Cologne & Lustheide, April 2023

27 April – Frankfurt to Cologne – It’s relocation day, off to Cologne. To be accurate, our destination is Lustheide, an outer suburb of Cologne. The host of our AirBnB seems very communicative and sent what appeared to be very clear instructions. We took the train into Frankfurt Central, spent some time having a coffee and bun before going to the bus station to await our Flixbus. Flixbus is our favourite in Europe, their bright green buses being comfortable and generally on-time, barring road events beyond their control. Since we were here last, the number of routes and cities serviced has increased greatly. The best part, is that a luxury seat with toilet access, charging and wifi is often only a third of the cost of a second class rail ticket. We considered a proper lunch but neither of us was too hungry (rare for us) and we took advantage of the fact that the busport was spanking new, and therefore clean, something most busports are not.

The Flixbus arrived dead on time and we found our pre-booked seats. We had booked the very front seats on the top deck, giving a wonderful panoramic view. You get to see a lot more from the bus than the train, the rail lines often being through industrial areas or the view obscured by thickets of scrub. The trip was set for a little over 2 hours to Cologne Airport and things were going really well until we caught up with the long line of almost stationary traffic following a major truck smash on the autobahn. It took more than an hour to clear the snarl and so by the time we had negotiated a train from the airport to Cologne Messe Deutz station to change to an underground, it was peak hour, and the U Bahn was packed. It is always fun with luggage squeezing onto a packed train.

We alighted at Lustheide and thought we had followed the instructions to walk the 450m walk to our lodgings, but after 600m or so, a helpful local confirmed that we were walking in the wrong direction altogether. We retraced our steps, disobeyed the first instruction we had and set off on the right track. Our apartment is the attic floor on the third level of a lovely house, set in a pretty street. Our host greeted us and showed us the ropes. He told us that he had once worked for TNT in Australia, which explained his excellent English. The apartment is quite charming, especially after the basic austerity of the one in Offenbach. The hosts have gone out of their way to provide comforts, a couple of cold local beers in the fridge, two types of coffee machines with plenty of coffee, a full range of bath products and lots of tourist information. This is the BnB part that so many AirBnB hosts ignore. Fortunately, there is a Lidl supermarket just across the road so we didn’t have to go far to pick up some supplies for dinner. We spent the evening watching the World Snooker Semi Final which was being live broadcast from somewhere local. It was quite fascinating and the only show we could find where the German didn’t matter.

View from our attic

28 April – Lustheide – The day started dark, wet and gloomy, with a forecast max of around 14º. It did not look like improving until the late afternoon and the forecast proved accurate. We chose to spend the day in, relaxing, reading and researching future travel options. Around 3 o’clock, the weather had improved so we did spend an hour or so walking around the neighbourhood, admiring the houses and gardens before the horizon turned black once more and we headed for home. We will have to become less precious about going out in the rain if we are going to travel for months in northern Europe but for now we are happy to hide inside in the dry warmth.

29 April – Cologne – The day opened to more rain but it was forecast as short lived and we got organized to head off to Cologne. We were temporarily stumped by the lack of ticket machines at the station but a local told us we could buy them on the train. The light rail train (which is more like a tram) took us to Cologne Mess Deutz, which is on the eastern bank of the Rhine and we walked a kilometre or so to cross the Rhine River via the Hohenzollernbruecke Bridge, a 409m long rail bridge built in the early 1900s. Despite daily bombing raids during the war that damaged 75% of the city, the bridge remained largely intact, until the retreating Germans blew it up in March 1945. By May, the Americans had it operational again.

 

The Hohenzollernbruecke Bridge

After the war

Behind the bridge, the towering spires of the Cologne Cathedral formed a wonderful backdrop as we crossed the river. This was our first encounter with the Rhine River. The width and powerful flow needs to be seen to be appreciated. I can appreciate the skills of the pre-motorized boatsmen who were somehow able to navigate such waters against a very powerful current. The passing parade of river boats and barges either painstakingly pushed their way upstream or raced their way downstream. We saw some kayakers making hard work of paddling upstream, even though they were using the backwaters and eddies along the bank. The guard rails of the bridge were covered in “lover’s padlocks”, many inscribed with the names of the couple. The concentration of them was heaviest in the middle sections but they were thick everywhere, probably more so than on the famed bridge over the Seine in Paris where authorities eventually removed them all due to concerns about the added weight. Here the number was estimated to be more than 500,000 back in 2015 but the estimated weight of more than 12 tonne was not seen to be an issue.

Love Locks, only some of the 1/2 million

Exploring the alleyways of the old town

Once over the bridge, we located the departure point for our booked 1 hour cruise on the river and spent another hour exploring the beautiful narrow winding alleyways of the old town. The majority of the medieval building seem to be pubs and restaurants, a thing that was greatly appreciated by the large numbers of people sporting team colours in preparation for the Football match between FC Cologne and Freilburg, later in the day. There was a lot of “pre-soaking” occurring among the throngs and some cheerful banter between the groups.

We boarded the boat, a multi decked river boat and took an outside table on the top near the bow. I was a bit surprised at just how bearable it was given that it was still only 10º. Most people seemed to arm themselves with a beer, despite the cold, so we thought it was only polite to follow local custom. Locals are very protective of the Cologne beer (Kölch) and it is said that trying to order any other form of beer will get you thrown out of some pubs. It is only served in tall narrow glasses. The important thing is, it tastes good, even in icy cold weather.

A great place to live

The scenery was excellent and the commentary informative. The boat struggled upstream for a half hour or so then turned to sail downstream. Unfortunately, this was also into the wind and the added wind chill factor sent us packing inside and down a deck before bits started to freeze and fall off. We thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and it was a terrific way of seeing a lot of the city.

Once off the boat, we headed for one of the many harbourside restaurants and opted for some lunch. Despite the weather, we sat outside, although we cheated by sitting underneath a heater and placing one of the provided blankets across our laps. We both settled on a burger because they sounded good and we hadn’t had one for ages. They came out looking like the promotional pictures of a Hungry Jack’s Whopper, but never really resemble in reality. These were delicious, with an excellent real beef burger. The side of sweet potato chips and truffle mayonnaise went down well too. I knew there was a reason we were doing so much walking.

After lunch, we set out again to follow the crowds up towards the cathedral. The crowds had now swollen enormously, not just soccer fans, but large groups of locals who seem to come to the city on a Saturday and walk or buy lunch. Near the Central Station and cathedral, the crowd became almost difficult to move through. There were hens party groups in tutus, bucks party groups downing copious beers, tour groups from the many river cruise ships and family groups out and about, all heavily rugged up of course.

Words fail me trying to describe the Cologne Cathedral. We have seen many wonderful such buildings, the Duomo in Milan, Notre Dame in Paris and Duomo di Firenze in Florence amongst them but this one takes the cake. The towering turrets once formed the World’s tallest man-made structure and the intricacy of the stonework is staggering. The building dominates the skyline across most of Cologne. Fortunately, the wartime damage was minimalized because of a deliberate policy by the US forces to avoid bombing it. Photographs dotted around the building show the damage done and some of the early restoration efforts.

 

Cologne Cathedral on a better day than we experienced

We followed the crowds through town to the Neumarkt area before catching a tram back to our lodgings, tired but well content with our day exploring this beautiful city. Cologne is a must-visit city.

30 April – Cologne – The day began with clear skies, almost a first for the trip. The forecast promised a very respectable 19º so we decided to get some washing out of the way in the morning and then head back into Cologne for the afternoon. There is a cable car running from the zoo across the Rhine to a park and thermal spa on the eastern bank so we figured that would be a great way to get some different views of the city.

Many other people also thought it was a lovely day to be out and about and the trams and walk ways were crowded. So too was the queue to get onto the cable car, but we persisted and took a wonderful ride across the river. The argument crops up regularly about a cable car connecting Perth with Kings Park and having ridden a few, I can’t have anything but positive thoughts on the subject. It would be a hit with tourists and locals alike if they managed to keep the cost down. This one was $8, which seems very reasonable.

Once on the other side, we ambled slowly through a large and pretty parkland, filled with family groups picnicking or just walking. We stopped at a beer garden that was filled with people and waited an age for a beer each, mostly because the couple running the bar were horribly inefficient and seemed to think that only one of them needed to work at a time.

We continued the walk to Cologne Deutz Mess Station and caught the tram home, well content with a lovely day in the sunshine. With an early start planned for the next day’s move to the Netherlands, we started the process of packing. Cologne has been well worth the visit.

  1. Cologne Cathedral is so impressive. Thanks for sharing your adventures. Glad you liked the local Cologne beer (Kölch), so you didn’t get thrown out of any places .

  2. Lois

    I’m so glad you are back travelling and sharing your adventures with us and showing and describing your experiences in places I will never see in person but can almost feel I’m there! Can you please add Sharon to your mailing list?

  3. Mario and Helen

    Hi guys, really enjoying your commentary. We loved our travels through Germany. Wishing you all the best.

  4. Carol

    Great read guys. So glad you’re having a good time. Did Christine knit a beanie for you too ?

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