In and around Cologne


The most famous building of Cologne is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most visited sights in Germany, attracting 5 - 6 million visitors each year.

Its site has been a place of worship for almost 2000 years. In Roman times, early Christians used to assemble here to pray. In later times, several churches replaced each other until in 1248, work on the Cathedral that you see today was begun.

Arch Bishop Rainald von Dassel - Chancellor of the Realm and close friend of Friedrich Barbarossa (see Trifels) - had just brought the relics of the Magi to Cologne from Milan which made Cologne a major pilgrimage site and a suitable site of worship was needed: A Cathedral fit for not one, but three Kings, so to speak. (The Three Magi or Wise Men are also referred to as the Three Kings). In 1322, the first parts of the new Cathedral were dedicated. Work on the building continued till the mid-16th century when lack of funds and interest caused it to cease.

Work continued in 1815, when the building plans - believed to be lost - were rediscovered and the Romanticist movement had created new interest in medieval buildings. The Cathedral was officially completed in 1880, but as you can see, there is always scaffolding somewhere and work is continually going on. Just as well, since a local legend says if ever work on the Cathedral is finished, it will be the day the world ends.

Another legend gives the reason why the Cathedral will never be really completed. The Cathedral Builder, Meister Gerhard, is said to have made a bet with the Devil who could build the larger monument in less time. Meister Gerhard believed it to be an easy win, counting on Satan´s lack of a builder´s technical knowledge. But that turned out to be a mistake. Meister Gerhard, realizing that his vanity had cost him his soul, exclaimed: "If I am not able to complete this Cathedral, no-one else after me shall be able to!"  

Just a legend? Maybe. But the scaffolding is still in place...

At 144m length, the Cathedral has the longest nave in Germany and one of the longest in the world. At 157, 38m it is the second highest church in Germany and the third highest in the world. Between 1880 - 1884, it was the highest building in the world, until it was surpassed by the Washington Monument in Washington DC and the Home Insurance Building in Chicago. It remained the highest building in Europe until the Eiffel Tower was built.  

A look down the central aisle.

Votive Madonna/Schmuckmadonna, late 17th century.

This votive statue has been worshipped for centuries. It is said that the prayers said in front of it will be answered. The jewellery attached to it are gifts of thanks by people who have made it through difficult times in their life and have found comfort here.

The Heinzelmaennchenbrunnen (Fountain of the House Elves) commemorates one of Cologne´s most famous legends. The elves are said to have done all the work of the citizens of Cologne for them during the night, so that they could be lazy during the day. This went on until a tailor's wife got so curious to see the elves that she scattered peas onto the floor of the workshop to make them slip and fall. The elves, being infuriated, disappeared and never returned. (..sort of reminds one of Hermione and her House Elves campaign in the Harry Potter books). From that time on, the citizens of Cologne had to do all their work by themselves.

According to a local historian, however, the legend is based on quite real events. In medieval times, the ground water had to be brought up in pails from the many mine shafts in the surrounding Rhineland by hand. This was called "heinzen" and could only be done by very small and thin people - either dwarfs or children. They were called "heinze-menschen". Around 1500, however, most of them lost their jobs because new techniques to  pump the water out of the shafts were developped. So they went to the City, where they lived in the streets and underground tunnels (such as the Roman sewage system), begging, but also creating a black market for low-paid odd jobs...

 Cologne´s main station is not merely the main railway station of the city, but also one of the busiest, most important and central railway stations in Germany - with approx. 250.000 travellers passing through here every day. The roofing above the platforms looks old, but dates actually from the 1990s - proof that modern architecture can harmonically fit into its environment and does not neet to be an eyesore.

4711 - the Original Eau de Cologne

At the beginning of the 18th century, Italian expatriate Johann Maria Farina (1685-1766) created a new fragrance and named it Eau de Cologne (Water from Cologne), after his new residence, Cologne. In the course of the 18th century the fragrance became increasingly popular.

Eventually, Cologne merchant Wilhelm Mülhens secured the rights to the name Farina from a Farina with no connection to the Farina family who produced the original Eau de Cologne. He needed the name in order to market his version of the fragrance successfully - because of the success of Farina's original Eau de Cologne, the name had become inseparable with the fragrance. Mülhens opened a small factory at Cologne's Klöckergasse and began manufacturing his own version of the fragrance. In later years, and under pressure from court battles with the Farinas who produced the original Eau de Cologne, his grandson and successor chose a new name for the firm and their product.

He chose the number 4711, a number that the city of Cologne had assigned to Wilhelm Mülhens' future residence on the eve of the French Revolution, when it was decided to register and number all the houses in the city for security reasons. The continuous numeration was in use until 1811, when it was changed into the system of numbering streets separately, as is done today and 4711 became Glockengasse 12.

Today, original Eau de Cologne still is produced in Cologne by both the Farina family (Farina gegenüber/"opposite Farina" since 1709), currently in the eighth generation, and by Mäurer & Wirtz, who took over the 4711 brand in 2006.

Inside the store. The staircase leads to a gallery with an exhibition on the history of the 4711 brand. The tapestry depicts the number being painted on the house front by a French officer in 1794. Inspired by this tapestry, the scene became a popular advertising image in the 1950s and 60s, but it is entirely fictional.

The original 4711 building no longer exists. In 1854 Mülhens moved down the street from Nr 12 to Nr 26–28. Nr 12 was later torn down, while Nr 26-28 were destroyed during the Second World War. The house you can see today was built in 1963 in a similar architectural style to its predecessor at the corner of Schwertnergasse 1/Glockengasse 4.

This fountain at the store entrance contains not simple water, but actual Eau de Cologne. There is an anecdote about a tourist who was completely puzzled as to its purpose, and since it reminded her so much of a holy water font, she dipped her fingers into it and crossed herself.

(As a reminder of baptism, Roman Catholics dip their fingers in the holy water and make the sign of the cross when entering a church. It´s kind of a prayer by gesture.)


Left: Prosecco in cans with 4711-design serves as an involuntary reminder of the fact that in the beginning, Eau de Cologne was also used internally as a medicine.

                           Right: An Eau de Cologne automat. Insert 10 Pfennig, pull the lever and perfume will be squirted in your face.

The picture in the background shows the same scene as the tapestry. On the left, some old 4711 vials - the book to the right is one of the first address books of Cologne (1797) mentioning house number 4711 at "Kloeckergasse".

Old City Centre and Rhine bank

Cologne is well-known for its beer, called Koelsch. Koelsch is also the name of the local dialect. This has led to the common joke that Koelsch is the only language you can drink.

The smaller tower to the right is the only part that´s left from the original Renaissance building of the Stapelhaus (storage hall) (the rest was destroyed in the war and substituted by a modern building). 

Cologne was in possession of Stapelrecht (right of storage) since the mid-13th century. It meant that all goods transported through the city by road or river had to be stored and offered for sale in Cologne for a certain period of time. (A bummer for perishable goods). The Stapelhaus was basically a market hall. This right of storage was an important source of the city´s wealth - but the neighboring villages profited from it, too, since merchants who wanted to avoid Cologne usually passed there. Porz (the name is derived from "port") and Zuendorf, for example, had harbors where the goods could be unloaded before they reached Cologne and then transported by road around the city.

The church is Gross St Martin (Greater St Martin), one of the 12 romanesque churches of Cologne (built in the late 12th/early 13th century) and former seat of a Benedictine monastery.

What you see here (or rather: don´t see) is - and always has been - one of the most unpopular statues in Cologne.

In 1815, Cologne fell under Prussian rule, much to its dislike. But the town actually profited from the Prussian rule, both culturally and economically, which gave the Mayor the idea to commemorate the 50th anniversary with a statue of the late Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. (a Hohenzollern, by the way - see "Tyler in Heidelberg"). The idea was not met with enthusiasm, since the Prussian rulers were still not popular, and it was difficult to find artists willing to work on the monument, let alone finance it.

Two local artists finally designed the statue in a highly unusual and almost revolutionary way: It depicted the Prussian king not as a military figure of power but placed him in a cultural and economic context, surrounding him with representants of culture, commerce, craft and industry. Around the base of Friedrich´s  horseman statue, they assembled philosophers, theologists, archaeologists, artists and composers, poets and so on and so forth (among them Hegel, Lessing, Beethoven, Weber, Mendelssohn, Lessing and Schinkel). Only 6 of the 16 larger statues came from a military background, and quite a few of the civilists were not really well-liked by the Prussian government. In its own way, the monument was blowing a raspberry at the Prussian rulers while honoring the king at the same time.

Liked or not, the monument soon became a popular meeting point - people would arrange to meet "Ungerm Stätz" (under the tail). Nevertheless, when the statue was destroyed in the Second World War, nobody really missed it. In the 1980s, some parts that had survived were rediscovered which sparked a long discussion about a potential reconstruction. After an artist put a styrofoam version on the base, which was left there until destroyed by a storm, finally a cast-iron reconstruction was made in 1990. Maybe it´s because they hired someone from Duesseldorf* for the job but the new monument proved to be dangerously instable because of a too high lead content in the alloy used.

And so, in November 2007, king and horse left the city again. The horse´s legs had become so brittle the city council worried that when the Carnival season would open on November 11, people celebrating would climb on the statue and cause everything to break down.  Once they had got horse and horseman down from their base, however, it was realized they were too large to be fit underneath any of Cologne´s tunnels and bridges and they had to be transported by ship. Friedrich and his horse are currently waiting in Godorf, probably for the new IKEA store to open so they can buy three new horse legs.         I wonder when - or rather: if - if we shall see them again...

(Update Nov 2009: He´s back, but now all the statues around the pedestal are under wraps.)

* There is an ongoing "feud" between Cologne and Duesseldorf: Both cities pretend not to like each other and enjoy every opportunity to take jabs at each other. The rivalry goes back to the 13th century when Duesseldorf was granted city rights after the battle of Worringen and turned into an economic rival for Cologne. It increased towards the end of the 19th century when Duesseldorf grew rapidly as a result of its industrialisation. Today it finds its expression mainly in a humorous form (especially during the Carnival). Still: Better not go ordering Koelsch beer in Duesseldorf or Alt beer in Cologne. ;-)

The City Hall (Rathaus) is in fact Germany’s oldest city hall, first mentioned between 1135 and 1152. At that time, it was surrounded by the city’s medieval Jewish quarter. Cologne is, in fact, the oldest site of a Jewish community on German soil, dating back to the Colonia of Roman times.

The gothic tower was added between 1407 and 1414. 61 meters high, it is built right over the City Hall’s former wine cellar. The wine cellar, which to the sorrow of some is not lined with racks of vintage bottles anymore, is these days used for wedding ceremonies. Between 1569 and 1573 a beautiful loggia was build to replace an older one. This loggia, the main entrance of today’s City Hall, is the only original part that survived the second World War. After the war the City Hall was reconstructed close to its former state.

Archaeological excavations in front of the City Hall.

In 1424, Cologne’s Jewish community was expelled from the City. Two years after the expulsion their synagogue - the oldest in Germany, dating back to Carolingian times, but probably even older - was turned into the chapel of the City Hall and later destroyed. The remains are currently (2008) being excavated.

What you can see here are the remains of a 1st century Porticus (archway) and parts of the former Jewish quarter, such as the hospital, bakery and the Lyvermann house.

In front of the City Hall, protected by a (currently rather grubby) glass pyramid, you can see the remains of the 12th century Mikwe, the Jewish ritual bath. According to Jewish religious practise, ritual cleansing had to be done with "living" i.e. ground water. So the Mikwe was built as a bathing shaft, which is 16 meters deep and incorporates an internal staircase to reach ground water level.

St. Columba used to be one of the largest and most beautiful churches in Cologne, but was largely destroyed in the War. Recently, a modern museum complex has been built incorporating the late Gothic ruins. It is now the art museum of the archbishopric of Cologne housing sacral art from late antiquity to the present.

Hahnentorburg (Cock´s Gate Castle) is one of the 4 medieval city gates that have escaped demolition.

Originally, there used to be 12 gates in the 8 km long city wall (as of 1180). This one, with its two towers, was the entrance used by royal visitors to the city, who came to pay homage to the Three Kings - whose shrine and relics are at the Cathedral - immediately after their coronation at Aachen. In the 19th century, it was used as city prison. Later, it used to be a museum and an art gallery until it became the headquarters of one of the many carnival societies in Cologne.

The city wall of Cologne had 12 gate castles (like "heavenly Jerusalem")  and 52 additional military towers as well as 12 more gates facing the Rhine bank. In the late 19th century, most of them were demolished since the citizens of Cologne felt they were old-fashioned and stifling to their modern, growing industrial town. It was thanks to the unloved Prussian rulers that the parts that are preserved today were spared. From the former 12 gate castles remain the Eigelsteintorburg, Hahnentor, Ulrepforte, Severinstorburg, Gereonsmühlturm, and the Bayenturm. Three wall sections can still be found at Gereonswall, Karthaeuserwall and Bottmühle.

The grimace above the portal is one of many Grinköppe (grinning heads) that can still be seen around the old city. They look scary and rumors are they were used for draconic punishments of criminals - such as gouging their eyes out with those long spiky teeth. The truth, as often, is somewhat less exciting. The teeth were used to hold a pulley mechanism by which people could lift heavy goods out of their cellars to street level.

The Praetorium and Roman Cologne

A model of the Ubiermonument (Ubii monument), the oldest stone building in Cologne. This is all that we can securely tell about what was once there.

Around 0 B.C., the Romans established the city that was to become Cologne as a centre of administration for the conquered provinces. As it was situated on the territory of the Ubii, an allied Germanic tribe, it was called Oppidum Ubiorum. It was always an important strategic centre for the Roman military.

The Ubii monument used to be the South East corner tower of the settlement. It is the oldest stone building in Cologne and the oldest Roman square building north of the Alps. The original earth and wood construction was replaced by stones soon after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D., when an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius ambushed and destroyed three Roman legions led by Publius Quintilius Varus. The story of the Germanic victory was popular ever since the recovery of the histories of Tacitus in the 15th century, when the figure of Arminius, rechristened "Hermann" by Martin Luther, became a nationalistic symbol of Pan-Germanism.

Varus was one of the procurators stationed in Cologne. He very likely lived and worked in the Praetorium.

Reconstruction of the temple dedicated to the Capitoline triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva in Roman Cologne (around 50 A.D.). The present-day church St. Maria im Kapitol has been erected on its remains.

In 50 A.D., Oppidum Ubiorum became Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium.

Altars of the Matrons.

Roman bust. There was no description near, but it looks like a young Nero.

Praetorium  was originally the name for the commander's tent or house in a Roman fortification, a castra or castellum. Later, the term was used for the residence of a procurator (governor) of a Roman province. It was the most important official building in Roman Cologne, the centre of jurisdiction and admonistration and the most important Roman palace on the Rhine.

Note the model reconstruction of the original building on the left.

The remains here reveal several building phases between the 1st and 4th century A.D. Excavations have revealed rich marble wall decorations, mosaics, and wall paintings. This was a huge and luxurious palace.

Not only did the procurators live and work here, it was also the residence of the Roman Emperors that came to visit the province, such as Trajan. When the reign of the Romans came to an end, the praetorium - now called regia - became the palace of the Merovingian and Franconian kings up to the time of Charlemagne.

In the late 8th century A.D., an earthquake destroyed the regia and many of the surrounding buildings. In the course of the following years, a merchants quarter emerged from the ruins, which was also home to Jewish citizens. Over time, the Jewish quarter of Cologne grew here. At the same time, the merchants quarter was also the seat of the Royal prefect or overseer of Merchants (praepositus negotiatorum). His office was, in a way, the successor to the praetorium and later, developed into the city hall, which is just around the corner from the Praetorium and museum.

A narrow staircase and a plain concrete tunnel lead to the Roman underworld.

We are about to enter one of the Roman sewers, approx 10m below ground.

This tunnel (1,2m wide and 2 - 2,5m high) led to the Rhine. It has several entry places for cleaning and maintenance works, some even dating back to Roman times. These sewers were used as cellars in medieval times and even saved some lives, serving as bunkers during World War II. Presently, approx. 150m length can be visited.

During the construction of the new subway lines, more intact sewer canals were found and are currently being excavated and secured to enable public access. 


This is a part of the Roman sewer that has been raised and placed on this square above its original location in order to allow the modern sewer to cross the ancient one at this point.


Cologne is the only city I know of which has its official parallel in the doll world (so it´s perfect as the HQ of the Travel Blythe Clan). "Doll Cologne" is called "Knollendorf " - the setting for the puppet plays of the Haenneschen theatre. The backgrounds are loving adaptations of actual locations, many of the minor characters are fashioned after famous inhabitants of Cologne and the plots of the plays regularly take up current events in the city.            

Local papers regularly report on news from Cologne and its quarters including Knollendorf ( and the annual carnival show is shown on TV.

The central characters of the Haenneschen theatre - which was founded in 1802 - are universal and local archetypes.

There is, of course, Haenneschen, the main hero, your honest and decent young lad (the blonde guy in the red jacket) and his girlfriend Baerbelchen (the blonde girl with the braids). The old gent in the brown suit is Besteva - a nice, somewhat henpecked old man and the elderly lady in green is his wife, shrewd Maritzebell (the lady in green) - to name but the few that KB is meeting in the picture.  (

These two, however, are probably the most famous citizens of Cologne-Knollendorf. Most people in Germany will have heard of them, even if they have never heard of Haenneschen: Tuennes and Schael. They even have their own bronze statues in the Old City (and it´s said to bring good luck to touch Tuennes´ nose)! 

Tuennes - the name is derived from Antonius - is the red-head, dressed in the traditional garb of a cabbage farmer. His huge red nose gives away the fact that he isn´t averse to a drink - or several. He is of a gentle nature and a simple, naive mindset, but not stupid.

Schael´s real name is unknown. His nickname means "cross-eyed", but also "not quite respectable". While he is dressed like a gentleman, he has a somewhat sleazy air about him. He is a small-time crook, always trying to outwit others, but  fortunately he´s not as clever as he thinks himself to be.

Tuennes and Schael are reflections of the industrial and rural sides of 19th century Cologne and are popular characters in jokes and anecdotes.

A statue of Willy Millowitsch (1909 - 1999)  in front of the Haenneschen theater. He was a very popular actor during his lifetime and became something of a symbol for the laid-back Rhinelander. He came from a family of actors and his ancestors in the 19th century had a puppet theater, rival to the Haenneschen, which soon changed to human actors. The Millowitsch theatre still thrives today, led by Willy´s children, well-known actors in their own right.

Around Neumarkt and Schildergasse

What happened here?!??

KB: "OOOPS!! Ah well, didn´t like vanilla too much anyway..."

Neumarkt Passage - one of the nicer examples of modern architecture

KB: "Look, they enlarged old Lego trees for their store display!"

That vaguely car-shaped concrete block actually contains a real car. Some guy in the late 1960s thought it would be oh-so clever and artsy to enclose an Opel Kapitaen in concrete while the motor was still running and call it "Standing Traffic". What a waste of a beautiful car.


The "Weltstadthaus" (Metropolis building), dubbed "the Whale" by the locals, houses a fashion store. It was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano who also designed the Centre Pompidou in Paris. I like the way the neighbouring late Gothic Antoniterkirche (church) is reflected in the facade, contrasting old and new.

Two more views of the Weltstadthaus (above and below).

The entire thing is 130m long and up to 34 m high.  Inside the wood, steel and glass construction is a concrete core that houses the department store.

It actually took ages until the building could be finished - the building works had to be stopped because the initial design had statical problems and the costs were running higher than the building company had originally promised. The department store that financed the building refused to pay more. While the lawyers were talking, the derelict building site was open to wind and weather which did not improve anything. It took quite a bit of pressure from the city council to make them resolve their problems and finally continue work on the building.

The opera house, designed by Wilhelm Riphahn in the late 1950s.

It would actually be quite a nice building, had it not been badly neglected in the past decades. After a long discussion whether to tear it down and build a new opera house, the city has finally decided to have it restored -  it´s actually considered quite an important example of post-war architecture today. Restoration work has not yet begun, though.

KB drops in for a quick visit and interview with a local TV studio

Cologne is Germany´s most important media town. It is the site of several TV stations and film studios. The popular soap, "Lindenstrasse" (set in Munich) is filmed here, as well as a lot of TV shows and series, in addition to movies such as "Creep" (with Franka Potente) and "Amélie" (with Audrey Tautou).

The WDR Arkaden mall in the city centre houses the "Ossi Laden" (Easterners´ Store), focusing on memorabilia and goods from the former GDR.

Almost 20 years after the reunification, the former German Democratic Republic has been nostalgically elevated by many. People fondly remember the things they grew up with, the things they liked such as the particular taste of food brands, characters from TV shows etc., but also the work situation (officially, there were no jobless people) and tend not to dwell too much on the negatives (such as not being allowed to leave the country, consume Western media, the scarcity of many everyday goods, etc.). Lots more could be said about this subject, but here´s an interesting article:

Chocolate Museum

A green drawbridge leads you across the river to a Willy Wonka wonderland...

The chocolate museum was formerly called "Imhoff-Stollwerck chocolate museum", but since local chocolate manufacturer Stollwerck has been bought up by Lindt, it´s sailing under Swiss flag now.

In the 19th century, Franz Stollwerck used to be a local sweets merchant who sold breast bonbons of his own manufacture. He was not the only one to do so, but his were popular enough to make the apothecaries complain against the selling of uncertified medicines. Stollwerck, however, had good contacts to the Prussian ministry, and managed to achieve an official edict that allowed household remedies that needed no prescription to be sold outside of druggists´. The industrial revolution made him rich and the "Kamelle Napoleon" (Napoleon of Sweets) gave a lot back to the city, funding several theatres.

The museum has very nice displays on the origin, history and making of chocolate from the cocoa bean to the steaming cup or yummy bar. There is even a huge fountain with liquid chocolate that you can dip a wafer into and try!

There is also a section that shows the cultural history of chocolate from the Aztecs´ spicy Xocolatl to our sweet version, historical advertisements and so on.

What you see in the pictures below is just the museum store!

Chocolate sardines

Cocoa beans

Chocolate beer and hemp chocolate

Of course you can get other kinds of sweets too!

Chocolate in any shape and size.

A view from the bridge - the chocolate museum is to the right, the building on the left is a pub.

Mustard Museum

Just opposite from the chocolate museum, the Senfmuseum is a specialty store offering all kinds of gourmet mustards and delicacies as well as a showroom where you can see a historic mustard mill in action. The machine, dating back to 1810, is one of only two surviving mustard mills in Germany and one of the oldest in Europe. In the big tub on the right, the mustard seed is mashed with water. When the big fan belt is moving the machine, the mash is fed between the two 525 kg millstones and pressed, which releases the essential oils that give the mustard its taste.

In industrial mustard production, which has to be much more effective, a lot of heat is generated and the essential oils vaporize, so the mustard is mixed with horseradish (a related plant) to retain its characteristic taste. The mustard mill generates less heat, due to the construction of the millstone, and the essential oils are preserved. You can really taste the difference.

The mustard museum used two special types of mustard plants rich in essential oils for its mustards. They have to be imported from Canada and Eastern Europe as they are no longer being farmed in Germany.


It´s not Howl´s Moving Castle - but it´s a moving castle indeed! 

A museum of medieval life in a converted ship touring Germany, France, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. The owner of the ship - Lenny Vries - has always been fascinated by medieval times and has collected items for a traveling exhibition for years. He also contributed to the Museum of Torture and Witchhunts in Freiburg/Breisgau. When that was closed down, Lenny converted the 60m long ship into a swimming castle and built his own moveable museum.

The human figures look a bit... well, erhm... but it´s still a nice exhibition and an amazing feat for a private person to accomplish.


   Forest Botanical Garden, Rodenkirchen in Autumn 

The Forest Botanical Garden was planted in the early 1960s and contains trees and shrubs from all over the world. There is a Rhododendron Valley, Heath Garden, Japanese Area, North American area and lots more.

The "Forest of Peace", planted in the 1980s, contains trees and shrubs from every country the Federal Republic of Germany had diplomatic relations with at the time.

No Blythe in there, but I just loved the autumn colors!

Jewish Cemetery, Bocklemuend

The Jewish cemetery in Bocklemünd/Mengenich has been in use since 1918 and is the largest Jewish cemetery in Cologne. It is still being used, but the older parts are beautifully overgrown. I love the atmosphere of Jewish cemeteries, they are so much nicer than the rank-and-file Christian cemeteries usual in Germany.

The cemetery has several monuments commemorating the history of Jews in Cologne. In the Lapidarium, 58 fragmented stones from the 12th - 15th century were incorporated which were taken from an older Jewish cemetery that was closed in 1695. There are monuments to the Jewish soldiers who fought and fell for Germany during the First World War and to the victims of the Second World War and the Nazis (below).

The entrance hall, erected in 1929 - 1930, is an important example of neo classical tendencies in late 1920s architecture in Cologne. The Hebrew letters on the front say „"The righteous shall live by faith/Der Gerechte lebt in seinem Glauben“ (Hab 2,4 EU).

Melaten Cemetery

The small chapel near the entrance gate dates back to 1245.

Melaten is the central cemetery of Cologne. The name is derived from French "maladerie", as in the 12th century, and probably even before then, this was the site of a hospice for lepers and other sick people outside the city walls. In medieval times, this was also the city´s execution site. 

During the French occupation in the late 18th century, burials inside the city walls were forbidden for hygienic reasons and the area was established as the city cemetery, fashioned after the model of Pere Lachaise in Paris. From its very beginnings, it was intended to be not only a burial place, but also a park. It has many beautiful grave sculptures and monuments, and also a rich flora and fauna including more than 40 different species of birds, bats, squirrels, foxes and feral cats.

During and after World War 2, the crypts served as lodgings to those who had lost their homes to bombs.




Kronleuchtersaal - Chandelier Hall: A visit to the Underworld

The most natural place to expect a glittering chandelier is, of course, the sewage system.

A massive steel door protects the entrance to the underworld of Cologne - the rain overflow area of the sewers. A sulphur-like smell aptly fills the air and the tour guide reminds everyone not to smoke, since it might cause an explosion with the foul gas. In fact, while groups are down here, gas levels have to be constantly monitored.

 There are plenty of rats down here, we are told - approximately 8 for every human inhabitant of Cologne - but we won´t see much of them, they are scared off by the commotion.

No-one would be surprised to see a boat carrying the Phantom and Christine emerge from one of these tunnels.

The "modern" sewers of Cologne have been built in 1890 (well, they´re still modern compared to the Roman sewers). The system was very progressive for its day and so well planned that it still manages the water flow of modern-day Cologne even though today, there are four times as many inhabitants as there were in 1890. 

When the sewers were finished, the Emperor - Wilhelm II. - announced his intention to visit them. In his honor, and in order to present him a part of the sewers that´s more suitable for a Royal visit, two silver chandeliers were installed in this room. The last one was replaced by a white electric one in 1990. The Emperor didn´t visit after all.

In heavy rain, the water can rush through here with tremendous force, that´s why there are safety rings. Sometimes the water even goes up to the ceiling.

The Kronleuchtersaal is not regularly accessible to the public. On select occasions, however, there are concerts down here or guided tours.

A stone board commemorates the city council and building company responsible. 

It doesn´t only look like a labyrinth, it really is one. There is a complex system of weirs and doors to protect the city from High Water. The sewers underneath entire road blocks can be sealed off that way to prevent water rising from there and flooding the streets and cellars.

Aren´t we glad to see daylight again??

The Golden Chamber

One of the most fascinating and yet little known sights of Cologne is the "Golden Chamber" in the romanesque basilica of St. Ursula  (around 1135)just near the Cathedral.

This reliquary room founded in the 17th century, has been preserved in practically its original state: in the upper section, the walls are designed with the ornamental application of the relics (i.e. bones), in the lower section, you can see the most varied and diversely designed relic busts and head reliquaries. It has been described as a "veritable tsunami of ribs, shoulder blades, and femurs...arranged in zigzags and swirls and even in the shapes of Latin words." [Wikipedia]

Legend has it that Ursula was a Romano-British princess who, at the request of her father  set sail to join her future husband, the pagan Governor Conan Meriadoc of Armorica (Brittany), along with 11,000 virginal handmaidens. However, a miraculous storm brought them over the sea in a single day to a Gaulish port, where Ursula declared that before her marriage she would undertake a pan-European pilgrimage (...she probably wasn´t too keen on marrying someone whose name sounds like a munchkin RPG character).

She headed for Rome with her followers and talked the Pope into joining the Travel Ursula Clan. They set out for Cologne, which was being besieged by Huns, where they all were beheaded in a dreadful massacre when Ursula refused to marry the chief of the Huns.

The inhabitants of Cologne dedicated a church to St Ursula and her maidens as early as the 4th-5th century. In medieval times, she was the patron of cloth merchants - the most profitable business in Cologne at the time - and later, the patron of the entire city.

The legend of  the virgin martyrs in Cologne was already established in the 5th century, but at that time it was still limited to a small number between two and eleven according to different sources. The 11,000 were first mentioned in the 9th century; suggestions as to where this came from have included reading the name "Undecimillia" or "Ximillia" as a number, or reading the abbreviation "XI. M. V." as eleven thousand (in Roman numerals) virgins rather than eleven martyred virgins.

In 1106, a Roman burial ground was discovered near St Ursula´s church and it was immediately believed to be the final resting place of the sacred virgins. During the Middle Ages the concept of physical proximity to the “holy” (tombs of saints or their personal objects) was considered extremely important, and relics were a way to take something of that shrine back home with you. Many tales of miracles and other marvels were attributed to relics and made them much sought after during the Middle Ages. Trade with relics flourished, as every church would have liked one, and well... 11.000 martyred virgins yield more relics to sell than 11 or 1. Hony soit qui mal y pense...

When skeletons of men and little children, ranging in age from two months to seven years, were found buried with the "sacred virgins" it was explained with the addition to the legend that men, mostly clerics, and children had joined the pilgrims. A surgeon of eminence was once banished from Cologne for opining that, among the collection of bones which are said to pertain to the heads, there were several belonging to full-grown mastiffs.  Only after the relics of the Magi were brought to Cologne in 1164, the cult of St Ursula began to lose its appeal.


Carnival is Cologne`s 'fifth season'. When you live in Cologne, you either love or hate it, but you can´t ignore it. It´s an ancient tradition - the first written record of the Cologne carnival is from the year 1341.  The `season´ is opened every year on November 11, 11:11 am and continues in a fairly low-key way for about three months before the Tolle Tage (Crazy Days) which climax on Rosenmontag, the 42nd day before Easter. The time of merrymaking in the streets is officially declared open at Alter Markt on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent: Weiberfastnacht (women’s carnival night). It is tradition that women are allowed to cut off the tie of any man within reach, and to kiss any man they want to.

Cologne turns into one big crazy party.  Pubs stay open till the early hours of the morning, and the spirit of Carnival reigns in the streets and public squares, in offices and at home and, above all, in places for dancing and drinking.

The following Sunday belongs to processions through the streets, organised by local schools and the various districts of the city, and watched by hundreds of thousands of people. Since the local parade in Bocklemuend passed just before our window, we always had prime seats while we lived there - even though it was a rather small parade.

 The real highlight is the next day, 'Rosenmontag' (Rose Monday), the day of the big Carnival procession, with the three chief Carnival figures, Prince, Peasant and Maiden. Each year's procession tries to outdo that of the year before in colour, humorous originality and extravagant costumes. Scores of decorated floats with huge figures parodying topical events, about 130 bands, hundreds of horses, brightly clad groups - all passing through streets packed tightly with millions of people cheering and calling out for sweets and the little bunches of flowers that are thrown by the ton and in tens of thousands to the merrymakers.

The Mariechen, acrobatic dancing troupes of girls entertain the crowds as part of the parade. In the parade the Carnival Prince has a royal bodyguard who are dressed in uniforms of the early 1800s. The Prinzengarde bodyguards remind the crowd of the city’s tradition of anti-militarism. This included disobeying orders by turning in the wrong direction and stuffing flowers into rifle-barrels. Rosenmontag is not an official holiday but in areas of Germany that celebrate Karneval, workers usually get the day off. You can´t work with all the partying in the streets going on anyway.

On Shrove Tuesday the crazy couple will move with their retinue into the Rathaus (City Hall) to govern until midnight, when the merrymaking and foolishness comes to a sudden halt, yielding to the observation of Lent.The Nubbelverbrennung marks the end of the carnival days - the spirit of carnival (a puppet similar to the British Guy Fawkes)   is burnt to atone for the sins committed during the carnival session.

Local Dreigestirn

The three most important characters in the Karneval are called the Dreigestirn (three Stars): Prince Carnival (known as Seine Tollitaet, ‘His Craziness’), the Bauer (peasant) and the Jungfrau (maiden). The Jungfrau has always been a man. It is a great honour to be one of the Dreigestirn, and they are elected each October from the members of Köln’s 105 historic carnival associations. The characters emerged in 1823, when concerned citizens, mainly of the educated elite, formed Carnival societies for the purpose of creating a new image. The Romantic spirit of the times and renewed interest in classic Greece and Rome, provided inspiration for Carnival themes and inspired the characters of the Dreigestirn.  There is one official Dreigestirn for the city, but every local parade and quarter has its own Dreigestirn as well, often children.

If you are not into carnival, the "crazy days" can be an unpleasant experience, especially in the city centre. Silly carnival songs are heard loudly everywhere. Streets and public transport are full of drunk partygoers in bad costumes, some of which don´t bother waiting in line for a public toilet if they need to relieve themselves of some of the liquid they´ve ingested. Anything goes - or rather: is supposed to go - during carnival, so be prepared to be kissed or touched, especially if you´re female. Along the way of the Parades, grown-up people fight with teeth, claws and elbows for the sweets that are thrown and that they could easily buy for a few cents in the nearest store. If you don´t like carnival, you´d better stay home during these days.



In 1828, British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 - 1834) wrote:

In Kohln, a town of monks and bones,
And pavements fang'd with murderous stones
And rags, and hags, and hideous wenches;
I counted two and seventy stenches,
All well defined, and several stinks!
Ye Nymphs that reign o'er sewers and sinks,
The river Rhine, it is well known,
Doth wash your city of Cologne;
But tell me, Nymphs, what power divine
Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?

The sad truth is that in some parts of Cologne, this poem is still true, 180 years later. Even in the 21st century, not all of mankind is familiar with the concept of waste baskets, trash bins and public toilets. Granted, this is a problem almost every city has, but that´s not really comforting...

This display shows only the cigarette butts that have been collected by three teams of city cleaners (6 men) in the city centre in 5 days - 240 000!!! -  so it´s really only the tip of the total trash iceberg (...and that STANK...) Is it really so hard to hold on to your crap for a few metres till you reach the next wastebin???