Masthead
One of my photos

A short visit to Cologne

May 24th, 2024 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

I have just returned from a short visit to Cologne. Jayne forced me to take a holiday and I picked Cologne because I had never been there, and it offered the opportunity for a day trip out to Wuppertal to see the Schwebebahn suspended railway. I don’t think I have been to Germany for 30+years, when I went to Nuremburg a couple of times for work.

I chose to fly to Frankfurt instead of the more convenient Cologne/Bonn airport because there are no flights there from Gatwick. I really didn’t want to have to go to Heathrow. Frankfurt is about 100 miles from Cologne, but the trip by ICE train takes less time than it would take me to get the 25 miles from Crawley to Heathrow – which means several trains and tubes, or a National Express coach on the M25. The German train was fantastic. Very smooth ride and reached 200 mph at times.

I think I picked the wrong time to go. I went out on the Saturday, arriving in the afternoon. By the time I had found the hotel and unpacked, everything was shut. On Sunday it was quite dead because the Germans like to give their retail workers time off. Monday was a public holiday and ever more dead. It was Tuesday before I saw what the place is really like when shops are open. We have got so used to all the shops being open every day in the UK that it a real culture shock, but good for the workers. What is also good for the workers is that shops tend to not open before 10:00. I have seen this in other countries and it makes perfect sense to me.

On my first full day I took a walk down to the river, where there was a Sunday flea market. This was full of interesting stuff. There were a few stalls selling second-hand records, and I treated myself to a few things including a DAF LP and a Joachim Witt LP, because you don’t really see German artists cropping up in UK shops and record fairs very often.

After that, I explored the town a bit. I walked across the famous bridge, the one with all the padlocks on it, looked around on the other side of the river and came back across one of the other bridges. Really I just wandered about, until I felt at home there. I do enjoy exploring cities on my own, not to see the sights but just to be there. But of course I did see some of the sights. You can’t help seeing the cathedral. It is visible from all over, and especially impressive when you get up close.

Monday was the big day for me. I walked round to the main station and took another express train to Wuppertal. Wuppertal itself was very quiet, as it was a bank holiday, but I was really there to see the amazing suspended railway – the Schwebebahn. It costs less than 10 Euros for a day ticket and I made full use of it. I took the train to one end of the line, got out to have a coffee and a look around, then took the train all the way to the other end of the line. At various points I got off to look around, sometimes walking between stations. It really is an impressive piece of infrastructure that looks futuristic but is more than 100 years old.

For a lot of the route, the railway follows the river, suspended above it. There are also sections where it follows the roads. I am not a hardcore trainspotter, but I was completely entranced by this railway, and took great interest in the workings of it, especially at the terminals.

At the Vohwinkel terminus, where the tracks follow the road.
One of the flying trains, following the route of the river

After spending half the day playing on the trains I decided to head back to Cologne. It had started to rain, so exploring the town further lost some of its appeal. Back in Cologne I decided to go into the cathedral, which is right next to the main railway station. The cathedral is a World Heritage Site, and deservedly so. From the outside it is massive and impressive, but inside it is literally breathtaking.

Inside the cathedral. A photo really can’t do it justice.

The next morning I returned to the cathedral and decided to do the tower climb. Apparently it is 533 stairs to get up to the top, but it feels like more. The first part of the climb is a spiral staircase that just keeps on going. Halfway up I was starting to regret the decision, but eventually got to the top. Except it wasn’t the top. You think it is the top but you go through a door and see a set of metal stairs that go up even further. At the top of those stairs is a metal spiral staircase the disappears into the roof.

The final stage of the climb

This is probably a good time to mention that I don’t really like heights. I have been up the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower. I have been up the big tower in Sydney and up the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I have been up that tower in Istanbul and on the roof of Durham cathedral. I enjoy the views but it really does get me a bit dizzy. I have to admit that when I was halfway up these metal stairs I seriously considered giving up, even though I was nearly there.

In the end I gave myself a bit of a talking to and persisted. After that last bit of spiral staircase it really was the top, giving access to a walkway around the spire, and the panoramic views of the city. I felt really pleased with myself for doing it, and tried not to think about the long trip back down all those stairs. At this point I realised that it was a good job I came on my own. Jayne would have refused to go up the tower and would have refused to go on the flying trains.

Looking down from the spire of the cathedral.

For the final two days, I got myself a couple of 24-hour train tickets and went all over the place, hopping on and off of trains and trams and just soaking up the atmosphere. By the end I was really starting to get familiar with the main places and routes. Obviously the language was a bit of a problem, but I discovered that I do still remember quite a few German words.

During all this I visited a few record shops. Cologne has quite a few record shops, some of them very good indeed. I especially liked Kontrapunkt, where the owner was extremely friendly and helpful, sorting out some 80s Neue Deutsche Welle LPs for me.

I can imagine living in Cologne. I felt at home there, as I do in Amsterdam, Paris and Stockholm. It isn’t just the place itself, but the possibilities. Looking up at the destination board in the station and seeing how many places you can reach with a direct express train; not just in Germany but in France, Belgium, Netherlands and beyond.

Will I go back? I would like to, but there are lots of other places I have not seen yet. It is more likely that I will take a day trip back if I am visiting somewhere, rather than being based there again.

Tags: ···

No Comments so far ↓

There are no comments yet... Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

 

 
Comments Policy:

  • Comments from anyone who is unknown (ie who has not commented before) will go into a moderation queue to be approved. This is to prevent spam/advertising comments and there may be a delay before such comments appear.
  • As far as possible I will not reject moderated comments or delete published comments, even if I disagree with them or if they are criticising me.
  • I intend only to delete/reject comments which are offensive, racist, homophobic, sexist or similar or if they are in any way illegal/libellous.
  • If you think a comment meets those criteria and I might have missed it, let me know.
  • Although technically I am able to edit comments I will not do so unless it is to remove embedded code which is causing problems.
  • If it is ever necessary to edit a comment it will be made clear that it has been edited.
  • Certain words in comments will cause the whole comment to be automatically consigned to the dustbin (Aavaisha, hmmegatest, cognitive, phentermine, xanax, pharmacy, viagra, vicodin, casino, ultram, tamiflu, valium, tramadol, levitra, carisoprodol) for obvious reasons.