For a city that has a metropolitan area containing about ten million inhabitants, the city of Cologne in Germany has quite a lot of green space. Perhaps that is because, during World War II, Cologne was one of the world’s most bombed cities. The city is situated right on the mighty Rhine River and was an allied target because of it being an industrial force in the Ruhr.
Cologne has always had a colourful history, ever since it was established by the Romans in 50 AD. Over time the city flourished to become an important trade route and one of the leading members of the Hanseatic League in the Middle Ages. Because of its economic importance, Cologne found itself being occupied whichever European empire was in power at the time, and has been ruled by both the French and the British.
As most of the city had to be re-built following the war, it has a mishmash of architectural styles, but the city thrives once more and is one of Germany’s most cultural cities with a booming arts industry.
The city’s most important building is Cologne Cathedral which soars to a height of 160 metres, dwarfing all of its neighbouring buildings. The cathedral can be seen from most points in the city, and is very imposing indeed. This Gothic building was opened in 1248 and the total area of the Cathedral measures almost 8000 square metres and has room for more than 20,000 people inside.
Much of the Old Town still exists, and that which was destroyed has mostly been rebuilt. It is a picturesque maze of narrow, cobbled streets that is dominated by the cathedral, the Church of St Martin the Great and the historic town hall. German beer has a good reputation, and in the Old Town it is a tradition to visit a brauhaus, a traditional brewery, and enjoy a hearty meal whilst sipping on a large beer.
A good way to appreciate the city is from the water, and there a several operators who run cruises along the Rhine. Perhaps the most popular cruise is the Harbour Tour which sails past the Cathedral, the old town, the Chocolate Museum, the German Sports and Olympics Museum, then continues along the length of the meadows in Poll, sails under five of Cologne’s quirky Rhine bridges to the former fishing village of Rodenkirchen.
Cologne offers visitors 2,000 years of, mostly dramatic, history and with an extensive bus and tram network is easy to negotiate. If you notice that pleasing aroma in the air, it may just emanate from the world’s oldest perfume factory, the one which gave us the generic name for pleasing fragrances: eau-de-Cologne.