Köln – July 2016

It’s been 5 years since I was last in Germany, and being there again recently entirely reignited my love for the country.

Meeting my assigned exchange student in 2011 was terrifying; I had no idea if we would get on, or whether I would be a good enough host. 5 years later, we’re talking about weddings and babies and careers. It’s been a magical journey so far, and I hope I don’t leave as big a gap this time…

Day 1

Köln is a beautiful city, but we didn’t spend much time in the city centre as before. Our first achievement was climbing the 533 steps of the Kölner Dom, the gothic and monstrously high cathedral that dominates the city.

I can’t say it was easy. I thought it was the end. I had become a hot, sweaty mess before we had even reached halfway. The narrow, spiral staircase that serves as a way up and a way down was crammed with tourists all wanting to reach the top or bottom as quickly as possible to end the aching in their legs and to get some fresh air.

The views at the top of the cathedral made all the pain and heat totally worth it. We could see for miles at the top, even though it was quite a cloudy day, the region is fairly flat and the horizon stretches on for eternity.

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After this, when we had finally reached the ground again, we took the U-Bahn to a sculpture park and the Flora Botanical Gardens. The sculpture park was…interesting. Incredibly contemporary, and it definitely required a lot of imagination. One of the more obscure installations, was a bricked rectangle on the grass, with the intention of depicting a parking spot…okay then. Other sculptures were pretty to look at if you didn’t think about them too much, it’s not recommended to get hung up on contemporary art.

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Flora is beautiful. A large botanical garden filled with gorgeous flowers and trees, and a huge fountain in the centre, it really is a sight to behold. I was really surprised by how many rabbits dotted the grounds, and it was nice to catch sight of a fluffy red squirrel skipping past.With even a reference to the war of the roses, and Olde Yorke in the rose garden, it was a really peaceful place to be, in the middle of a bustling city.

We then took the SkyRail over the Rhein and took a nice walk through the Rheinpark until we jumped on a train back to Stommeln and then I got to visit my friend’s flat. The rest of Day 1 was spent chilling out and watching films. I went to bed that night feeling very happy and didn’t once think about the troubles at home.

Day 2

On Saturday morning we went to the most wonderful place called Märchenwald, a sweet woodland trail dotted with cottages and buildings that tell fairy tale stories. Mainly German fairy tales that I’ve never heard of, it also had the stories from Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin, Snow White and other famous tales. It’s an interactive environment for children, with some cottages asking you to make noise so that a character appears or Rapunzel lets down her hair. But it wasn’t so childish that I couldn’t enjoy it properly. The woods were just wonderful to walk through and the place itself, Altenberg is a gorgeous little German town with a pretty cathedral.

After we had wandered around the town, we went to Märchenwald’s cafe for honestly the best waffles I have ever experienced. Waffeln mit Kirschen und Sahne – far too good! The cherries were hot, the waffles were fluffy, the cream was fresh. Every part of it was perfect.

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When we got back to her Grandma’s house after Märchenwald, we started getting ready to go out in Köln to watch the football on the student bar strip. All I can say about this is thank god Germany won that night, because all of the bars were incredibly busy, brimming with passionate football fans. A few cocktails and some delicious pasta made the football more bearable…not that I’m against it or anything 😉

We rolled in that night at about 01:30 because the match was reduced to penalties after a long 90 minutes and extra time. It’s safe to say that I fell asleep straight away, and was looking forward to a nice lie-in.

Day 3

My last day, but definitely one of the most relaxed days I’ve ever had. We lazily ate breakfast til late morning and after getting dressed, found our way to the Neanderthal Museum near Düsseldorf. The museum is based in the Neanderthal Valley, close to the site where the first recognised Neanderthal was found. It’s crammed full of information about people past and present, how we used to live, how that differs now, and how we eventually evolved into who we are now.

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My new boyfriend

Learning about Neanderthal people is very hungry work, so we found a restaurant for something to eat, called Postillon. It was  one of the strangest restaurants I’ve been in, down to the fact it was advertised as Spanish, located in an oldy-worldy pub and served schnitzel alongside tapas. Lisa and I ordered schnitzel each, and I have never seen a meal so big in my whole life. It looked like three persons worth of food, and luckily for Lisa’s boyfriend, I couldn’t eat it all, and he had it for his dinner later on.

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Monster of a meal

After dinner, we took the time to stroll around Mettmann, a very sweet little town before it was time for me to go to the airport and fly back to Leeds.

I love Germany, and my understanding of the language is a lot better than I thought it would be, which was a relief.

The beauty of visiting your friend in another country is that you get to see the places that normal tourists don’t necessarily see, and you learn an awful lot more about the place than you would from a tour guide.

I definitely won’t leave it 5 years until my next visit, unless Brexit does anything to stop me…