Tag Archives: Beer

Making a Splash in Cologne, Germany

Our decision to visit Cologne, Germany, went something like this:

“There’s a really cheap flight to Cologne.”

“What’s in Cologne?”

“They have a chocolate museum.”

“Sold.”

Up until that point, my friends and I knew of Cologne only as a men’s fragrance, but when the guidebook promises a “Willy Wonka-esque” chocolate fountain,  you heed the call.

We left our home base in Padua, Italy, with visions of candy bars dancing in our heads.  Nine hours of missed bus and train connections later, we arrived starving, exhausted, and about ready to punch a sugar plum fairy.

Emerging from the train station, the ominous shadow of the Kölner Dom immediately enveloped us.  Cologne’s towering cathedral broods over the city, justly earning its title as the largest gothic church in Northern Europe.  Beholding the dark behemoth against the bright blue autumn sky, we couldn’t help but be impressed…and slightly less disgruntled.

The Dom towers over the city of Cologne

From the imposing square of the Dom, Cologne breaks off into smaller cobblestone streets with modern stores that perhaps aim to counter the church’s heavy dose of history (it dates back to 1248!).  Ambling through the city on the way to our hostel, we came across another prevalent feature of Cologne’s landscape: street art.

A graphic series of poster-sized photographs depicted the lives and deaths of struggling drug addicts.  A huge wooden sculpture of rainbow-colored, nesting squares let us climb inside for a picture-framed view of the city.  We were amused, but not appeased, still grumbling over our traveler’s misfortune and regrettably empty stomachs.

Colorful 3-D street art

And then we saw it.  In the middle of a small, tree-lined square, it was unassuming but irresistible.  A man-made puddle, no more than 20 feet wide, with a turquoise plastic cube at its center for one to perch upon.  Along its edges were at least a dozen pairs of white rain boots, beckoning to be worn.

Without hesitation, we threw off our shoes and grabbed a pair of galoshes.  Never mind the dozens of questionable feet that had occupied them before us–we had some splashing to attend to.  For nearly a half-hour we waded around in the Kölsch puddle–almost two feet at its deepest point–laughing and taking pictures and forgetting all about our rough journey there.  It was as if Cologne had anticipated our unhappiness upon arriving, and it knew just the cure.

Kölsch puddle!

Even after our puddle jumping had concluded, Cologne continued to intrigue and delight us.  We ate bratwurst alongside mustachioed old men in a traditional beer garden and danced recklessly to German Top 40 songs at a student nightclub.  Along the banks of the Rhine river, we explored Cologne’s Old Town and finally tasted milk chocolate from the Lindt Museum‘s golden fountains.  We stuffed ourselves with pretzels and potato pancakes and washed them down with the signature Kölsch brew.

When we stepped into that puddle, Cologne had christened us, allowing us brief access to its finest secrets.  A city rife with history, Cologne honors its roots, but somehow manages to stay young at heart.  Both the young and the old gather at the same outdoor restaurants to eat, talk, and listen to a street band honk traditional tunes while the beer flows until the drinker sets the coaster atop her glass.

Cologne is often forgotten alongside the more popular German cities of Berlin and Munich–but it doesn’t mind.  Cologne will wait for you.  When you arrive, you might find–just as we did–that it’s all too easy to dip your toes in…

Fellow puddle jumpers test the waters.


Your trusty boots await!

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Travel Tales

Now You See Me…

MNphoto

It’s 1 a.m. in Minneapolis, and my friend and I are sharing a 20-inch tall, boot-shaped glass of beer with three young professionals we just met. Polka music is playing in the background, and the air smells like cinnamon and wood smoke.  With each sip of dark brew, we become more pleased that we heeded the advice of a random article about “best hipster bars” and took a cab across town. We each take turns allowing a 75-year-old man to waltz us around the room to the rhythm of the accordion.  We laugh at each other’s expense when he gets a little too close for comfort.  The lights dim and the polka fades into hip hop and the old man disappears.  My friend gets caught up in conversation with a dark and handsome stranger.  I forget myself and approach the attractive guy I spotted when we first walked in.  He’s all-American – blonde hair, blue eyes, and built like a football player.  I grab his hand and lead him into the crowd, knowing that after tonight, he’ll never see me again.

_____

When we travel, we try to absorb as much about a destination as we can.  That’s the point: to discover some place new and discover more about ourselves in the process.  So it makes sense to believe that the longer we stay somewhere, the more we learn.

But there’s something to be said for fleeting getaways.  The quick trips we take just to escape for a moment, where there’s not enough time to adapt to a new environment – there’s only the present.

When we travel somewhere briefly, we remove the stress around doing things “right.”  We don’t have to worry about running into someone we know, or ordering the wrong food, or mispronouncing a word from our phrasebook.  We’ll be gone tomorrow.

Short-term travel might seem a little selfish, but only because it’s liberating.  For one or two days, we can be bolder, braver versions of ourselves.  We can come into people’s lives suddenly and leave them just as soon – and that’s okay.  We can throw ourselves right into the heart of a city with no preparation and little hesitation – and often learn more than we ever would have with more time.    Maybe we don’t come out with lasting friendships, or a new outlook, or a list of best restaurants, but we still leave with memories.  And those are always worth the trip.

Leave a comment

Filed under Monthly Musing