A Day in Cologne

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A Taste or Two of Germany

We were up before the sun, packing up our houseboat in Amsterdam. We were starting to feel the pace of this trip, as we only had 2 weeks to explore as much of Europe as we could, and it was time to say good bye to Amsterdam. Bags packed, we locked up the houseboat and decided to walk to Amsterdam Centraal train station. The streets and canals were quiet and it was a great way to see the city off. We arrived early to the train station excited to see our next country.

Early morning at Amsterdam Centraal station, waiting to catch our train to Cologne.

I love trains. The ‘I grew up with Lionel trains, building train stations out of Popsicle sticks’ kind of love for trains. I had also never been on a train before and I was absolutely giddy that morning. We got to the station far too early but I had fun exploring and taking photos. Eventually our German ICE (Intercity-Express) pulled into Centraal Station and we were on our way to Germany.

Dayna, catching up on a bit of sleep

Arriving in Cologne mid morning left us plenty of time to explore. We were able to use our credit card points to get a room at the Kommerz Hotel which for our quick stay was perfect. It’s literally steps away from the train station which is next door to the Cologne Cathedral. Once off the train we headed over to the hotel to try and check in early. Day used the “We’re on our Honeymoon” line with the front desk guy to secure us a room with a nearly unobstructed view of the Cathedral.  We dropped our bags and headed out to explore.

Inside the Cologne Cathedral or Kölner Dom

We explored the Cathedral and then hit the streets looking for lunch. About a block away we found ourselves at Brauhaus Früh am Dom (Früh brewery at the cathedral) and apart from having an amazing lunch we also had our first experience with Kölsch beer. Kölsch is a beer brewed in Cologne that is similar in taste to a pilsner. What makes drinking Kölsch in Cologne unique is the way they serve it. You order it at your table (not necessarily a given in Europe) and after placing a 200ml glass of it on your table the server will then mark your coaster and move along to the next table.

Our first Kölsch beers

Once you’ve finished your beer (its a small glass that goes down easy) you don’t have to do anything. The beer halls have servers walking around with trays of beer, once they see you’re empty they quickly replace your glass with a fresh one, and add a new tick to your coaster. When you’ve had your fill and want to stop the server from auto refilling you, you place your drink on the table, take your coaster and cover the rim of the glass with it. The service and food was amazing, some of the best food we ate the entire trip.

Place your coaster on top of your beer as soon as you’ve finished if you don’t want any more.

With our bellies filled we left to continue exploring the city. Cologne is a mix of new and old, with modern 5th Avenue style shops and a historic city centre. We slowly made our way through the historic part of the city working our way down to the Rhine River. We only made it about half way down before we heard music coming from one of the squares. Deciding to investigate we made our way towards Alter Markt to find a Riesling Wine Festival happening. It just so happens that German Riesling is our favorite wine.

Riesling Wine Festival in Cologne
Enjoying wine and the day in general

Feeling slightly buzzed we made our way down to the waterfront of the Rhine River. The city is well kept and very pedestrian friendly. The other thing we had started to notice, it was very ‘public drinking’ friendly. We had noticed the odd person drinking a beer on the side of the street in Amsterdam but hadn’t thought much of it. When we arrived in Cologne we started noticing it everywhere.

The Rhine River, look closely at the guy on the far left. Its a common sight to see locals enjoying a beer or two along the waterfront

The weather was beautiful while we were in Cologne, and we decided to just hang out down by the river. As we sat there we noticed more and more people walking the waterfront with a beer in their hands. It was clear that street drinking was a norm here and noticed there was even a stand selling beers right at the waterfront!

Having a drink down on the Rhine

Dayna had decided to switch to Diet Coke but I had a couple more drinks down at our stoop by the Rhine. The beers were cheap, but if they were selling them on the river from a kiosk for €1.50, just how cheap could we find one for? We set off to the nearest grocery store to find out…