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A Day in Cologne

Cologne, Germany


Once again, we are off to Schönefeld Airport. EZYjet is not on the menu today, we are having German Wings instead! It's one of the few low-cost carriers in Germany but with a difference: leather seats! My travel buddy told me we don't have to scramble for our seats today like we do with EZY and true to his word, German Wings actually pre-allocate seats.

Just like our trip to Paris, we had to get up early to catch the train. But this time we took the S-BAhn to Potsdam (Central) Bahnhof to catch the one going the other side of city (I believe, going South).
It is about the same distance but have less stops. Here at the Potsdam Haupbanhoff, thre is a very nice bakery with yummy oooohhh so mouth- watering pastries!!!!

Had a quick photo with the German Wings Bear after checking then straight thru to wait for our boarding time. Picked up a few postcards and realised I left my pen at the customs check-in area inside the white plastic tray where I dumped all by bits and pieces. Being use to the slow pace at home where most people are still quite honest, I went back for it but the officer told me it wasn't there.

Feeling disappointed I went back and told my mate... "people are not so honest here" and he agreed. Now I understand why he kept telling me before I left for Germany that he won't allow me to go out on my own or that I should not be to trusting if strangers are trying to be too friendly or trusting. I got reminded with the adaptor I left at our hotel in Schwangau. That was never returned either. It appears like who ever found it did not tell the management about it, and the management did not bother to question their workers even after calling them several times. Anyway, I decided I wasn't gonna let this little thing affect my mood today.

Marvo has kept this trip a secret. It was his little surprise for me. I know he has booked this flight since September and I have pestered him with questions about it but he never gave in. He just kept saying I will like it.

There are only 3-4 places I have in mind taking to consideration the surprise element he mentioned in this trip. I know he is great at picking up hints of things I like or interested at. It could only be Cologne or Heidelberg and the only other cities I could think of are Stuttgard and Frankfurt. Munchen could be another one but we have been that way so my heart is leaning towards Cologne.

Flight was great! Especially after entertaining half of the passengers. I supposed people here are used to flying with Easy Jet so they don't go to their allocated seats or the lady culprit just didn't read the row number right. I realised the seat I was going for was 25A instead of the 24A I have in my boarding pass.

Anyway, last few minutes before take off, a guy spoke to me in German and motioned I was seating in his seat. I told him "sorry I don't speak German" but moved out of his seat anyway. I tried to explain that the lady was seating on my seat blah blah blah! Anyway, the lady vacated our seats and we moved back to the row behind us only this time Marvo was trying to seat by the window. Without thinking I grabbed him by the collar and very loudly and very emphatically told him "No No No, you are not taking my seat Mister!" and yanked him out of the way! Half of the passengers found that quite entertaining and triggered a chain of giggles and laughs and friendly remarks from everyone. If there is one thing I like about Germans, it would be their sense of humour and today proved that even more! And I feel good having helped set a lighter mood for everyone at the start of a gray day!

Of course by this time I already knew we are going to Cologne! Cologne=-Bonn airport is as I have expected. From the arrival area, we turned left to take the escalator down to catch the train. Before that I watched my buddy get our train tickets from the German only speaking machines:-)) They are one of the reasons I have limited myself to just walking around Babelsberg or staying in when Marvo went back to work. They do not cater very well to non-German speaking visitors like me. For a city like Berlin, Postdam or Cologne which would be one of the most visited cities in the world, I wonder why they can't be like the French who has their train info system translated in 5 languages.

I feel 100% more confident in France, a country whose language I too have no knowledge of; simply because every direction, every instruction are duplicated in English. Germany is not the same. I guess eventually they will get there. But for now, non-German speaking individual travellers will find it pretty hard moving around the country. There are very few info centres and the ones available closes very early. In saying that most if not all of the younger ones do speak English or can speak some English!

I would not have a clue how to get myself to Potsdam from Schönefeld Airport if I got there after 8pm. I saw locals hitting the roof simply because even they cannot figure out their own train-ticket disbursing machines.

Anyway, Cologne was great treat! I loved it, the Christmas Market at the base of Cologne Cathedral, the shopping (which reminds me of the crowd in Manila or Sydney); and the made in China items which proliferated in all the shops we have gone to. I fell in loved with a Lacoste bag but fell out of love again when Marvo showed me the label. That was good, I saved another EUR69.00

It would be injustice to go to Cologne without buying some Special Cologne Water! The store where it was first made is still in operation but I bought my Köln-Wasser in one of the souvenir shops by the Cathedral!

Coming out of the train station, Marvo asked me to stop and take a big breath before I take another step. I thought "Gee he is being over dramatic again"...but obliged anyway so I took a long and deep breathe in, breathen out and took the step! I turned to my left and lo! and behold infront of me is the Gigantic Gothic Masterpiece that I have only seen in photos. I stood there for a moment, actually much longer than a moment. I remember way back in UST while doing Art Appreciation papers in uni; Cologne Cathedral was one of the few buildings I found interesting. It would be one of the few reasons I have overstayed at the Library. I use to watch (not read) lots books with photos of European buildings. I never in my life thought I will actually come this close to Cologne Cathedral.


The closer I got the harder it was to believe these were all done hundreds of years ago. The amount of work, planning, expertise, time and lives trapped in this masterpiece is way out of my comprehension. I just gave in to my inner instinct: "if I can't fathom it... swim and go along with the flow".

First we went down to the basement and checked all the bits and pieces there and the ruins and learned all about the family that were buried in that fortress under the cathedral. Then Marven guided me to a bench and started to say.."I am just a bit worried with your foot (I was limping on my left foot, rushing out and jumping from the stairs in one of the train stations from Disneyland Paris whee landed on the side of my foot,it has been so sore and currently a bit swollen) and told me about the Tower! He explained there are 509 steps going up and then will have to come down the same way. "There are no lifts up there and you will have to come down the stairs on foot again and the stairs are very narrow". That was how he explained it.

I thought about it for a moment and decided a sore foot is not going to stop me today. I don't know if I will ever be this way again. So I said "the pain in my foot is only a state of mind" I can think and worry about it later on but for now I am here to experience everything I can in the little time we have. And if I have to climb up 509 steps on a swollen foot to get a 360 degrees view of Cologne and then down again..thinking of Sir Richard Branson's book, I said "Screw it, let's do it!

But first he took me inside the Cathedral, we spent quite sometime there. I needed that to absorb everything I was seeing. I left him taking photos and I wandered around just admiring this masterpiece imagining the kind of people whose hands and minds created and put this awesome masterpiece together.

The details inside and outside...I could not help but compare and convinced myself Notre Dame in Paris pales in comparison to this one.

By the way, the stairs up to the tower I found out is a continous very narrow spiral staircase (I did not count the steps). I forgot about my sore foot, my fear of falling took over and all my focus was centered on not making silly mistake or down I fall continously to the bottom. My only chance of stopping is if any one of the people coming up can stop me. I must say it can be a challenge to people suffering from acrophobia or claustrophobia.

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We were early for our return flight but we just stayed at the airport and enjoyed a drink as we watched the sun for the first time during the day...just a glimpse of it as it was setting. Then we found out our flight back to Berlin is delayed by almost an hour.I was quite tired and we spent our time snoozing until our plane arrived. In contrast to the boarding gates in Auckland where you have to walk quite a bit to get to the loo...Cologne Airport has them in every boarding gate!

We got back to Berlin late in the evening which gave us a bit of time to stop in the city to buy a few food supplies from a shop I believe could be the only shop open that time of the night. I bought what I thought was fresh eggs only to be told later they are hard-boiled eggs.

I wish I could be as carefree as this boy on the train...




permalink written by  jorgn_craw on December 11, 2008 from Cologne, Germany
from the travel blog: Euro Trip 2008
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Hey Mate. Thanks a lot for the new updated blog.

permalink written by  Marven on December 18, 2008

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"It doesn’t matter how masterfully written a book is, reading it year in year out gets a bit boring in the end! So does the places we visit”…. G. Crawford

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