I haven’t been to Cologne since I first visited at age 16. And because my only parting memories were that (a) the cathedral was awe-inspiring and (b) there was a McDonald’s across the street, I didn’t know what to expect.
First, the good news: The cathedral and its McDonald’s are just as I remembered.
The not-so-good news? With 10 million residents, Cologne (or Köln, in German) is a monster compared to Bruges. So after three days in pedestrian paradise, Esteban and I suffered a bit of culture shock.
Our hotel room was a lovely oasis of calm — nicer than we expected, in fact.
All I wanted was to sink into that big bed and smile up at the crowd of naked ladies. But somehow, Esteban managed to tear me away for a stroll through the Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom — the Cologne cathedral’s Christmas market.
We were overwhelmed by the crowds, but felt better after a bit of bratwurst and mulled wine.
The next morning, we headed for two other markets — the one at Neumarkt, and another called the “old market.” We soon discovered that each of Cologne’s seven Christmas markets has a theme (in this case, angels and gnomes, respectively).
But after a couple more rounds of bratwurst and mulled wine …
… we were ready for some real food.
And here’s where the culture shock really set in: We couldn’t find a single grocer within walking distance of our hotel. We saw only convenience store after convenience store, stocked mostly with Pringles and booze. When we finally decided to grab dinner at a Chinese buffet, I was so starved for veggies that I ate all of their tomatoes and steamed broccoli. Es tut mir leid …
We’d later learn that the grocers are often tucked into the department stores’ basements in Germany. Oh, well. Noted for next time.
Enough of the Christmas markets. On to the cathedral! Back with that tomorrow …