Eat, sleep, and fall in love like a Kölner: 8 unique things to do in Cologne
In the shadow of the fast-paced, buzzing capital is a more sophisticated German city: Cologne. Beyond its famous cathedral, the city offers up some curiosities that are well worth a visit.
Here's our guide to experiencing Cologne like a Kölner:
1. Spot an (ancient) act of debauchery
Konrad von Hochstaden, he wasn't really liked by the people of Cologne pic.twitter.com/6M4yDHmu4E— Persian Rose (@PersianRose1) 4. Juni 2017
Mixing high art and folk culture was common in medieval art, though some artists were more daring than others. Carved into the tower of the Cologne Town Hall, under the statue of the 13th Century archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden, is a pornographic sculpture. The bawdy figure is displaying his bare bum and satisfying himself in a highly acrobatic manner.
One blogger refers to him as "butt face," but folklore researchers suspect the figure is one of the "Kölner Spiegel" (Cologne mirrors) from the Middle Ages, made to expose the illiterate locals to foolish and forbidden behaviour, in this case masturbation.
2. Sleep in a spaceship
Visitors to the city can pay €59 to spend a night in a space-themed room in the popular hostel ‘Die Wohngemeinschaft.’ Guests configure the control panel, ignite the engines, and take off for an odyssey beyond space and time. Extraterrestrials are included free of charge.
The hostel also offers fifteen other wacky experiences from the theatrical in a Shakespearean-styled room to the outdoors in a forest studio.
3. Taste past the deception
Cologne’s menus can be misleading for unsuspecting tourists. The city’s specialty ‘Halve Hahn’ (half a chicken) is, despite its deceptive name, meat-free and totally unrelated to the farm animal. The dish is simply a rye bread roll alongside a slab of Gouda cheese.
Legend has it that a groom ordered half chickens for his wedding guests, but on the day of his wedding, he realized he did not enough enough money to afford the luxury. So, he changed his order from chicken to cheese sandwiches. This story spread throughout the city and the dish was henceforth called "Halve Hahn."
The deceit doesn’t stop there as you will also find the Cologne favourite ‘Himmel un Ääd’ (Himmel on earth) on the menu. This divine-sounding dish is, in fact, a bed of mashed potatoes (earth) with apple sauce (heaven), black pudding, and fried onions on top. Food for the Gods? Hmm…we’re not so sure.
One specialty that is true to its name, however, is the Halber Meter Bratwurst (Half a meter of Bratwurst). The sausage really is that long.
4. Profess your undying love
Hopeless romantics should take a trip to the Hohenzollern Bridge. There they’ll discover a metallic rainbow of colour in the form of tens of thousands of padlocks chained to the bridge.
Since 2008, couples have fastened a lock to the bridge – often with their initials engraved on it – and ceremoniously thrown the key over the edge into the river Rhine to ensure their love lasts forever. The tradition supposedly originates in Serbia, but love lock bridges exist around the world from the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris to Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
Couples can conclude their romantic outing with a boat trip down the River Rhine and try to spot their key on the river bed.
5. Take part in the revelry
The bonkers Cologne Carnival has been an on-going tradition since medieval times. The carnival season officially begins on Nov. 11th at 11:11am, but the revelry reaches its height in February when there is a huge street procession.
Celebrate with thousands of others by dressing up in fancy dress, greeting each other with a “Bützchen” (kiss on the cheek) and hearty ‘Kolle Alaaf!’ (Long live Cologne), and pouncing onto men to snip off their ties. Beer and merriment abounds!
6. Marvel at a religious shrine
Christian lore has it that the relics of the Three Wise Men are housed inside the spectacular Cologne Cathedral, they arrived from Milan in 1164.
The highly ornate, golden shrine, which sits behind the high altar of the cathedral, turned Cologne into a pilgrimage metropolis, attracting Christians from far and wide to the Roman city. Tourists continue to flock to Cologne to inspect the site and ponder whether it does indeed contain the bones of the Magi.
7. Design your own perfume
Follow your nose to the House of 4711, where Eau de Cologne was first made. Here at the perfumery, you can craft your own unique fragrance and dip your hands into pure cologne, as some German soldiers were encouraged to do during the Second World War.
There were few opportunities for soldiers to bathe, so submariners of the U-Boat fleet were given the fragrance to improve the odor on board. Most soldiers, though, preferred to save the bottles as presents for their girlfriends and mothers.
8. Feast on chocolate
This Willy Wonka-style chocolate museum offers interactive and sensory exhibits on the history and farming of the mighty cocoa bean. A giant foundation spews melted chocolate, where sweet-toothed visitors are handed biscuits dipped in the delicious liquid.
We recommend burning off the extra calories by climbing the 533 steps to the top of the Cologne Cathedral.
Savoury lovers are welcome to swap a visit to the chocolate museum with a tour of the nearby Mustard Museum.