We arrived in Cologne in the early evening and some passengers chose to have their dinner in town as well as walking around. With temperatures around 30 degrees I chose to stay on board and participate in the Christmas activities.
A Christmas tree was brought into the lounge and we were given a box of ornaments to decorate it. There were two other trees that others were adding to the decorations already on t. We tried to have fun and sabotage the other trees but no one did it back. One tree was all white and we would add bright pink ornaments OR put a banana in the tree. No contest, just a fun activity. We also, with the crew, sang Christmas carols. Then, the guest of honor arrived – St Nicholas (Santa Claus) came by. We all lined up to sit on his lap and receive a gift. Some of the lap sitters had a LOT of fun on Santa’s lap.
Up the next morning fortified with my daily oatmeal, juice and tea we walked outside to meet our tour guide. We were divided for most of the trip into four different groups based on the color ticket you picked up on your way out. We found that for the most part we were part of the blue group. With our Whisper Boxes we then held the receiver up to the large lollipop sign that the guides held up high for us to follow. By touching the receiver to the lollipop we were then on their frequency.
We docked in town so there was no need to have a bus take us to Cologne. Due to all the changes in this cruise because of the water level we were told that we did not have scheduled a tour of the cathedral in Cologne. That was a disappointment for us as on this cruise we did not have any tours of any cathedral.
We walked along the river and saw some very old buildings with the dates written on them. Cologne was originally a Roman settlement and during some of the construction of the city post WW II, many Roman artifacts were found. Most of Cologne was destroyed during WW II and a master plan was developed for the rebuilding of the city. With most of the downtown area destroyed, it was easy to lay out a new plan for the city and wider streets for the automobile.
Wandering up and down some pedestrian streets we saw unique statues including one on the side of a building of a little boy pulling down his pants and “mooning” the church across the park. Germany was once Catholic but with the reformation many chose the Protestant denomination. This little boy was protesting something that the church had done.
We walked past an excavation site where they were going to build however, once they were digging Roman artifacts were found. They were taken to the Roman Germanic museum that housed many of these artifacts. We were able to look into the windows at the museum and could go back on our own if we wanted to.
Before you knew it we were at the Cologne Cathedral. Due to the fact that there were many changes to our itinerary, the ship somehow lost our reservation to tour the cathedral. It was suggested by our tour guide that we go in before noon as a service would be happening then.
We were at the end of the tour and followed out tour guide’s recommendation and visited the cathedral. I was somewhat upset at how loudly people were talking in the church. It is a church and a place for reverence. I chose not to take any pictures inside the church but it was beautiful. This church was begun in 1248 and continued being built until around 1478 when it was stopped for about three hundred years. Building began again in 1880. It is the largest Gothic church in northern Europe. Unfortunately during World War II the church was hit fourteen times yet it still stood.
Across the street from the cathedral we decided to go into a small restaurant, Cafe Reichard, to get something warm/hot to drink and use the rest rooms. Once we sat down we decided we wanted more and ordered a light lunch. The soup was absolutely delicious and so was the hot tea. If you are in Europe and looking for restrooms, always look for the stairs and go down. Make sure you bring a 50 cent euro piece for admission.
Our tour guide told us about a miniature tourist train that went around the city to four of the eight Christmas markets in Cologne. It was at the corner where the cafe was. While we waited we looked across the street and saw a fun and unique building.
When the train arrived we boarded quickly and sat down. Turns out it wasn’t free as we thought but was 10 euros. It was well worth it to be taken to the markets.
We paid and went to our first Christmas market, then our second which was on the river, our third which seemed very popular with the after work crowd and then back again to where we began, the market by the Cathedral. What the markets carried was very similar as were the prices but there were still somethings that were very unique.
Walking back to the ship we were a little sad as we knew this was our last Christmas market on the cruise. We knew that the next day we would be in Amsterdam and they didn’t have any while we were there. We did have our collection of gluhwein mugs as a wonderful souvenir of the Christmas markets.
My cruise mate and I did have another city to look forward to – after the cruise we were going to go to Dusseldorf and was excited about that.