The next day, we all got up early and decided to go to Köln (Cologne) for the day as it’s only a Katzensprung (stone’s throw) away from Münster. We hopped on a train and reached Köln Hauptbahnhof late morning. But before I go on to recount our antics, there are a few things I want to say about Cologne. I think the city will always have a special place in my heart as it was the first place I ever visited in Germany back in 2010 as an excitable first-year university student. However, if I had to pick the one feature in Cologne which means the most to me and captivates me above all else, it would, without shadow of a doubt, be the cathedral. As international symbol for Cologne, this may seem an obvious choice, but I don’t think I have the words to describe how utterly swept away I was upon first glimpsing this spectacular piece of architecture. I remember standing at the foot of the cathedral for the first time, feeling absolutely awed and incredibly small. Nothing will prepare you for the sheer scale of the building. It is, however, not just the size that is impressive, but also the beautiful carvings which frame the great doors and reach to the cathedral’s very peak. I could talk for hours about my love for this building, but I think you understand how I feel!
Aptly, my first act in Cologne that day was to climb all 533 steps up to the top of the cathedral’s south tower in order to admire the incredible view out over the city. Now, this is a lot of steps! And it is not only a series of spiral staircases which you have to scale but also a rather imposing scaffolding tower which takes you up to the higher levels. On the way up, you do get the opportunity to see St. Peters bell which hangs in the belfry of the south tower. (It also grants you a few minutes to catch your breath!) Once you have made it to the top, you are greeted with a fantastic panorama of Cologne with the Rhine glittering at its heart. Scaling the tower also affords you stunning views of the cathedral itself from a very different perspective. Although the walkways are surrounded by metal meshing to prevent anything being thrown off the top, you can look over the edge and see the huge pillars of stone plummeting away from you towards the earth. Whatever time of day you decide to climb to the top, there will always be an incredible view waiting for you.
After spending a good while at the top of the tower admiring the view, we decided to start our descent. Once back on solid ground, we went into the body of the cathedral. Although I am not in any way a religious person, I feel that churches and cathedrals posses a mystery and a beauty which can be appreciated by all. The silence and serenity lend themselves to such appreciation. And Cologne cathedral is no exception. The soaring arches which line the nave draw your gaze up towards the simply but beautifully vaulted ceiling. The stained glass windows bathe the interior of the building in a warm, soft, glowing light while the pillars of the aisles reach up to become the trunks and boughs of vast stone avenues. I think these photos speak for themselves…
After whiling away the morning amongst the towers and beneath the arches of the cathedral, we regrouped with some other language assistants who are currently living in and around Cologne and decided to get a cable car across the Rhine. On the other side there is a lovely park and a way down to the banks of the river. The six of us piled into two cable cars and were soon enough being whisked over Cologne. It was fantastic to see the city and the river from yet another perspective.
Once we touched town, we made our way towards the Rheinpark. It was such a beautiful, warm afternoon; everything seemed so fresh and verdant. We traced the paths through the park until we found a way down to the river. It was much cooler here, but pleasantly so. We wandered along the bank, skimmed stones across the water and sat by the riverside to enjoy the view of the cathedral in the distance. After a good while, we decided to head back over the river in search of lunch.
Having made it back to the other side of the Rhine and eaten, we decided to visit Cologne’s Old Town. Here we found the Rathaus (town hall) with its myriad of architectural influences and its chiming Glockenspiel. There was also a huge array of cafes, lending the square a very continental air. Entering into the spirit, we sat down for a recharge with a refreshing drink before making our way back to the Hauptbahnhof. By then, it was late afternoon and time for Rae, Walker and I to catch our train back to Münster, but not without one final glimpse of the beautiful cathedral.