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August 11, 2023   

The moment I stepped out of Cologne Central Station, I was astonished by the sight that greeted me…

Cologne Cathedral

It was the famous Cologne Cathedral. This cathedral had always been renowned, at least to me, through various sources while growing up, but I never really knew what it looked like until today. Its grandeur dominated the city’s skyline, standing there like a guardian of the city.

The color of the cathedral, however, wasn’t as impressive due to centuries of weathering and human destruction, including the toll taken by World War II. I even saw a photo of a destroyed tank in front of the cathedral’s plaza from that era. It was hard to believe that this monumental structure was done by human hands in the 1800s.

I strolled around the plaza before entering the cathedral, which surprisingly had no entry fee - a rarity among the many cathedrals I’ve visited, particularly one as magnificent as this. The interior boasted a classic layout, reminiscent of the one in Brussels, but on a much grander scale. The collection of stained glass windows was especially noteworthy, with countless examples of this art form. The one that left the most significant impression on me was a simple mosaic window, constructed to replace the original that was destroyed in WWII. During the afternoon, the transillumination of colours inside the cathedral was a sight to behold.

Climb to the top tower

Furthermore, we ascended to one of the highest towers of the cathedral in the afternoon, after climbing a staggering 533 steps. The view from the top was both breathtaking and surreal, as it was hard to believe that this was a production of the 19th century. It was difficult to comprehend how it was constructed, and what kind of profound faith the builders must have had to create such a masterpiece. For the first time since the start of our European trip, I broke a sweat, not only from the climb but also from the awe-inspiring sight from the top. The entire city lay beneath my feet. As I touched the stone of the cathedral at the peak, I was overwhelmed by its magnificence, and the thought that someone 200 years ago had also touched this very stone.

German pork knuckle and beer!

This is the only food I’ve yearned for even before this trip. It may be the only time I record food in my blog because I don’t usually consider food a crucial part of my trips, unless it holds significance beyond simply tasting good. However, Schweinshaxe holds a special place in my heart because I’ve loved it even before ever trying it, dreaming of pairing it with beer - a dream that came true today. I was too excited to try the food and forgot to take a picture before eating haha.

We visited a popular restaurant located near the cathedral, and our beer and food arrived quickly. The beer was one of the mildest I’ve ever had, but its mellow and rich taste left me wanting more. The Schweinshaxe was amazing, boasting a crispy skin and tender meat inside. It was so delicious that I was left speechless while eating. I might continue to choose this for my meals as long as I’m in Germany, but only once a day, as it is quite heavy.

Love lock bridge

There are numerous bridges in Europe adorned with countless locks, symbolizing eternal love. While I’m not particularly fond of this concept, I was quite shocked by the sheer number of locks on a bridge that connects the city to its suburb across the Rhine River.

Driving in Germany

I absolutely adore the unrestricted speed driving here in Germany. My excitement was palpable when I first spotted the sign indicating no speed limit, right after crossing the border from the Netherlands to Germany. Under safe conditions, I pushed the car to nearly 200 km/h, which sent adrenaline coursing through my veins. I experienced a sudden surge of joy, akin to what I imagine a Formula 1 driver feels. It felt as if I was soaring through the air.

However, I was surprised by the amount of traffic, even at 10 pm. After reaching 200 km/h, anything less felt like crawling along the lane. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had in Europe, well worth the hassle of renting a car. Cruising under the sunset, in a fast car, with ‘Take Me Home, Country Road’ playing, is all I could ask for.

I love Germany, even if it’s just my first day here. Cologne may be a small city, but it’s quite crowded, especially around the central train station and the cathedral. Nonetheless, I’m certain I’ve witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime cathedral and climbed an impressive height of over 150 meters in a cathedral. Highly recommended. Danke!