There was no way to be so close to this popular town and to skip the visit, at least for the day.
It is 120 km away from Braubach, so right after breakfast we got in the car and went on our little trip. We wouldn’t be ourselves if, of course, our first stop was not the zoo 🙂
Cologne Zoo was founded in 1860 and is one of the oldest – yet also one of the most modern – zoological gardens. In no other zoo the development of the zoological gardens over the years can be seen so clearly: the buildings starting from the menagerie of the 19th century to the wildlife reserve of the 21st century, from the Moorish-style elephant house and the former birdhouse in the style of a Russian basilica dating back to the 19th century, to the ape island created in a Hagenbeck style and modern natural worlds such as the rain forest.
Since the big cat enclosure opened ten years ago, designed as a biotope habitat, visitors to Cologne Zoo have been able to view the animals in glass-fronted enclosures without bars.
The conversion of the old birdhouse into the South America house for primates shows that tradition and progress must by no means be mutually exclusive.
In mid-2004, the elephant park was opened, providing the zoo’s elephants with the most space north of the Alps.
The zoo has around 500 different species of animal from all the world’s continents and oceans, including predators as well as the magnificent aquarium with a terrarium and insectarium.
Equally impressive was the kids playground, where, if you have the nerves you can spend all day.
I have to mention the hippos, who had a baby, and theirs whole enclosure, together with the alligators.
The entrance costs 19.50 euro for adults and 9 for children over 4 years. Inside you can spent whole day without noticing, there are restaurants, food and ice cream kiosks, souvenir shops, everything you may think about.
We stayed only half the day and we had to drag our son out, but we had to visit some more sites in the city.
Our first stop in the city itself was, of course, the cathedral. It can be seen from nearly every point in the city center and from many places elsewhere: The magnificent Cologne Cathedral hovers above the roofs and chimneys of the city. The panorama of the city has been dominated by the Cathedral’s gigantic pair of towers (the North Tower (157.38 m) is 7 cm higher than the South Tower) since their completion in 1880. The total area of the Cathedral measures almost 8000 square metres and has room for more than 20,000 people.
The foundation stone of the Gothic Cathedral was laid on 15 August 1248 on the celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Apparently the Old Cathedral was no longer sufficiently representative to house the mortal remains of the Three Kings, which Archbishop Rainald von Dassel brought back to the cathedral city in 1164 from the conquered city of Milan. These relics made the Cathedral one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Europe. In the early 16th century, building was stopped – partly due to lack of money, partly due to lack of interest.
At this point the chancel, the lower section of the South Tower with bell tower as well as the long nave and the cross nave were completed up to the lower arcades. The North Tower was almost completely nonexistent. For more than 300 years, the city’s panorama was dominated by the mighty torso with a huge building crane on the incomplete South Tower.
Around the turn of the 19th century the supporters of the German Romantic movement reawakened public interest in the completion of the Cathedral thanks to their enthusiasm for the Middle Ages. Continuation and completion of the building now became a matter of national interest to the Germans. In 1842 King Friedrich Wilhelm IV laid the foundation stone marking the continuation of building work. The Cathedral was completed in 1880 – in accordance with the plan originating from the Middle Ages – in a record time of just 38 years.
It is nothing short of a miracle that, although badly damaged, Cologne Cathedral survived the Second World War in spite of extensive bombing.
Nowadays the main factors affecting the Cathedral are weather and environmental influences. Over 80 stonemasons, glaziers, roofers and other specialists are constantly at work on the maintenance and restoration of the Cathedral building.
The stone mass seems to rise, almost weightlessly, up to the 43m-high baldachin-style arches. The narrow main nave that leads to the chancel is accompanied by two side naves. In the northern side nave, the light shines through five spectacular glass windows, which stem from the later years of Cologne glass painting.
In 2007, a totally new lighting concept was created in the south cross nave of the Cathedral. The light, plain glass window that had replaced a window destroyed during the Second World War was removed. Gerhard Richter, created a new work of art out of endless coloured squares covering the 100m2 area.
The crossing features the modern bronze altar by Elmar Hillebrand (1960). Behind this lies the high chancel with the choir ambulatory – one of the finest sanctuaries in the Western world. The choir stalls have 104 seats making them the largest in Germany. The chancel paintings were added in around 1340. Above these, you will see the older chancel pillar sculptures of Jesus, Mary and the 12 Apostles.
Behind the high altar, the Shrine of the Three Kings rises up; the relics of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar-the city patrons of Cologne-rest here alongside the relics of Saints Felix and Nabor and Saint Gregory of Spoleto. The Shrine is 153 cm high, 220 cm long, 110 cm wide and weighs approx. 300 kg.
On the way to the choir ambulatory, you pass under the organ loft. The Gero Crucifix hangs in the crucifix chapel and is the oldest remaining large sculpture of the crucified Christ this side of the Alps.
The oldest window in the Cathedral (from around 1260) can still be found in its original position in the Axis Chapel (Chapel of the Three Kings).
Another large work of art can be found in the chancel of Mary’s Chapel. It is a triple-winged altar picture (triptych), painted by Stefan Lochner for the Town hall chapel, that portrays the city’s saints – the Three Holy Kings, St. Ursula and St. Gereon along with their fellow martyrs.
In the Medieval sacristan crypt, the Cathedral treasury is home to a rich find of church treasures dating as far back as the 4th century. The treasury works of art are made of gold, silver, bronze and ivory, and include holy relics, liturgical items, textiles, insignias of Archbishops, sculptures from the Middle Ages and Franconian grave finds. Open daily 10am-6pm, entrance fee €4.
The platform of Cologne Cathedral’s South Tower offers an impressive view from a height of approximately 100 m. In order to enjoy the impressive view across the city and the Rhine from this spot you must first climb the 533 steps. The climb up the steps to the platform takes visitors past the bell chamber. Out of the Cathedral’s eight bells, St. Peter’s Bell is the largest freely swinging church bell in the world and weighs 24 tonnes. Entrance fee €3 .
The Hohenzollern Bridge was built from 1907 to 1911. It replaced the cathedral bridge, which was no longer able to meet the demands of ever-increasing railway traffic. The special feature of the construction of the new bridge was that it was built under continuous operation of the cathedral bridge and replaced it gradually. After completion, it consisted of three adjacent truss arch bridges with three arches each.
The Hohenzollern Bridge is the only bridge in Cologne that has not been destroyed by bombs. Rather, it took over the Wehrmacht on March 6, 1945 itself to complicate the approaching Allies by blowing up the bridge a crossing of the Rhine.
After the war, one of the railway bridges was rebuilt until 1948. The road bridge was not restored for traffic reasons. In the years 1956 to 1959 and from 1986 to 1987, a further half-timbered arch was added, so that today the railway has six tracks on the Hohenzollern Bridge. At the Hohenzollernbrücke there are walking and cycling paths on both sides.
40,000 padlocks hang on the bridge to date, the local authorities are determined to remove them because they add more than 2 tones on the bridge, which could have fatal consequences.
Cologne’s Old Town has a distinctive historical charm. Visitors are drawn by its rustic narrow alleyways lined with traditional old houses. Innumerable breweries, pubs and restaurants invite passersby to linger. Located directly along the Rhine, the Old Town, together with Cologne Cathedral, the Romanesque church Great St. Martin and the tower of the historic City Hall, makes up the world-famous Rhine panorama. You can also discover many monuments and fountains and historical remains, such as the Archeological Zone.
With its distinctive crossing tower and trefoil choir, Groß St. Martin has shaped the skyline of Cologne’s historic Old Town since the Middle Ages. In Roman times, the site was located on an island in the Rhine and contained several warehouses. The church was built on top of these warehouses and incorporated their remains. The dimensions of the church were based on those of the southeastern part of the ancient storage complex.
After Groß St. Martin was severely damaged in World War II, impressive archaeological excavations were made underneath the choir.
The upper parts of the church were reconstructed after World War II and are a typical example of Rhenish architecture from between 1150 and 1250. Today the interior of this former Benedictine church is characterized, on the one hand, by its imposing architecture and, on the other, by its minimalist furnishings.
You can visit a lot of museums, stroll in the parks or just wander around the streets. We had enough strength left for just a piece of cake 🙂 There’s no need to tell you how tasty they were!
With this treat I’m finishing this diary and starting to prepare the next one, about the Burg Eltz and Cochem Burg, two of the most famous and beautiful castles in the valley. Let’s not forget that it was my birthday also! So, stay tuned and don’t stop to travel!