above the ground.  They’ve put in fencing to keep people from dropping stuff, but even with the fencing, the view is pretty spectacular.

Tour Groups Everywhere:

Look, a Segway tour group!  I swear, I’m gonna ride one of those things some day.

They Have A Cable Car:

The Kölner Seilbahn has been crossing the Rhine river since the late 1950s.  With my previously established love of tall places, it’s a given that I had to ride it across.

They Have A Chocolate Museum:

Of all the museums I’ve been to, the Schokoladen Museum is my current favorite.  The actual history of chocolate wasn’t all that interesting to me, but the place has functioning chocolate manufacturing processes which can be seen at various steps.  One part is an entire automated line which made the small chocolates that are given to each visitor as they enter the museum. The machine below is constantly turning molded chocolates in various shapes as they dry and harden.

One Last Thing About Köln:

The city is adjacent to another nearby town, Brühl, which is the home of the  PhantasiaLand theme park.  That’s another post, though.

Weltenburg Abbey

Roughly 35 kilometers from my home town of Regensburg, there is a rather unique brewery.   There are dozens of breweries within a short distance of here-  this is Bavaria, after all, and Bavarian beer is legendary.  What makes the Weltenburg Abbey so unique is that it’s noted as the world’s oldest cloister brewery, beginning operation in the year 1050.

Weltenburg Abbey is located along the Danube Gorge.  Although you can reach it via land, the preferred (and far more scenic) way to get there is by a short boat ride, from nearby Kelheim.

The boat does touristy things on the route there, including explaining the history of this very narrow section of the Danube.  For example, it points out the crocodile in the rock face below.  Full disclosure- I couldn’t see it until someone else pointed it out.

Once you arrive, you can see markings on the corner of the Abbey’s front wall-  these represent the height of the Danube during different floods over the years.  You can’t really tell scale in the picture, but almost all of these were over my head.  I’ve seen this type of marking all over Regensburg as well.  This is a strong argument for not living on the first floor when you live this close to the river!

Inside the Abbey there is a a very ornate cathedral you can visit, expansive grounds you can explore, and a lovely beer garden where you can have lunch and some tasty beer.   Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel (Baroque Dark) was given the World Beer Cup award in 2004 as the best Dunkel beer in the world.  I’ve had it on several occasions, and I can confirm that it is indeed a delicious dark beer.

Here are some pictures of the Abbey, the grounds, some actual real life monks, and the aforementioned tasty, tasty dark beer.

Palmator: Das Starkbierfest Am Adlersberg

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Palmator: Das Starkbierfest Am Adlersberg, a set on SmugMug.  There are more pictures in the set, so click on through!

On the way to breakfast this morning, there were a lot of people wearing lederhosen and dirndls, the traditional Bavarian outfits that Americans always picture when they think of Germany.

The reason for this belongs to the Prösslbräu Brewery in Adlersberg

Palm Sunday is the first day of the year that they serve Palmator, a dark and strong bock beer from their kegs. A lot of people turn out for the beer, the band, and the traditional Bavarian outfits.

I managed to find my way out there, sharing a taxi with some friendly guys who were also going after the number twelve bus was far, far too packed to be useful. The beer is served in one liter glasses- this is a much larger volume of beer than I’m used to, and those glasses were heavy!

Also of note- one of these pictures shows what was being used as a men’s room- the Germans have turned public urination into an art form.

The brewery sits on top of a pretty good sized hill, so there’s a fantastic view from the top of the wall, looking all the way back to the city.