Monday, April 25, 2011


Jeff and I just spent the Easter weekend in Cologne. Before I get into this too far I have a somewhat rhetorical question that first occurred to me years ago during our first visit to Cologne. Why are some city names translated to English and others aren’t. Cologne is the perfect example since the German spelling is Köln. Why is the German spelling of München translated to Munich, Nürnberg to Nuremberg but Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Wiesbaden are not translated? Some of it must have to do with the umlaut, that pair of dots above the vowel. Why not just drop the dots and leave it as it is for English?

There was a settlement in what is now Cologne as early as 38BC. The Romans moved in around 85AD and stayed until the Franks took over in 459. Throughout much of the middle ages Cologne was a Free Imperial City which caused consternation with the Catholic Archbishops who wanted complete control of the city and where normally not even allowed entrance to Cologne. During the 19th Century, Cologne lost its free city status and was at various times part of France and Prussia. When Cologne became part of the newly formed, unified Germany in 1871 it was designated a Fortress of the German Confederation because of its double fortified belt surrounding the city. Those city walls remained intact until after WW I when France required their destruction. Cologne was heavily damaged during WW II as the result of 262 allied air raids. Cologne’s mayor, 1917-1933, was Konrad Adenauer who would become the first chancellor of West Germany following WW II.

The thing Cologne is best known for is certainly its cathedral. It’s an absolutely amazing building in both size and design. The Kölner Dom was first begun in 1284. Because of finances, politics and several wars there were numerous periods when construction was abandoned. The cathedral was finally finished in 1880 and by then the city’s residence referred to the Dom as Dauerbaustelle (eternal construction site). Not surprisingly, during our visit, there were at least six areas on the cathedral where scaffolding was placed for either renovation or cleaning.

The Cologne Cathedral, the Kölner Dom. The shear magnitude of its size is almost indescribable.

Here I am on the Deutz Bridge with Cologne old town water front in the background with the Great St. Martin Church on the right and the Dom on the left. Great St. Martin dates back to 1150-1250 so it was originally older than the Dom. However, it was badly damaged in WW II and was totally rebuilt.

We had walked over to the east side of the Rhine. Here's the Dom and the Hohenzollern railway bridge.

It has become a tradition to place love padlocks on the wire mesh wall along the pedestrian walkway of the Hohenzollern bridge. Almost every padlock had some love message, some engraved.

On parts on the bridge the numbers of padlocks was quite dense. There must have been tens of thousands on the bridge. At one time the railway threatened to cut them all off but that resulted in a huge outcry. Now there's just too many to do much about it.

Back across the Rhine we're on our way into the Dom, the Cologne Cathedral.

The inside of the Cologne Cathedral was simply magnificent.

The stained glass windows in the Dom were too many to count. This is one of the larger windows.

Right behind the cathedral in importance is Kölsch, which is the light, golden lager brewed in the Cologne area. Kölsch also happens to be the German dialect spoken in this part of the country. So the local joke is that Kölsch is the only language that you can drink. There are numerous, quite impressive, gasthauses in Cologne that serve various brands of Kölsch. Interestingly, all establishments serve their Kölsch in the same, small, 0.2 liter, narrow cylinder, thin glassed, glass called a Stange (pole). Waiters deliver up to 18 Stangen (poles) in a circular tray called a Kranz (wreath). Although the glass of Kölsch is small and goes down quite quickly we figure that there is an advantage to this method. Waiters are quite aware of your need for refreshment so they are very attentive and quick with another fresh, cold Kölsch. Under German law, with only a few minor exceptions, Kölsch may not be brewed outside of the Cologne area. Well, I had more to say about Kölsch beer than I did about Cologne’s world famous cathedral or even the entire history of the city. I guess there’s a statement in that.

Our first stop for some Kölsch is at the famous Früh gasthaus. Here's a picture of the Kranz, the wreath tray, that all gasthauses used to deliver their Kölsch. In other places we watch them fill the glasses. They would load up the wreath with empty glasses and then pour the beer, rotating the wreath to fill them up.

Jeff and Früh, the most famous Cologne Kölsch.

The Früh am Dom gasthaus, just a few hundred feet from the Cologne Cathedral.

Next stop the Brauhaus-Sion, established in 1318. Although we sat outside on a wonderful day we walked around inside and it was really an impressive place.

Jeff and Sion Kölsch.

We decided to eat at the oldest gasthaus in Cologne, the Haxenhaus. A very nice, dark wood decor inside but we ate outside right on the Rhine River.

The meal of course starts with Gaffel Kölsch.

I had a wonderful sauerbraten, knodel and red cabbage. Yummy!!

Jeff had a crispy schweinhaxen and roasted potatos.

Next morning we walked back down along the Rhine past this fountain area. It was a bit cool. This is one of the three little boys that were gleefully playing away in the fountain, buck naked, all three.

A closer view of the Great St. Martin Church and some of the old town buildings that line the Rhine River.

Folks just loved to sit along the Rhine and watch the people stroll and the river flow by.

If you wanted a beer while you watched the people and the river this guy would eventually walk by with a wreath full of various beers.

Another of the wonderful beer establishments in Cologne, Peters Brauhaus, established in 1544. Really a great place.

Peters Kölsch.

The Peters Brauhaus fass, the tap. Hops above.

Jeff and Peters Kölsch.

Gaffel-Haus. Nice place to sit, right on the Alter Markt square.

Jeff and Gaffel Kölsch.

Brauerei zum Pfaffen was most notable because of the amazing woodwork inside on the walls and the standup tables. Really cool.

Malzmühle, although one of the more austere places was great fun. They have an interesting picture inside that shows the front of this building after WW II. The only thing remaining is the front steps and door frame. It's a fifth generation family brewery and gasthaus that started in 1858.

Malzmühle Kölsch, very good.

Sünner im Walfisch (Whale), you can see the whale on their sign, started business in 1626. It's a much smaller place than the others we'd been in but the folks there were very friendly and there was a very nice, old German decor. That's the Great St. Martin Church in the background.

Sünner Kölsch.

Inside the Bierhaus en d'r Salzgass (Salt gas). Another wonderful beer establishment. You can see here that they pour the Kölsch directly from the barrel and, if more than one glass, pour it with the glasses already in the wreath. This barrel is running low so they have it tilted up to help. They went through three of these little barrels while we sat there. The square hole in front of the barrel is sort of a dumb waiter. New barrels came up there, empty barrels went back down.

The Bierhaus en d'r Salzgass is one of the few places in Cologne that serves Päffgen Kölsch, very good. It used to be common for places to put tick marks like these on one of the beer mats at the table to indicate how many beers had been served, but not anymore. However, in Cologne it still seems to be the norm.

We finished our day at a great Italian restaurant, again sitting outside right on the Rhine. Our German/Italian waiter turned out to be a great guy and we had some very good conversation with him. After our meal he placed two glasses of grappe, Italian schnapps, in front of us. He also left the bottle and told us to have as much as we liked. How about none!! Actually a very nice gesture.

Cologne was way fun and an amazingly place to walk about, see the sites and drink the Kölsch. Our drive home was interesting and worthy of it's own blog and because of the way that evolved, actually two blogs.


  1. Great post. I wish I was there...

  2. Gibt es auch doch etliches kölnisches Wasser?

  3. Great post about Cologne. The Dom looks so massive, can't wait to see it one day. The beer wreaths are such a good idea. Loved all the pictures and the history! :)

  4. Congratulations for another essential article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a complete way of writing? I have a presentation incoming week, and I am on the lookout for such information.Cologne Guide from

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