Mein Abenteuer in Köln (My Adventure in Cologne)

Trip Start Jun 09, 2010
Trip End Sep 18, 2010

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Pathpoint Cologne

Flag of Germany  , North Rhine-Westphalia,
Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hallo und Wilkommen.  Today is a special day, because I’m writing for you.  That’s right, just for, enjoy!  This blog will cover what happened from Freitag, Juni 18 to Sonntag, Juni 20.  

Freitag, was a good tag.  I was able to get readings from acceleration sensors.  This made me happy.  I met with Dr. -Ing (a doctor in Engineering) Uwe Hanebeck, my supervisor’s advisor.

I worked for some time at UC Riverside as an undergraduate researcher doing work under Dr. Bir Bhanu.  As you might imagine, Dr. Bhanu and Dr. Hanebeck know each other.  Upon meeting Dr. Hanebeck, I told him that Dr. Bhanu said hello.

As you may or may not know, Germans love Fußball (a.k.a. soccer).  The World Cup has been going on for some time.  On that Freitag, I was invited to an office party.  Dr. Hanebeck poured me a cool glass of bier (beer) from a mini-keg, and invited me to watch the game.  

Later, there was a barbecue complete with various wursts, pork, and bread.  My stomach was full of deliciousness AND I didn’t have to cook dinner.  It was a good day indeed.

Samstag, was a good tag.  There is so much to say.  This story should actually start with Freitag, but here I am.  I left on a midnight train for Köln (Cologne), normally a 2 hour ride by the ICE high speed train.  However, my midnight train was a sleeper, so it took over 5 hours.

The sleeper train left quicker than expected.  Then again, I had to run from platform E to B because I didn’t know there was a diagram of the train on the information board.  I found the correct train car, and proceeded to find the correct berth.

Upon entering, there were young (adults?) people struggling to make use of the short break as they puffed frantically on their cigarettes.  Another young person had a cup of bier, which he purposefully spilled on me as I walked by.

I ignored him and continued on to find my berth.  It was locked, but after jabbing at it for a while, a sleeper from inside opened it for me.  I had the middle bed on the left side, where there were a total of 6 beds.  Two beds were empty, however.  

I awkwardly climbed into the bed area, and tried to get comfortable.  The smell of bier was on my leg.  Luckily he was drunk, so he didn’t get so much on me.  I wouldn’t have wanted to start an international fight anyway.  

There was an English speaking guy who helped me out while I was in the berth.  He told me there were blankets and a pillow on the bed above me, and even got them for me.  Travelers are very friendly, in general.

Soon, a woman came from DB (Deutsche Bahn, German Railway) to check for tickets.  I was the only new person, so she looked at my ticket, passport, and original credit card that I used for purchase of the sleeper berth.  She told me I would be woken up 30 minutes prior to arrival.

I imagined that sleeping on a train would be somehow more uncomfortable than it was.  You’d imagine that the ride would be like on a ship, constantly feeling like you’re moving.  However, I thought it was fine.  The ride was extremely smooth and quiet.  Nearly all trains are fairly smooth and quiet, once they get going.  

After a while, the drunkards were outside making noise.  I think they may have even been talking to me, as they spoke in English saying, “Hey what’s up.”  However, the windows were covered, and the DB woman soon came to put them away.

The rest of the night I must have slept.  I was awoken by knocking at the berth door, where a man from DB came to wake me.  He mentioned something else in German, but I just said ja, danke danke.
I later found that I think he was saying we were over 20 minutes late.  Not so bad for me, but another woman I met had connecting trains, which she missed.

Oh no, I’m talking too much.  We haven’t even gotten to Köln yet.  Am I telling my life story here?  Anyways, hurrying along now, I arrived in Köln at around 6am.  Everything was closed, and it was cold and rainy weather.  I had at least 3 hours to kill before shops, museums, and the tourist information center would open.

I forgot to mention that after I left the Köln Hauptbahnhof, outside was the beautiful Köln Dom (Cathedral).  Germany’s most visited attraction, it was once the tallest building in the world, and remains the tallest church in the world.  

The Köln Dom was open when I arrived, so I went inside and took pictures, of course.  The only way I can seem to describe this place is: cavernous.  Beautiful stained glass windows, even on a cloudy morning.  I’ll come back to this church below.

Totally unrelated to church, even finding a bathroom was difficult.  There were operating hours on some bathrooms.  As I found out, they required money to operate...ugh.  Eventually, I just went back inside the Hauptbahnhof and paid to use a McClean toilet.  I despise paying to use a toilet.

I walked around, following signs and maps regarding points of interest throughout the city.  A great city for tourists, with many interesting museums and there are nearly as many churches as there are days in the year.

I got breakfast, bought a prepaid cellphone, and soon it was time for the tourist office to be open.

Moving right along, I bought a guided city tour bus pass, good for two days of hop-on hop-off travel.  It was well worth it.  On board the first time, I met a German woman who spoke English very well.  After we made a round-trip on the bus, a 1.5 hour guided tour, she was kind enough to take me to a good local brewery.  

She said I just had to try the local brew, called Kölsch.  Kölsch is also the dialect spoken in Köln, very different from typical German.  Kölsch, the beer, is protected by German law.  Only in Köln can you buy Kölsch beer.  Nearly every region has their own specialty.

As an aside, Germany is a place of beer.  If you go into a pub and ask for water, they will probably ask you to leave.  Though I’m not much of a beer drinker, I am willing to try new things.  I just have to experience the culture...right?

The name of the local brewery we went into was Früh.  I also had lunch there, where my new friend helped me pick out a good German dish.  I awkwardly ordered my meal in German.   It was delicious, I have a menu and pictures.

After lunch, we parted, and I went off in search of museums and tourist traps.  Actually, I went straight to the tourist center.  At 13:00, a 1.5 hour highlight of Köln tour started.  There were only 3 of us in this English speaking group.

The tour was informative and wonderful.  With the help of a tour guide, the character of the city comes to life.

We ended our tour in front of the Dom.  It’s amazing what people will pay for.  First toilets, and now climbing 500+ steps?  Yes, I went up the 509 steps to the tippy-toppiest I could go, affording a spectacular view of the city.  A good workout with my backpack too.

The first museum I went in to (I think) was the Römisch-germanisches Museum.  There, the most interesting thing I found were two people, a German man and British woman.  We met while taking a survey regarding the usability of new piece of technology.  After talking, it turns out that that Tom (we’ll call him for privacy purposes here) is an electrical engineer in the telecommunications field.  She was also in the telecommunications field.  

Let’s just say we hit it off.  We went to the Chocolate museum, he taught me German grammar tips, I told them about my internship... We had a fantastic time.   We ended the night with an authentic German restaurant, Spitz, named after a vicious type of dog.  

There, I had a dish with white asparagus.  I was told by Tom that the dish with white asparagus is seasonal, and the season is ending very soon.  Let’s just say my dish had white asparagus in it.  Very good.  It was a great day with two great people, and I’m glad I was able to meet them.

They even helped give me a push in the right direction when finding my hostel.  If I needed help, I even had a number to call.  I did find the Jugendherberge (youth hostel) after some time.  It wasn’t very far away, I just had to find the right entrance.  

The youth hostel was opened literally two days before I arrived.  A brand new facility, the rooms were of excellent quality.  I was told that I had been spoiled.  The kitchen area had 4 separate cooking sections, each with four burners.  The whole place

I shared a room with technically four people.  However, I really only saw one person, who was from Arizona there on an internship like me.  We got talking, and he invited me to go with his friends downtown to find a club.  I forgot to mention that Köln is more of a party town, and is known for their clubs.  They have a carnival where no work is done.  The city is unproductive for a week, and literally has a huge party.

Though I was tired, I went with them to find a club.  We got some beer, of course, so as to not pay too much when in the club.  They taught me a valuable beer opening technique.  I learned from my roommate how to open a bottle of beer with another empty bottle of beer.  This is important stuff!

To get to the point, I was wearing a T-shirt and converse, so they didn’t let me and a few other members of our group in anywhere.  It was still a good experience, meeting new people, trying new things, and I had a blast that night.  Around 3am or so, we got back to the hostel.  

Sonntag, was a good tag.  The next morning, I got up around 10am or so, and headed off for another adventure.  I got on the tour bus again, wishing to get off at the Köln zoo area.  

I arrived, quickly went through the zoo, and a fellow RISE intern got ahold of me.  We had planned to meet sometime here in Köln, so we decided to meet up for lunch.  Eventually I arrived back at the Dom, where we met and then left for some food.

We went for Turkish food, where I ordered the Döner kebap...and boy was it good.  I finished the rest of it for dinner tonight around midnight (it’s 1:06 now).  Later, we went to the Köln Stadtmuseum, full of historical items about the city of Köln.

We had the same train back together, since we both lived in Karlsruhe.  I had never been on the fast train before.  The ICE (intercity express) was cool.  I couldn’t tell that we were going over 100 km/h (I think it’s actually closer to 200km/h).  We were there in less than 2 hours, back at the Karlsruhe hauptbahnhof.

From there, I went home, showered, blah blah, and now I’m writing this.  Whew.  Off to work bright and early!  See you later, thanks for reading, that is all.  Pictures to be put up soon!
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Lan on

did you know that it took me fives minutes rereading the first three small paragraphs to realize that freitag-somstag (or however you spell it) is friday-sunday? LOL.. i first thought you were naming places...
anywhozzie enough of my clumsy german knowledge...

well .. that sound like an awesome weekend you had...(cant wait to see the pictures) did you put the books constance and liz gave you into good use at the club? LOL

Dad on

OMG are you the same person that left California a few days ago? I think you would be able to advertise for the RISE program, or any thing else for that matter. I've never been so excited to read! I too eagerly await the upcoming photo expose...............Keep up the fine work

nathan_martin on

I apologize for not putting captions on the photos...I do have captions for them though!

desitax on

Nathan! Köln is on my list too!!! And your tips are so helpful, and I love this pictures and I am so glad you went to church!!! How's your German coming along? I miss you !!!

trevor_mcfann on

Sounds like an awesome wochenende. You need to tell me the name of the
dishes so I can order them when I get to Germany.

Constance on

Wow Nathan your blogs are really really interesting! I think you picked the wrong should be a writer! Seriously you are like good at this. But you need to post more photos with you actually in them...i mean how am i suppose to know that you are really there and not just in Ohio posting photos you downloaded from the internet lol :)

Marleen on

Hi Nathan!
Isn't the internet wonderful! You get to share your journey and we all get to live vicariously through you! ; ) Trevor just sent me your blog and I was so excited to read about your trip and look at all of your wonderful pictures. I will be following now!

nathan_martin on

Hi Desi! My German is okay...I definitely need more practice.

Trevor, this dish had white asparagus, I think it will be out of season soon. I usually take a picture of the menu of whatever I get, so I'll be sure to include those pics. However, I haven't been taking pictures of the food I've been getting while at school...though it is good too.

Constance! I've thought about what you said, and I haven't decided what to do. Actually I have. I know I was there, so I don't need pictures of myself right? Haha, pictures of myself are boring, though I may regret not having them later. Hmm....we'll see!

Hi Marleen! Yes, the internet is wonderful. How would we ever live without it. Thanks for taking the time to read, and enjoy!

Desi'sMom on

Hi Nathan! sounds like you are having a great time I'm glad. At work so I wasn't able to read everything you wrote but the places you have visited are just beautiful. I agree with Desi I am glad you went to church. Take care :)

nathan_martin on

Thanks for reading! The Dom (Cathedral) was really gorgeous!

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