Sounds kind of like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But not quite. On one of Katlyn and Chelsea's last days here, we got on an early morning train from Mannheim and headed up to Cologne. We were on a regional train, which followed the Rhein, a route I always enjoy taking. Along the way you can see vineyards, beautiful views of the river and small towns, and lots of castle ruins. One day, I want to visit some of these ruins in person.
There is a lot to do and see in Cologne, but one of my favorites is the cathedral. The Kölner Dom is absolutely stunning. The gothic architecture and towering spires make you feel so small as you stand in front of the Dom and look up. And then your thoughts move to, ''They built this all without modern machinery?!'' Looking at these cathedrals and the expense incurred to build them, I can understand many people's disappointment with the Church hundreds of years ago, but today, these are magnificent pieces of history that have withstood the test of time - two world wars, countless smaller wars, the growth of a city, of a country, of a world - all the while standing like sentinels. If only those walls could talk, share their story.
Kate and Chelsea climbed the tower while I relaxed in the sun and got some practice with the camera in. After they finished the tower (a must do when you are in Cologne!), we headed to the treasury. Last time Aaron and I were in Cologne in December, we visited the Treasury, but we were extremely limited on time. This time around, we weren't as limited and we really got to go slowly though it, reading the plaquards, understanding what everything was we were looking at. The Treasury contains not only Church belongings (old vestments, staffs from former Bishops, chalices, bishop's rings, among others), but also the relics from many saints. While many of the relics are not as complete as those in St. Peter's in Munich, they do also have the relics of the Three Wise Men who visited Jesus shortly after his birth and warned Mary and Joseph of King Herod's plan to kill Jesus. Many of the relics are in the Treasury, but those of the Three Wise Men sit behind the main alter. Unfortunately, pictures inside the Treasury are not allowed
After we finished up at the Cathdral, we headed over the Lindt Chocolate Museum. Sitting right along the Rhein, it's a nice walk from the Dom, even with the hot weather we had that day. It took us about 20 minutes, but we were definitely ready for the promise of air conditioning inside. Admission to the museum is 9 euro, and you get a small piece of chocolate produced right there!
The museum starts off with a history of chocolate, how it's made, and where it comes from. But really, we just wanted to see the chocolate being made! We breezed though the first part and into the small production area. Set up there is a miniature modern production facility that shows how chocolate is produced today. There is even a part where you can taste the fresh chocolate from the most impressive chocolate fountain I have ever seen. Being a lover of chocolate myself, this is one of my favorite parts of the tour. You can watch the small sample chocolates that you get with your ticket being made, wrapped, and packaged.
The museum then continues on with more or less, ''Chocolate Though the Ages.'' Again, we breezed though this pretty fast (we were getting tired and hungry), but if you like museums and chocolate, this one has a lot of good information. At the end, there is a gift shop where you can purchase a HUGE variety of Lindt chocolate, from normal chocolate bars, to fresh truffles and novelty items. Word from the wise though: if it is a hot day and you still have quite a bit of sightseeing to do, pass on the chocolate purchases, or take it back to your hotel room right away. We each got something small, and it was pretty much all melted by the time we got to the train :(
Cologne is such a beautiful city and I'm glad that I got to show it to my sister and Chelsea. They seemed to enjoy it too. There is so much to do here - from museums of all sorts, to the Dom, Rhein river cruises, strolling along the river front, 4 Christmas Markets in December - that you could easily spend a few days here.