"We're just climbing some stairs..."

Trip Start Jul 17, 2010
Trip End Aug 07, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , North Rhine-Westphalia,
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

From Greg: Cari has been complaining for some time that we have not been getting near enough exercise on this trip. So, today we started out with a brief climb up the Cathedral's 550ish steps. As one may recall our climb of the tower in the Czech Republic (in Prague), Cari loves to climb up really tall structures. By the time we were about halfway up, she was fiercely clamped to the outside handrail and, once again, hissing like an angry goose.

From Cari: I was not.

From Greg: She even made herself up a little chant to keep motivated: "We’re just cliiiimbing some stairs, we’re just cliiiiiimbing some stairs…"

From Cari: That I did.

From Greg: Now, at the top, Cari, with her nostrils flared like a terrified horse…

From Cari: It’s ok, he told me that to my face.

From Greg: …we took some pictures and promptly scurried down. Cari, I’m sorry that I have compared you to farm animals.

From Cari: I forgive you. Now would be a great time to tell a little bit about the tower from my perspective. When we reached the top, I thought we were finished. This was not the case as in the middle of the room was a giant metal staircase leading up to the top of the tower. I was ready to be done, but, unfortunately, you couldn’t see any of the views from the room we were in, so we had to climb the see-through stairs. I was able to calm down enough to take some pictures, but it was really windy and it kind of scared me that I was going to watch my jacket fly away. On the way down, we stopped by the bell tower. We missed them going off on the way down, but on the way up they had scared me because they were so loud.

From Greg: Off to the Suenner Brewery we went!

From Cari: On our drive to the brewery, the private driver we had thought it was funny because it seemed like every corner reminded us about where we had been the day before. “We’ve been here.” “We’ve been here, too.”

From Greg: Upon arriving, we met the owner of the attached pub, Boris, and were promptly offered a couple of fresh Koelsh beers to wet our appetite. The nice German man had even made little flash cards for himself so he could remember talking points for himself during our tour. Once he had informed us that beer was made of barley, hops, water, and yeast, I informed him that I, myself, am a brewer back in the States, and he responded by saying, “Oh, well then you already know all of this.” He put his flash cards back in his pocket and asked, “What would you like to see?”

From Cari: While I even knew a lot of the information Boris was giving us at first, I did like a tidbit he through out about how hops are female cannibus plants. I thought that was interesting.

From Greg: We were quickly in the brewhouse, looking in the brew kettles and chatting with the actual brewers. As you may not know, Koelsch beer is similar to Champagne in the sense that to be an authentic Koelsch beer, it has to be brewed within the city limits of Cologne.

From Cari: The brewers were actually brewing when we were there, so we got to see inside the brew kettles while the brewing process was taking place. I knew Greg was going to love this tour when he asked the brewer what one of the pots was for and the brewer responded, “Would you like to go look?” We ended up seeing every inch of the brewery before our tour was over.

From Greg: After wandering around for a while looking at their grain handling and brewhouse, we found ourselves in their distillery. Now, I don’t know anything about the spirits business, but Boris informed us that Suenner only has a license to distill 300 hectoliters each year (1 hectoliter equals 26 U.S. gallons). Consequently, they choose to run their equipment every other year. The taxes charged to the brewery for producing 600 hectoliters of spirits is 350,000 Euros. Now, again, I don’t know anything about the distillery business, but that sounds like a horrible business model.

Moving from the distillery, we passed into their bottling facility. I found it really interesting that most of the beer bottles in a region are the same size and are not embossed. Consequently, all the bottling lines are equipped to strip all bottles, including competitor brands, of their labels and clean and sanitize in preparation for refilling. We got to see this process much more closely that when we visited the d-bag brewery in Munich.

From Cari: We got so close to the bottling line that I could have reached out and grabbed a freshly filled beer straight from the line. It was neat.

From Greg: Making our way from the bottling line through the newly constructed pub area and into the cellars, was where I discovered the most interesting piece of our misadventure. We climbed a small set of stairs and found ourselves looking down on ten OPEN primary fermentation vessels. The tour guide proceeded to tell us an interesting story about how most people when they see this, they would want to go swimming in the beer. But, nay, they would not love because they would all die.

From Cari: See, the beer fermenting produces carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide forms a layer between the beer and the oxygen because it is lighter than water but heavier than oxygen. Boris told me to bend over the beer and he swatted some of the air into my nose. It burned. If the people were to go swimming, they would suffocate before they reached the top.

From Greg: In the final moments of our visit, we found ourselves in the conditioning cellar drinking one week old Koelsch out of the side of a massive lagering fermenter.

From Cari: It was really carbonated, but it wasn’t that bad. Before we left, Boris gave us glasses and postcards and offered to let us taste anything that we wanted. We declined on the tastes, but he still poured a glass of malt beverage for both of us. I loved it. After I voiced that opinion, Boris informed me that “it is for children.” Greg loved that.

From Greg: Boris was awesome, the brewery was awesome, and, if you get the chance, drink a Suenner Koelsch. I think they are available in Texas. As a final note about the brewery: I noticed that they bottled 5-10 liter casks that could be punched open and consumed at a table by a small group of people. Very cool idea. After the brewery, we quickly scurried back in time to catch a tour of the inside of the Cathedral.

Ftom Cari: The Cathedral tour was a good one for a Cathedral. The guide was clear to hear but quiet enough to maintain proper reverence. The Cathedral was built to house the relics of the three kings from the Christmas story. I still am not sure how they know that these are the three kings and not just some other people they dug up, but the bodies are hosted in a giant old and gem-inlayed reliquary in the back of the church. Since we were on the tour, we got to go to see it up close (a place were other people were not allowed to go). We saw the first recorded life-sized crucifix. We saw tombs of Archbishops of the area. An interesting point was that the Archbishops commissioned their monuments for their tombs before they died because they wanted to have a say in how they were going to be remembered.

From Greg: The place is very old and very impressive. It actually employs 100 full time staff members, including painters, sculptors, and stain glass artists as well as administrative personnel. The whole operation is financed through the local lottery. For every Euro spent, the Cathedral gets one half of one cent. This totals up to the millions of dollars required to maintain the structure.

From Cari: After the tour, we headed back to the hotel to relax and get ready for dinner and a quiet evening in.

P.S. We actually did something between the Cathedral and dinner. We went to Museum Ludwig, an art museum. The only really good thing in the building were the Picassos. The special exhibit was about a man who made art by copying other people's art and, for lack of a better term, ruining it. I can do that. As I am sure you can tell, I was unimpressed and so was Greg (except for the Picassos).
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