Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 4 - Cologne, Germany (2011)

Today we planned to explore the Rhine Valley on a cruise and then take a train ride back (as per itinerary). Then head to Cologne for the rest of the afternoon. But of course, we all know things don't always go according to plan. We anticipated around 3hrs of driving all the way to Cologne since we needed to stop by the Rhine Valley.

From Gelnhausen we drove southwest passing by Frankfurt then heading northwest to the Rhine Valley. The drive along the autobahn was as adrenalin pumping as the previous days. When we arrived at the Rhine Valley area, it was a different kind of adrenalin going. It was not the speed nor the danger that amazed me but the scenery. There were castles and towers left and right. If only it was possible to stop at every bend to take the photos, but we couldn't. The roads were a bit narrow. I had to snap the photos as quickly and clearly as I could while the car was moving.

Here are some of the pics we took along the way.....

Burg Katz is a castle above the German town of St Goarshausen in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Who wouldn't want to take a photo of this one? Perched atop a hilll
where motorists could admire its beauty.

Rhine River

Since we didn't have enough time to go on the ferry ride along the Rhine, my brother-in-law had an alternative - for us to take the cars on-board a ferry then cross the Rhine River. Not a bad idea actually. It's still a ferry ride - a very short one at that.

Fähre Loreley Sankt Goar, Sankt Goar, Deutschland
We boarded the ferry at this pier and crossed over to Sankt Goarshausen.

The domestic ferry crosses the Rhine at the river kilometer 556 and connects
the two sister cities of St Goar and Sankt Goar.
anxiously waiting for the ferry

the ferry just arrived, with passengers coming from the other side of the river

Ira needed to go out and stretch after a long drive

upon seeing the other side of town, we hurriedly got into our cars and prepared for the next leg of our drive to Cologne. Just a caution, upon driving up the road, make sure you turn left on the second exit. We mistakenly drove into the first exit and were shocked by the on-going traffic! We were driving on the wrong road! Luckily, our skilled driver (hubby) was able to back up and drive into the correct street (Bahnhofstrasse).

We then drove off along Rheinstrasse and decided we needed to find a place to have lunch. We stopped along Kirchplatz, walked down the road and saw this Gartenhotel with a restaurant. We checked the menu, saw food we were familiar with, and sat down for lunch. 

The owner (that's who we thought he was) was about to leave but attended to us first. He even gave us a basket of cherries when we asked if we taste a few. How lucky could we get???

Schreiner Gartenhotel  - The inn was built in 1385, into a rock! A part of the rooms and the are set against  400 million years of old rock. The stairs were a bit steep. I was then wondering why the design of the walls were a bit rugged. Later on I found out it's because it was part of the rock where it was built into.

Our lunch for the day - a variety of schnitzels!

our preferred water - classic not sparkling

essen zeit!

After a sumptuous lunch, we walked around the town and found some interesting places.

resting in front of the church

Wallfahrtkirche Kamp
we went inside this very solemn church

lighted some candles and offered some prayers - for safe journey and good health

even small churches here have very good architecture

an interesting painting of knights at one of the gates 

riding the lion statue in front of Gartenhotel on our way back to the carpark

a steep ascent back to the cars

just looking around the buildings and establishments in this town is an experience in itself

we've finally made it to the car park. We're now ready for the last leg of the drive to Cologne.

Cologne (or Koln in German) is one of the major European metropolitan areas. It's around 230kms from Gelnhausen. First stop was the Cologne Cathedral. I didn't know much about the cathedral but I trust our local tourist guide (aka my brother-in-law) wouldn't disappoint. 

After finding a parking space in the city, we walked towards the main square where the cathedral was located. There was some construction going on at the cathedral. There was a huge truck and a forklift loading in the materials used for what looked like a big event the night before. It was quite chaotic at the foreground. But as we slowly got a glimpse of the magnificent cathedral, we were all at awe.

We walked closer and approached the side of the cathedral. I can't stop staring, more like gaping! I was really amused, impressed, star truck. The Cologne Cathedral was simply magnificent, and what we saw was just the outside. The clear blue sky even complemented as a backdrop to this wonderful canvass.

Cologne Cathedral
A Roman Catholic church. A renowned monument of German Catholicism. 
One of the world's largest churches. A World Heritage Site. 

It took around 632 years to complete the cathedral (1248 to 1880) and became the tallest structure in the world from 1880-1884. The people walking around appeared like dwarfves compared to the cathedral.

we had to look straight up to see the top of the spires, or more like lie down to really appreciate it's towers. That's how tall the cathedral is.

photo op with the photographer almost on the ground taking this picture

family photo with the cathedral, complete with the spires
As you can see on the lower right hand side of the photo was the stroller, which was slowly blown by the strong winds. My brother-in-law (in green) had to chase it to stop it from moving.

take two! Now without the stroller in view.

the Cathedral has the second tallest church spires

The enormous twin spires make the Cologne Cathedral 
the largest facade of any church in the world.

The cathedral undergoes reconstruction and restoration works every now and then, as evidenced by the picture above. According to my brother-in-law, the cathedral has always been a "work-in-progress) since its construction spanned more than 600 years of work, with different archbishops and government leaders overseeing the construction, putting into it some of their own creative designs/ideas.

Described by UNESCO as an "exceptional work of human creative genius". 
Cologne's most famous and most visited landmark.

One of the best known architectural monuments in Germany. 

a "small" piece of the cathedral which broke off

the "small" piece is still bigger than us!

very impressive painted windows of the cathedral

the altar

intricate architecture from floor to ceiling

even though the Cathedral has been flocked by tourists, it has not lost it's sanctity as a place of worship. People go there as a form pilgrimage. There were still masses being conducted so parts of the cathedral were not accessible to tourists (esp during mass hours). There was an eerie feeling as we walked around. Maybe because of its history. More so because it's a church.

everything about this place is colossal....

from the pillars to the paintings on the walls...

the prayer rooms, mini chapels....

the carpets depicting biblical stories....

to the statues along the pillars....

the staircase just in front of the cathedral was a good resting place while we marvel at the beauty of the Cathedral while the kids play around

one of the spires

a busker outside the cathedral

very detailed sculptures surrounding the cathedral

we discovered an interesting story when we saw a postcard from one of the tourist shops nearby showing a picture of the Cathedral during WWII. 
Below was one of the photos we saw taken during that time.

the story tells how the tall spires of the Cologne Cathedral served as a navigational mark by aircraft bombarding Germany. Probably the reason why it remained "safe" during the war.

after exploring the inside of the cathedral and resting for a few minutes, we walked on the side of the cathedral and went towards the back 

there was a cemetery just behind the cathedral

even at this angle the cathedral was still impressive

We continued walking towards our next attraction when we passed by this train station. It was a big hit to the kids so we let them watch as the trains passed by.

Ira patiently waiting and watching as the trains came and went

while the other kids, who were not as interested on the trains, hung around and had snacks

one of the trains passing by the bridge (which was our next attraction in mind)

so what's with this bridge you might ask??? 
I've read about it. I've heard about it. Now I'm here to see it with my own eyes.....

the bridge of locks
It is said that couples go to this bridge, attach their love locks to the bring 
and throw away the key. This symbolizes their everlasting love. 

Although we were advised by my sis-in-law to bring our own locks to affix to the bridge, we didn't bring along one. Anyway, we were amused by the number of love locks "decorating" the bridge, we think we couldn't find a place to secure our own love locks.

There are probably millions of love locks attached to the bridge. There were simple locks that we usually see around the house. There were specialized locks with the names of the couples and special dates. There were very old designed locks. There were very unusually designed locks.

holding on to our favorite locks

the biggest lock we've ever seen

holding the biggest one for good luck 

although we didn't have a love lock on this bridge, we sure do hope our love is everlasting :)

one last glimpse of the cathedral before we walked back to the carpark.
I knew after seeing the Cologne Cathedral that every other attraction we were going to see next wouldn't be able to compete - not only because of it's size but because of the artistry seen in and out of the cathedral. 

of course, no visit to a city would be complete without buying some souvenirs. 
This one's an addition to hubby's snow globe collection.

After a full day of sight-seeing, one that's full of history and great architecture (from castles to cathedral), it was time for us to drive back home and call it a day. We passed by a gasoline station with Burger King and couldn't resist the temptation. It was after all past dinner time already. Plus we all needed a bathroom break. Have I mentioned earlier that we needed to pay Euro 0.50 for using the bathroom? Yes, indeed. Nothing's free in this world anymore. And we were complaining why some bathrooms are asking for 10 or 20 cents in Singapore. But I have to say, they have very clean and high tech toilets in Germany (or the ones we have seen so far). 

There's a gantry before you can enter the main bathroom area. That means you need to purchase the "voucher" from the machine located just before the gantry. Insert the Euro 0.50 and you will get this voucher:

Insert it to the gantry the way you use a train ticket, get it back, then you are on your way to relieving yourself in the loo. There was even soothing music in the bathroom where we went to. A caution though, watch out for the rotating toilet seat after you flush. When I saw it I thought I was hallucinating either from hunger or from exhaustion. It was cool though. The toilet rotates whenever you flush to get cleaned for the next user. That's where your Euro 0.50 goes to. Oh, and yes, you can keep the voucher and use it for discount the next time you stop by and get coffee.

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