14th October, (2013) Cologne and the Rhine River, germany

This week: Fran’s Travels in Cologne and the Rhine River during a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest in 2013.

14th October (2013) Cologne and The Rhine River, Germany

Seeing as we were not arriving at our next stop until the afternoon, I took the opportunity to have a sleep in as well as have breakfast delivered to my cabin. This would allow me to choose the latest delivery time and still be in my pyjamas on its arrival. Getting dressed is overrated on holiday. 

For a €2 delivery surcharge, I had breakfast in bed with glorious Germany going by as I sailed down the Rhine River. Perfect.

There weren’t many opportunities to languish in bed like this, with early shore excursions in which to partake on most days. Once I realised how good it was, I did it whenever we had a morning of cruising. There were only two more such mornings. 

It was interesting what food arrived. You didn’t get to choose. A selection of food was delivered and obviously dependent on who made it for you. It was different each time, and some were better than others. 

Today’s tray contained a pot of tea, a jug of milk, a glass of orange juice, a bowl of fruit salad, a basket of various pastries, and a plate of condiments. What more do you need? It was lovely hanging out in bed, eating and drinking tea as Europe went by. 

River cruising breakfast in cabin
Breakfast in my cabin

I semi-dressed and sneakily filled the room service teapot with hot water from the hot beverage station so I could take it back to my room and have a second pot of tea in bed. Seriously, this is the way to travel.

After working two jobs, I was exhausted, so a relaxed start to the trip was what I needed. Some of the other cruisers were not enjoying the quietness of the first few days, though. When I enquired why, I received an explanation that made sense. Being of the older age variety, they were likely to be retired. They relax at home as their normal state, so on holiday that want to go-go-go. It’s their time to be energetic. For us who work, our lives are go-go-go as the normal state, so we want to relax when we are on holidays. It makes sense.

On arrival in Cologne, we departed at 4 pm for our included city walk. We broke up into groups and there were three categories of groups based on abilities. I joined the more energetic tour. I do not remember what the two fastest categories were called, but I loved the name for the less athletic members of our cruisers called The Gentle Walkers Group. It’s such a cute name. Most of the people in this group had varying versions of walking sticks and walking frames. But they always got off wherever we were and did something. Sometimes they would have vehicles of varying styles to take them closer to the sights, so would have time to see things. We more energetic people would walk even if it was twenty minutes to the town centre. I was fine with that. I hope I am still travelling when I have become a Gentle Walker.

Cologne
View of Cologne from our mooring location

There were two walks to choose from for today’s included tours. Seeing as this was my first time to Cologne, I chose the general tour rather than the more specific Jewish Heritage tour. Before alighting, you had to pick up headsets so you could hear your guides, but you had to make sure you picked up the correct headsets for the tour and speed you desired. White was always for the Gentle Walkers. Blue was for the Jewish themed tour and there were up to five colours to choose from for the rest.

The great thing about being more energetic than most of the group was I could either race ahead to get photos while the others caught up, or stay behind knowing I could catch the group up easily if I needed to. Just another reason I don’t have photos of people in them. I would often be away from the group, but could still hear the commentary through the headsets. This was the first time I had used headsets. I had always laughed at the surrounding people on tours like that, but I was seeing their advantages. If the voice suddenly disappeared, I knew I had gone too far and needed to either wait for them to catch up or run faster to catch them up.

European towns are so beautiful compared to Australian towns. They are not afraid of colour, which makes everything seem like it is out of a fairytale. In one little square in a row of five houses you go from a green house, to orange, cream, yellow and then pink. You would never see that in Australia. Then there are the stone round turrets behind them and it feels so romantic, even when by yourself. You can’t help but smile, be happy and grateful to be there. And don’t forget about the cobble-stoned streets, elegant lamps attached to the buildings and the intricate shop signs showing in pictures and designs what was on offer in store dating back to the days when people could not read. I love that the tradition lives on and is still used.

Cologne

In the Alter Markt, or old square, we saw City Hall, which has one-hundred-and thirty statues on its facade, as well as the Platzjabbeck, which is a wooden carving where a red tongue pokes out every hour on the hour.

We walked around the magnificent Dom, or cathedral. This is the famous landmark of Cologne and it deserves it. There has been a cathedral here since 818 CE and has expanded over the centuries. Then inside to see its exquisite medieval stained glass window. I bought a postcard to make sure I had a picture that did it justice.

Outside the cathedral, I took a photo showing the delightful old hotel building just next door. This was for future travel planning reference. I mean, what an incredible place to stay. I believe it was closed for refurbishment during my next visit to Cologne and had probably forgotten about it by my third and last visit to Cologne. It was probably also on the expensive side, given its prime location.

Cologne
Hotel photo for future bookings

Our official tour finished here, but I paid entry to see the Cathedral Treasury. I would have liked to go up the tower, but it closed at 5 pm. I would have to save that for another day, which has yet to occur. If I’m in Cologne again, it will have to be the first thing that I do.

 I walked over the railway bridge to the opposite bank to look back at the view of the city and then a full circle back to the boat for dinner at 7 pm. The boat was not setting sail until 8.15 pm, so you could have dinner in Cologne if you wanted. Some couples definitely did this to add to their experience and have some alone time, but being on my own, and my interesting history of meals while travelling, I always returned to the boat. We docked right below the Cathedral so was easy to find your way back even if on your own in the dark. 

After dinner, I went up to the rooftop deck to take photos of Cologne lit up for the night as we sailed through. I can’t imagine we were going fast, so maybe it was just because it was dark, but the photos were pretty blurry. So blurry that people who aren’t me would have most likely deleted them. The colours look great in tiny thumbnails. Though there are a few missing so maybe I deleted some extra bad ones.

I bought a map of the Rhine River so I could follow along on the boat. It is a flip map that is taller than me when fully open. It starts in Cologne and continues to Mainz depicting and naming every town, castle and sight along the river bank we will be passing. There could be no more detailed guide to what would be out my bedroom window. Unfortunately, it also shows you the things you will miss while sailing overnight.

The map cost €3.50, Treasury entry €5, postcard 90 cents, totalling €9.40 with €2 for room service to be paid later.

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