Cologne offers something for everyone

COLOGNE, Germany -- Cologne is the largest city in North Rhine Westphalia and the fourth largest city in Germany. Cologne is only slightly smaller than Berlin or Hamburg. It is made up of nine urban districts and a total of 85 quarters, known as "Veedel" in Cologne dialect. Cologne has seven Rhine bridges and 10 motorways, which make up an excellent transport system. Each day more than 1,000 trains enter or leave Cologne Hauptbahnhof, or main station. Over the last few years, the international Cologne-Bonn Airport has become the German hub for budget airlines and air freight, whereas the harbor has made it the second largest inland port location in Germany.  The most famous beverage of Cologne is Koelsch beer.  (Courtesy photo)

COLOGNE, Germany -- Cologne is the largest city in North Rhine Westphalia and the fourth largest city in Germany. Cologne is only slightly smaller than Berlin or Hamburg. It is made up of nine urban districts and a total of 85 quarters, known as "Veedel" in Cologne dialect. Cologne has seven Rhine bridges and 10 motorways, which make up an excellent transport system. Each day more than 1,000 trains enter or leave Cologne Hauptbahnhof, or main station. Over the last few years, the international Cologne-Bonn Airport has become the German hub for budget airlines and air freight, whereas the harbor has made it the second largest inland port location in Germany. The most famous beverage of Cologne is Koelsch beer. (Courtesy photo)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Cologne, located on the Rhine river, is the third-largest German city and industry.

The city is a popular travel destination for people from near and far, whether it is during the holiday season with the Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas markets, opening mid-November, or in the springtime, when Fashing attracts tens of thousands of visitors to celebrate the arrival of spring.

It also boasts multiple cultural events and many shopping opportunities..

Towering above the city are the steeples of the world-famous Koelner Dom, or Cologne Cathedral. This church is one example of High Gothic style architecture, and few large buildings in the world have been executed in such a uniform way.

It took 632 years to complete the Cologne Cathedral, and by that time the monument was the focal point of the city, towering above the famous Rhine-side view.

Among the treasures in the Dom are the Gero cross, dating back to 975 A.D.; the Occident's oldest large sculpture; the Shrine of the Three Magi; an example of goldsmith's work from the Rhine area; and the large-winged altar painting, called the Dombild.  Stephan Lochner created the Dombild around 1450 and it is considered a masterpiece of the Cologne Art School. The choir fittings have been preserved entirely, and so have the statues of the 12 apostles in the choir. Anyone entering the cathedral may be overwhelmed by the impression when looking up at the tall windows and the steep vaulting.

Today, the main thoroughfare of Roman times, Hohe Strasse, is Cologne's most famous street for shopping. The most prominent evidence of the Roman times are the remains of the city walls, the Roemerturm, and the 14-meter high Poblicius Tomb in The Roemisch-Germanisches Museum, which dates back to the time around 40 A.D. This museum presents the Roman everyday life and shows wonders of art such as glass, ceramics and much more.

Cologne is a city where people can find their way around easily. A discovery tour could possible start from the Dom into the pedestrian paradise Hohe Strasse and Schildergasse, or into the old part of town Altstadt.

There are also many famous Romanesque churches which surround the city. At the Wallraf-Richarts and Ludwig museums, between the cathedral and the Rhine, one can find World of Paintings.

Cologne's famous, and fairly new concert hall, the Philharmonie, can also be found here. The Altstadt, or old city, offers a 19th century atmosphere with its romantic buildings, pubs, bars and ale-houses, waiting to be photographed. With the Rhine river flowing right past the city it is definitely recommended to experience Cologne aboard one of the day or night cruises. From here you can get an entirely different view of the city.

Cologne has plenty of recreational areas and parks, attractive at any time of the year. The Rhine Park with its Tanzbrunnen or open-air-dancing fountain, located next to the Trade Fair Center is particularly famous. During the summer the city is packed with international shows, artists and orchestras.

Cologne is also known as a city of arts with nine municipal and many private museums, 120 private galleries , a municipal art gallery, an opera house and many theaters; a trade fair city, host of the world-famous photokina, Men's Fashion Week, International Furniture Fair; the most important radio & TV center in West Germany, home of WDR, Deutschlandfunk & BFBS broadcasting stations. It is a university town and in 1988 the university celebrated its 600th anniversary.

The Cologne theaters, operas, ballets, and puppet plays all enjoy an international reputation. The smaller playhouses provide light entertainment. Also very popular is the Cologne Zoo which attracts many visitors year-round.

Cologne, along with Mainz, is a central point of Rhineland carnival.

This year, enormous crowds turned out on Rosenmontag - two days before Ash Wednesday - to celebrate the procession of floats drawn through the city streets. Instead of wine, the Cologne people prefer the Koelsch top-brewed beer, served in small glasses by the Koebes, who can be recognized by his blue waistcoat.

So, whether it is for the shopping, history or cultural experiences, Cologne offers something for everyone.