The cathedral is inextricably linked to Cologne. And of course this cathedral is impressive. It gives this nowadays rather hip German city a familiar face. But Cologne has so much more.
The first rays of the sun hit the ground. The streets are almost deserted. Sweeping carts break the harmonious silence. Bottles of Kolch, paper wrappers smeared with garlic sauce and human vomit turn the sidewalk into a battlefield. It’s the legacy of the night out. I run further towards the Duomo. Yesterday afternoon the square was full. From the most impossible positions, boyfriends tried doggedly to take Instagram worthy photos of their partners. While lying on the ground, they realize that the immense building is simply too large to capture in its entirety. Now I count four people. A young couple whose boy is visibly annoyed that he has to play photographer at half past six in the morning. A nun with a hood and a mouth cap who stares in love at her dom. And the bum in rags pushing his shopping cart full of possessions. ‘Guten morgen schwester’, he shouts. She has no eyes for him. I admire the grandeur of the Duomo, which dominates the skyline of the metropolis shapes and dominates. Cologne is so much more than the Dom.
Left and right
As one of the holy cities, Cologne was dotted with churches. Although Napoleon demolished a third of the places of worship in his time, the church density remained high. The industrialization of the Ruhr area went a bit beyond the city due to the focus on the religious aspect and church tourism. The location on the Rhine, which used to be a natural border without bridges, has also been a determining factor. Cologne is on the left and is Catholic, industrial cities Dusseldorf, Essen, Wuppertal and Oberhausen on the Protestant right.
Along the banks of the Rhine
The banks of the same Rhine are ideal for a walk. The path along the cathedral leads to Cologne’s most famous bridge. The fencing and railings of the Hohenzollernbrücke are almost completely decorated with padlocks of couples in love in all colors and sizes. Tens of thousands of associated keys lie at the bottom of the Rhine as a sign of eternal love. The railway bridge with pedestrian and bicycle paths on both sides handles more than a thousand trains daily. And forms the connection to the right side of Cologne known locally as ‘Schäl Sick’, roughly translated the wrong way. With the realization of the Rheinboulevard, the right side also has a crowd puller; a pedestrian promenade with a beautiful view of the popular left side. For beautiful views, the right side with the Koln Triangle has another trump card. This 103 meter office building has on the 28e floor an outdoor observation platform behind high glass walls. A perfect place to get an overview of the city and the skyline, including the Duomo.
Claudia Dick has seen Cologne change. She was born and raised in the city and is approaching sixty. ‘Certainly in the last ten years, urban life has increasingly moved outside the door. The terraces are filled until well into November and heaters and blankets prevent residents from sitting inside. Life is increasingly taking place on the street. Meeting is important’. She points to a kiosk across the road. “Look, this is more than a magazine and tobacco outlet. ‘This is where you meet, buy a beer and meet friends’. I had already noticed that walking around with a bottle of beer on the street is quite common. Smoking also seems to be back in fashion.
Claudia takes me to the Belgian Viertel. ‘This is by far the hippest district in Cologne. Art, music and culture are intertwined in this district with its Belgian street names. Street art creates a face. Murals, stickers and other works of art are visible but also hidden. The Church of Saint Michael on Brusseler Platz is the center of the district. It is bustling on the square in front of the church. Pointed boulders should prevent the plant borders from being used as a hangout. “In vain,” Claudia smiles. ‘The neighborhood has a strong appeal. The terraces are full and people are sitting everywhere. Not all residents are happy with the status of their neighborhood and the nuisance that this entails. The catering industry has to close at midnight, but then the party is often far from over’.
zebras on the street
Cities of millions usually have a city park that forms a green oasis in the middle of the urbanity. Hidden away in a corner on the right side of the Rhine, the Rheinpark doesn’t live up to that. The Innerer grungurtel is an elongated piece of greenery that forms the border between several districts. The Flora district is by far the greenest part of Cologne and home to the ancient Cologne Zoo. Hundreds of soft pink flamingos are balancing on one leg in the green grass next to their swimming pond. A cheetah, lounging in the tall grass, keeps an eye out and an anteater with its long snout searches the grass for something to eat. Colorful planting gives the zoo an almost park-like appearance, with the rainforest house, jungle house and Madagascar house looking like pavilions. The thirteen elephants in particular have a spacious stay. Three hippos doze off in the sun. The zebras are even visible from the street. The shiny office buildings rise above the zoo. Nature in the city and a city in nature. A walk of two kilometers along the Rhine separates the cathedral from the zoo. Nobody is surprised by a bottle of beer for the road.