Yesterday we made it to Cologne, Germany right after breakfast . We decided to forgo the included tour by Viking and go out on our own in Cologne. The Viking Baldur was docked close to the Lindt Chocolate Museum, and according to my Mom the last time she was in Cologne on the Avalon Felicity they were docked closer to the cathedral. The riverboat docks stretch a long ways across Cologne, but at either end you are near different sites.
Once we got off the riverboat we headed down the waterfront to the first stop on our list of the day, the Cologne Cathedral that is also referred to as the Dom. Construction on the cathedral first started in 1248 and took 7 centuries to complete. In 1880 the cathedral was completed and is a prime example of Gothic architecture in Germany. The cathedral is part of the Roman Catholic Church and supposedly attracts over 20,000 visitors a day according to Wikipedia. Today the cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site as well.
During World War II the cathedral did suffer damage during bombings but was not completely destroyed like much of Cologne. Cologne was badly destroyed during World War II and much of the city is completely rebuilt. We were told later on by an individual at the NS Documentation Centre that the Nazis and local firefighters very heavily protected the cathedral during the war because of its significance to Germany.
After touring the cathedral we headed to a site that I found while researching Cologne, the NS Documentation Centre of the City of Cologne. I highly recommend if anyone has time to check out the museum because there is a lot of information here about World War II, the former prison, and Cologne during the war. This is the largest regional memorial site in Germany for victims of the Nazis. To visit the center only costs €4.50 a person and you can buy an audio guide for €2, but we decided against purchasing one.
From 1935 the building served as a residence to the secret police and was spared of much bombing damage during the war. The basement of the documentation center is actually the former Gestapo prison. Actually the prison is considered one of the best-kept prisons of NS times. The museum provides information about how the prison was run, where individuals were tortured, and who some of the prisoners were. In many of the former prison cells the writings and drawings from the prisoners have been preserved on the walls. The prison is very touching and depressing since many barbaric acts were carried out here against prisoners, particularly international prisoners. Outside of the prison there is a courtyard where an estimated 400 individuals were executed during World War II.
While walking upstairs one of the volunteers started talking to use and we really lucked out by this since the nice gentleman took us on basically our own private tour of the top floor of the museum. The top floor is primarily all in German, but is the memorial to victims of the war and includes much information about the secret police and Nazis of Cologne. The man who took us around provided a lot of information and explanations about Nazi time in Germany. One thing that was really interesting was he knew some of the individuals in the photos in the museum and a few were still alive to this day. We so lucked out that he spent time with us and showed us around the museum. There were about 12 to 15 rooms to walk through with many pictures, former Nazi paraphernalia, and local artifacts from the war.
Once we were finished we headed out towards the main shopping street in Cologne. I actually needed to find some lip balm and fortunately came across a drug store that sold some. After that we found Starbucks and bought something in order to use the free wi-fi. This time I had a mango passion fruit juice blend drink, which also was refreshing. I wish this drink and the one I had in Amsterdam were sold in the United States! We also stopped at a pastry shop and both had a kirschplunder, which is some sort of cherry pastry.The pastry was flaky and had a delicious cherry topping on it.
From there we headed towards the Rhein and then went to Kolner Senfmusum, which is the Mustard Shop. I tried a couple of the mustards and bought two to take home: a Riesling mustard and a curry mustard. The Riesling mustard actually does have a light Riesling flavor to it, which tasted really good and was not overpowered by the mustard flavor. This is the shop my parents stopped at during their river cruise.
After that we headed back to the riverboat and luckily beat an afternoon rainstorm. That night we decided to eat dinner in the Aquavit, which is actually on the front of the ship. I think I previously said it was on the back, but it’s actually on the front. I’ll post the menu on a separate post, but we did order a hamburger for dinner and it tasted really good.
At night we did book the brauhaus tour in Cologne through Viking. This tour did cost €29 and was fun. I don’t think the tour was worth the price but since we did not know Cologne that well to go around late at night nor where to go for a brauhaus, this did make it convenient. The tour met around 8:30 pm and then headed out into groups. Our tour guide took us to 4 different places where we tried 4 different kolsch beers. Kolsch is a clear beer with a bright straw-yellow hue with a hoppy characteristic, but it is less bitter though then an IPA. Some of the group members did not notice a difference in the beer but each tasted slightly different I noticed. This is of course due to each brewery using slightly different yeast or hops. One thing to note is all the pubs were hot inside and most charged you to use the bathroom. This is the only minor downside but we still had a good time going around Cologne and tasting local Kolsch.