Köln was one of our (many) favourite places on this tour back in 2013, so we were totally okay with repeating the included tour that would take us into the city’s absolutely magnificent Gothic Dom (Cathedral).
Unlike on our last Viking cruise here, we did not dock right in the city, but in Zons, and then the ship met us in the city around noon. Ted and I weren’t sure exactly why the change, since it would mean a 45 minute coach ride into Köln, but one of the crew explained that since the ship moves much more slowly than a coach (at only about 10 kph/6mph), this option would give us more time in the city. I’m all for that, despite not loving bus rides – sailing the river is much more picturesque.
Our walking tour ran from 9:45 until noon, taking into account the coach time, but we planned to stay in the city all day and only return for 7:00 p.m. dinner and an evening on-board concert by members of the WDR Symphony Orchestra.
The walking tour was much different from what we’d had before, with less emphasis on the cathedral and more on the surrounding city. Unfortunately, right now Köln is in the process of building, repairing and preparing “everything, everywhere, all at once”, so many sites were either closed or partially obscured by construction hoarding.
Although our guide did not take us into the Dom, we did circle the exterior.
We stopped for lunch at a Brauhaus (brewpub) in the city, where we enjoyed beef and barley soup, crusty rye buns, and cold glasses of Kölsch, the beer brewed specifically in Köln. Kölsch is served in 0.2 litre glasses, which are continuously replaced with full ones unless you place your coaster over your empty glass. That’s a tip we learned back in 2013 that stood us in good stead today.
Having had lunch, we returned to the Dom on our own to explore further. We’d had a wonderful tour in 2013, but with a building this massive and ornate there is always more to discover.
We took the opportunity to do something we had not done in 2013: tour the Cathedral Schatzkammer (Treasury). We were absolutely dumbfounded by the opulence of the bishop’s vestments embroidered with solid gold thread, the jewel-encrusted chalices, and the bishops’ crosiers (crooks signifying their role as shepherds of their religious flock).
There was an entire room containing just reliquaries, with some truly disturbing items: rib bones, phalanges, hair … and what exactly is in a “bust” reliquary? (Hint: it’s exactly what you imagine. Yech.)
After a short coffee break back on our ship, we wandered over to St. Martin’s Church, a Romanesque structure, and were rewarded with a surprise: the chance to tour the archeological remains of a 50 AD Roman swimming pool located under the foundation of the church. There are Romain ruins and structures all over under the surface of Cologne; sadly, the Roman-German Museum is currently being renovated, so is temporarily closed, and we were not able to tour the artifacts displayed there.
After dinner we headed to the lounge for drinks and the evening’s entertainment. WDR Orchestra is a German radio orchestra based in Cologne, where the orchestra mainly performs at two concert halls: the WDR Funkhaus Wallrafplatz and the Kölner Philharmonie. What fun to have their pianist and absolutely amazing clarinetist in the Viking Magni’s intimate lounge playing classical music and Gershwin.
It was another great day, revisiting Köln and learning new things.
For anyone following and still awaiting their visit to Köln, while the Roman museum near the Cathedral is closed, a selection of treasures has been installed about a half hour walk away (don’t believe Google) There is incredible Roman glass on display on the upper floor — see it first!
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When I was there in the 70’s the cathedral was completely covered with scaffolding for cleaning the stone. Looks like it needs to be done again. What a beautiful building though.
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It was explained to us that the porous sandstone is hard to clean – cannot be powerwashed or sandblasted, and laser cleaning is prohibitively expensive. It sure looks creepy Gothic when it’s so dark!
We are trading off Viking trips! We did the Grand European river cruise in September and loved it! And we are doing your World Cruise in January 2024. Enjoy the river cruise and love your blog!
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