29th JULY: The time had come to leave the Dam…for now. We were up bright and early for a very windy open top car ride down to Cologne. Now looking suitably windswept we checked into our next accommodation and made a beeline for the nearest restaurant, which just so happened to have the most amazing leg of lamb and potatoes, before donning our ludicrous rave t-shirts and hitting the town.
The City is the cultural hub of the Rhineland (Western Germany), not just famous for housing over 30 museums (including the Lindt Schokolade Museum!), but also for it’s welcoming attitude to all styles of party goer and a variety of music. See Kolne Karneval for more information.
Now, the best ‘party’ district in Cologne is Rudolphplatz and it was in one of the bars on the along here that I was reminded of just how awesome the Germans really are. Leaving your phone unattended for a long period of time on a table in the middle of the street is not a smart move at the best of times, but particularly not when you are in the middle of a spontaneous holiday abroad where nothing is planned and you have just ‘uninsured’ your £300 iPhone 4S. Luckily tho, Germany is full of amazing people, and after legging it back through the streets of Cologne a good 45 mins later I was relieved to find the phone was still there, in fact it was being ‘looked after’ by two lovely German girls who refused all offers of payment or drinks to say thanks and were just content that they had reunited the lost phone with it’s distressed owner!
Next morning, it was time to say goodbye to the boys, and with most of the day to myself before hitching a ride to Brussels I set about exploring this beautiful city, but I first needed my chocolate fix, Fassbender Konfectionary, on Mittelstrasse fitted the bill and was just round the corner from where we had partied on Rudolphplatz the night before. Founded over 100 years ago and with their original store in Siegberg being a cafe and patisserie, a little out of Cologne, they later turned to chocolate and have supplied Cologne natives with chocolates for decades. This was the perfect stop for a hot chocolate, a pastry and two dark chocolate truffles – gone in an instant – their smooth chocolatey goodness enough to see me on my way.
Cologne city, founded some 2,000 years ago spans the river Rhine in Western Germany and despite being one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany, still sports a stunning (although mainly reconstructed) old town along the river, its streetscape is punctuated with the twin spired Gothic Cologne Cathedral, or ‘Kölner Dom’ as it’s known in German. Without hesitation I set about re-exploring this ancient relic that has stood since the 13th Century and survived two World Wars. Due to a lack of funding, building on the cathedral was halted in the 16thC and the abandoned cathedral was used as a prison and stable during Napoleon’s rule in Cologne. Luckily a Prussian paid for the construction in the 19C and it was finally completed in 1880. Standing at 155m tall it became the highest building in the world at the time. Although it was a cloudy day it was still mesmeric to see the patterns of stained glass windows, depicting religious stories of old, and walking around the church really felt like you were in a time warp of ages. As with many churches, there is often an option to climb up to the top, but unfortunately today it was closed, so I guess that will be a trip for next time. As I returned to the modern world I began making my way through Cologne Old Town towards my next stop…
…The Lindt Schokolade Museum, on the banks of the river Rhine has a fine array of chocolate artifacts and even an entire production facility, in progress for people to view – I was in heaven. There was also a strictly climate controlled greenhouse with several lush green healthy cacao trees, unfortunately not enough to make chocolate from, but maybe one day.
Still, there was plenty enough chocolate to try and many different rooms to explore. One whole floor was dedicated to the different stages of chocolate production and various machines from bygone eras, as well as examples of chocolate by-products such as cacao press cake (or raw cacao powder to you and I) ready to be ‘dutched’. Another room dedicated entirely to artifacts of different chocolate molds and machines – that some chocolate producers still use to this day. After immersing myself in chocolate, and even smelling it on my clothes long after I had left the museum, it was now time to head to Brussels for new chocolatey adventures that awaited.