Located in the most densely populated area of Germany, Cologne (Köln in German) is among the most beautiful of all German cities, and hence has always been a very popular stop for tourists. Cologne is most famous for "The Dom" — its stunning cathedral in the centre of the city — which is the largest work of Gothic architecture in all of Europe. Kölsch beer is another important reason to visit. I spent one night here in Cologne, mainly to visit my friend Regine (who lives in nearby Bonn).
The historic centre of Cologne has various buildings and monuments to see — but by far the biggest, and the only one that it's essential to see, is the city's famous "Dom" (i.e. cathedral). Located smack bang in the middle of town — just outside the main train station — the Dom is so bloody enormous, it's quite impossible to miss. With its impressive towering exterior, and its gorgeous arches and windows inside, it's believed to be the largest fully-preserved gothic structure in all of Europe. Entrance is free, too: just wander in and look at your leisure. This morning, before I scooted out of town, I checked out the Dom, and got somewhat blown away by it. No, really: it was a super-windy morning; and while standing in the exposed plaza in front of the Dom, I literally got blown inside.
As anyone who's ever been to Cologne (aka Köln) should know, the city's famous hallmark beer is a brand called Kölsch. There are several competing brews available, but all of them are served in tradional little "shot glasses", completely fresh and straight out of the barrel. After dinner this evening, my friend Regine took me to one of the better Kölsch bars in town, and we had time to down a few glasses of the stuff and to have a little chat, before Regine had to head back home to Bonn. Great-tasting stuff.
Regine lives in the city of Bonn (next-door neighbour of Cologne), and she's one of the amazing 10 companions with whom I went on the Salkantay hike to Machu Picchu, back in Peru in April. She came up to Cologne for the evening to have a little reunion with me, and to show me the sights and sounds (and food and drink) of the city. She hasn't changed since Peru: she's the same warm and friendly person, who always looks like she's ready to dance, and who's amazingly a vegetarian in Germany. We ended up going for some great Indian curry here in Cologne, which we followed with some delicious Kölsch beer.
The Station Backpacker's is a reasonable enough place: big, full of party spirit, and right in the heart of fun-packed Cologne. My biggest gripe is that the hostel has too many levels, and too many winding stairs to take you up to them: you kind of end up racing up and down them a lot. Otherwise, it's a well laid-out affair, with good staff and even better fellow guests. As with yesterday's hostel in Freiburg, it's just a pity that I can't stay here longer — but my schedule is rather hectic at the moment.