My introduction to Köln was fairly sobering and somber, but there is more to the story.
Köln stands as a city of contrast: Relics of Roman rule are juxtaposed with modern shopping centers. Remnants of bombed out buildings are woven in with impressively contemporary architecture.
There is even a constant crowd of teenage skateboarders in front of the Dom.
It’s not as though the people of Köln are ignoring history. Just the opposite… They are living with memories and respecting the past, but they are also growing from it and moving on.
Note: I am now making a transition from the “intellectual” part of this post to the fun stuff.
One of the greatest pleasures about visiting Köln is the Rhine River. Promptly at 6:30 every morning, my friend, Rebecca, and I would hit the riverwalk, for an energizing run.
It never ceases to amaze me how helpful a new route can be during a run. When I don’t know what’s ahead, curiosity takes precedence over tiredness, so I end up pushing myself a little farther than usual.
After freshening up for the day, the whole group of students would always meet for a banquet-style breakfast in the hotel.
In traditional German style, breakfast was complete with full-fat yogurt, muesli, Nutella and Leberkäse (translation: German Spam). To my sensitive stomach’s delight, there was no mandatory ingestion of the plastic-packed meat.
Our days in Köln were a mix of sight-seeing and Freizeit (translation: free time). For me, the highlight of it all was hiking up nearly 600 steps to reach the top of the Dom.
The panoramic view of the city from the top of the Dom was certainly worth the blood, sweat and tears it took to get there.
As far as introductions to Germany go, I’d say Köln is one of the best places to begin.