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A scenic ride on ICE, from Frankfurt to Köln, going past Koblenz along the river Rhine.  A day and half earlier, I had communicated via mail to Mahesh that i will most probably reach Cologne by 12:30pm. I did not have a cell phone. I get out of the train with my 23 + 8.something kilograms of luggage, and see this guy with a huge grin walking towards me.

It was great to catch up with a college buddy after a really long long time, and in most unexpected of places. Just about a couple of years back, we were chatting at IISc air strip, and now we were catching up in Cologne!

We dropped our luggage at a pre-paid counter – costs about 2 euros for 24 hours, and set out to explore Cologne in the few hours I had before continuing on my journey.

Just outside the Cologne station is this huge, mammoth structure – Kölner Dom or Cologne Cathedral. I had never seen such huge man-made structure. Built over 600 years, this monument at one time was the tallest structure in the world.

The Cathedral is epitome of Gothic architecture, and was built to keep the faith of people in Christianity. The craftsmanship reminded me of our own Hoysala temples of Belur. Unlike Hoysala temples, which were in parts destroyed as the territories were concurred by rulers of different faith, the Cologne Cathedral is unscathed to a large extent – signifying the solidarity of Christianity in Europe.

Spent some time inside the cathedral, appreciating the Gothic design, sculptures and magnificent stained glass windows. Next, we decided to scale this tower. At the top of the tower is the world’s largest free swinging bell, St. Petersglocke, which fortunately wasn’t ringing at that time. The walls inside the church have zillions of scribblings of visitors from across the world. I decided not to leave any mark of my presence in that way. The climb was exhausting, but the view of the city from the top was exhilarating.

Check the bridge across the river Rhine:

The most fascinating aspect of this structure is that it survived the bombing of World War II, when the entire city was in shambles. Check the same bridge in this priceless image captured in 1944:

Photo courtesy of The Rocketeer, who found these photos in a book bought at a Public Library sale!

After the tiring climb, we went to one of Cologne’s oldest breweries to refresh. Früh am Dom, brewery located near the cathedral was our stop for Kölsch. Kölsch bier, exclusive to Cologne is served in Kölsch-Stange, and a must try when you are in Cologne. You get non-alcoholic Kölsch as well. Unfortunately, the dungeon was closed the day I visited, and we settled outside. Visit to the chocolate factory was very tempting, but we did not have the time.

Stained glass windows inside the church

The great twin spires

It would have not been possible to spend few hours at Cologne, and have vegetarian food for lunch if Mahesh was not along. Thanks a lot dude!

It would also have not been possible to share these images if not for Sam, who lend his Sigma 10-20mm lens for my trip. Thanks Sam!

It would also have not been possible to take the fantastic train journey from Frankfurt to Eindhoven, changing 4 trains with a rather long stop at Cologne, and brief stops at Mönchengladbach, and Venlo before arriving at Eindhoven if not for Sudhir, who suggested to take the scenic route along the Rhine river valley and planned the route.

Links:

DB Bahn – German railway website is very useful for planning your journey across Europe.

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