Today’s destination of choice took us further up the Rhine than we have yet been. Köln, or Cologne to anglify/frenchify it, is the 4th largest city in Germany. It dates back to Roman times but in more recent history, it was almost completely flattened during WWII. In 1945 it was called, “the world’s greatest heap of rubble”. Looking at the city today, you would never guess it has all been rebuilt!
We arrived at the Hauptbahnhof (main rail station) and emerged right in the center of the city. In front of us was the Köln Dom (cathedral). It is a marvel of intricate gothic architecture. The spires point high into the air and each archway that lined the outer church wall completely covered in carvings & statues of staints, angels & biblical scenes. It’s one of those places that you look at and wonder how long it would take even the most talented artist to create.
Construction on the Cologne Cathedral began in 1248. Work was halted in the middle ages and it was finally completed in 1880. When it was finished, the cathedral was the tallest building in the world! The church was bombed during the war but it did not collapse. It is suspected the Allies used the extremely tall spires of the church to navigate there way into central Germany. As a result, the cathedral was not further destroyed. The inside was less detailed than the exterior, but still quite beautiful. The roof soared with pointed domes and the thick pillars were very elegant in their simplicity. The stain glass depicted events of old in a smooth, neutral colored way that made them look more realistic. They were not the bright, shining windows we have seen before, but inspired awe in their own way.
It had started to rain by the time we left the cathedral. This wasn’t surprising as the sky looked rather threatening all morning. We pulled up the hoods of our rain coats & whipped out our umbrellas because we are prepared travelers. All suited up, we trudged through the newly forming puddles to our next destination: the Chocolate Museum!
The museum started with exhibits teaching you about chocolate. First we learned about the cocoa bean. There was info on what it looks like, the trees it grows on and where & how it’s grown & cultivated. There was also displays talking about companies attempts to grow the beans in environmentally friendly ways and in plantations with good working conditions. Then they progressed into displays on how the beans are turned into chocolate, including recipes & models of the equipment. There was also one awesome display that laid out all of the health benefits of chocolate.
Finally we learned the history of chocolate. Chocolate came from South America. Cortes brought it back with him when he landed in Mexico during the early 1500’s. At this time chocolate was only in liquid form. Drinking chocolate was considered a relaxing luxury and was only enjoyed by the wealthy. It wasn’t until the 1800’s drinking chocolate became more widespread and it wasn’t until chocolate bars could be mass produced that chocolate was enjoyed in solid form.
We then got to walk through a mini Lindt chocolate factory. The best thing we can relate it to is the Tillamook Cheese Factory…which our family loves! We got to see all of the machinery used and read explanations about it. Then you could see the finished product being poured into the mold, hardened and popped out. It was then wrapped and boxed.
One of the cool things we learned is how they make the hollow chocolate bunnies, etc. We always assumed they made the two halves then stuck them together…but that is not the case. They actually have a mold of the whole shape, chocolate is poured in and then it’s constantly being rotated until the chocolate spreads & cools.
One of the best deals of the museum was the Lindt chocolate we got at the entry. And then halfway through the visit we got a yummy wafer dipped in this magical chocolate fountain 🙂
Our last stop was the gift shop. Now if we were to buy anything at any gift shop on this trip, this one was it. We were so hungry for chocolate by the time we finished the museum that we are certain they make scads of money at that place. It was full of choclate bars, pralines, truffles,mixes & other random things like noodles from several different chocolate brands. We restrained ourselves though and only bought a few little treats…which we are trying to make last…but we did munch on one right away 🙂
If we had thought it was raining when we left the Dom, we were solely mistaken. We hadn’t seen nothin’ yet! When we suited up to leave chocolate wonderland it was pouring much harder than before. But a little rain never hurt anyone so we powered through it back to the train station. Here we stopped for a coffee at the McCafe, which we were pretty impressed with. Good drinks…good muffin…good prices. Although it was odd that they served Justine’s coffee in a tall, glass drinking glass…like one you’d get water in at a restaurant. Then we hopped on a train back to Frankfurt, the intermediate stop between Köln & our hostel.
In Frankfurt we had supper. We had every intention of going out and finding a restaurant, but it was pouring rain and looked miserable outside so we ate in the station. We found a German fast-food type place that dealt in sausage. We each got a bratwürst, fries & pop deal. Justine’s is the one with the mustard & ketchup. Kristin’s bratwürst is covered in a curry sauce, making it currywürst.
Tonight is very relaxed evening of packing, watching the newest Glee & maybe some German TV. Maybe we’ll be able to watch German X-factor again. The fun thing about that show is that the judges speak English (with German subtitles) but the rest of the show is just in German.
Love, Luck & Lindt,