Enter Cologne:- the fourth largest city in Germany and the largest city in North Rhine. Cologne or Koln (That is how it is written in German) is well connected by road, rail and air. The TGV or the High Speed Train also connects it. There are at least ten motorways from all directions taking you to the centre. Cologne also has a very busy rail station with well over 1000 trains daily!
River Rhine flows to the east of the city and there are seven bridges across this river. The bridges are beautifully built and a walk along at least one of these bridges is well worth taking. Right across the railway station is the tourist office and on your way, you will find yourself admiring at the massive structure. This is the Cathedral, the focal point of Cologne. From the tourist office you could pick a local map which will guide you through cologne. This map also highlights all the important places that you can visit.
In Cologne, almost everything began with the Romans because as early as 54 BC, the borders of the Roman Empire extended as far as the Rhine. This is precisely the reason why you find so many Gothic structures all over the city. In fact Hohe Strasse – the city's high street has withstood the test of time and is perhaps as old as Cologne's history itself. Today it is Cologne's best shopping street!
Cologne is visited not only by tourists but also by pilgrims and traders. Trade has flourished in this city from early times. Now, Koln Messe – in the heart of the city holds up to forty international trade fairs in a year. These world trade fairs have attracted many traders and experts from all over the world. There are at least 24 churches in this city. The tourists however, flock to this place to see the excellent blend of old and new structures and cultures.
The city has twelve large Romanesque churches which have been open to public after extensive restoration. These churches are the most popular tourist spots as you get to see beautiful roman architecture. Of all these, the Cathedral of Cologne stands out for its structural marvel. The foundation stone for this cathedral was laid in 1248 to house the relics of the Three Magi! It is said that the work on this cathedral was stopped for more than 300 years! The cathedral however was completed only in the early 19th century. The cathedral from outside enthrals you for its massiveness and it is equally breathtaking inside. The large stained glass windows have paintings that date back to the 16th century. Behind the High Altar is the Shrine of the Three Magi. The Cathedral also has a treasury that houses a rich collection of treasures. In good weather, it is worth going up the cathedral's south spire and on the way, you get to see the world's largest free-swinging bell.
There are several other things you could do in Cologne in the right time of the year (between April and October) – you could go on a cruise along the expanse of Rhine. If you are one of those who enjoys a walk, then, you could walk along the banks of river with its many restaurants catering to every taste. Somewhere along the banks of the river is a chocolate museum. This museum talks about the making of chocolate and how Germany with its technological marvel has propelled chocolate in the international market. One part of the museum has this big unit where chocolate is made and you can see the whole process till it gets wrapped in a beautiful piece of paper. However, the best part of the museum is a chocolate fountain! No, it just does not happen only in fairy tales! Unlike the water fountains, this fountain is a smooth fountain and does not splash chocolate everywhere as the chocolate is so thick. And yes! A lady dips a handful of wafers into the base of the fountain (where the chocolate gets collected) and gives them to people. You can actually eat how many ever you want.
There are also many other museums if you are a museum buff. There are at least 120 art galleries. Of these, the most spectacular new museum is the Ludwig museum, which is between the cathedral and the Rhine. It houses the largest collection of mediaeval works of the Cologne school of painting and also other valuable works.
The city is beautiful with lots of Gothic structures. There are big old buildings with roman structures and there are also modern buildings next to it! Did you know that Eau De Cologne (water of Cologne) originated here? Yes, the brand is 4711. There is this huge building of 4711 which is marvellous. You can buy your bottle of this here and it roughly costs about Rs.450 for a 15ml bottle! Kolsch is the local beer that most people enjoy in a cosy pub.
The people here are very friendly and most of them speak English. Also, all through Germany, there are very good roads. In fact, there are no speed limits in most places except in some stretches where the speed limit is indicated.