The Christmas markets at Köln (Cologne)

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The riverside. That’s not the cathedral.

Our first stop after Amsterdam was Cologne. Like most German cities along the Rhine, Cologne was flattened in World War II and although the cathedral suffered fourteen hits, its twin spires remained as a landmark for Allied bomber pilots crossing from Britain for their raids. The origins of the building go back to 1284 but it wasn’t finished until 1880. Here’s some of the history

We’d done the guided tour of the city before so we didn’t do it again. But these little stories from our 2015 trip amused me.

Cologne has many claims to fame – its fabulous Catholic cathedral and its 4711 eau de cologne being the best known. But maybe not everybody knows it was a very important Roman stronghold, more of which is being dug up as they expand the underground train system. As we walked towards the cathedral following our lollipop, the guide told us the main station had been built next to the cathedral to join the old with the new. But in fact the vibration from all those trains rumbling past have put a strain on the cathedral. We did wonder about the fabled German engineers when we heard that.

Original frescoes from Roman times
The empty square

Then we walked up some steps to an apparently empty square being guarded by a bunch of official looking men behind simple barricades. The guide explained that the square was above the roof of a music auditorium, and the sound of feet crossing the square could be heard during recitals. So the area was fenced off in those times. Uh-huh.

This year, 2023, we were off to the Christmas markets while they were still open. Although it wasn’t especially cold (by their standards), the wind had popped down from the Arctic with a couple of knives. Even so, the markets were busy, chock full of locals and tourists having a good time with lots of sparkly goods on display.

I’m not a shopper, but I have it on expert authority that most of the merchandise was made in China. That’s the way of the world, isn’t it? Globalisation sucks.

Come on in
A lull in the traffic
Teddies and fluffy toys
All sorts of glassware
Wooden toys and the Nutcracker Prince
Something for everyone
Beer, food, gluhwein
Or you could go here instead

After an hour or so of soaking up the atmosphere we headed back to the boat where the gluhwein (and the Irish coffee, wine, beer, etc) were all free and the wind wasn’t allowed in.

By the way, if you’ve happened upon this page by accident and you’d like to read more about the tour, go to the tour page where you’ll find the rest of our adventures.

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