Cologne attracts people from far and near

  • Published
  • By Iris Reiff
  • Travel Correspondent
Cologne, located on the Rhine River, is Germany's third largest city. Towering above the city are the steeples of the world-famous Koelner Dom, or Cologne Cathedral. This splendid church is a perfect example of high Gothic style architecture -- few large buildings in the world have been built in such a uniform way.

It took 632 years to construct the cathedral, which was completed in 1880, and by that time was the focal point of the city, towering above the famous Rhine-side panorama.

Among the treasures in the Dom are the Gero cross, dating back to A.D. 975, the Occident's oldest large sculpture, the Shrine of the Three Magi (1180-1225), an outstanding example of goldsmith's work from the Rhine area and the largest winged altar painting, called the Dombild. It was created by Stephan Lochner around 1450 and is a masterpiece of the Cologne Art School.

The beautiful choir fittings have been entirely preserved, as have the statues of the 12 apostles in the choir. These are sights not to be missed. Anyone entering the cathedral is overwhelmed when looking up at the tall windows and steep vaulting.

The main thoroughfare of Roman times, Hohe Strasse, is Cologne's most famous street for shopping today. 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 around 40 A.D. This museum presents everyday Roman life and shows wonders of art, such as glass and ceramics -- 2,000 years of Cologne history.

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

There are many famous Romanesque churches surrounding the city. The Wallraf-Richarts and Ludwig museums, located between the cathedral and the Rhine, house the World of Paintings. Cologne's famous, and fairly new concert hall, the Philharmonie, can also be found here. The Altstadt 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's definitely recommended to experience Cologne aboard one of the day or night cruises offered during spring or summer. From here you get an entirely different view of the city.

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

Cologne is 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, Cologne hosts the world-famous photokina, Men's Fashion Week and theInternational Furniture Fair. Cologne is also home tothe most important radio and TV center in Germany, home of WDR, Deutschlandfunk and BFBS broadcasting stations. 

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, attracting many visitors year-round.

The Cologne dialect and local beer share the same name: Koelsch. When they brewed this beer, which folklore states is supposed to be good for the figure, the local inhabitants built a lot of inns and taverns to drink it at - and called them Koelsche Kneipen. Now, there seems to be a Koelsche Kneipe on practically every corner.

Instead of wine, the people of Cologne prefer the Koelsch top-brewed beer, served in small glasses by the Koebes, who can be recognized by their blue waistcoats.

The city of Cologne is also the center of attention again with Germany celebrating Fasching, a five-day festival which runs through Tuesday. At this time, thousands of people travel to the city to attend a fashing ball or watch the famous Rose Monday parade on Monday withseveral fasching parades will also taking place onSunday..

Instead of driving a vehicle into the city and having to bother with expensive parking and traffic stress, the Deutsche Bahn or German Rail offer special fares to Cologne and other destinations in Germany, where groups may travel on discount rates.