I had been
awake for most of the night, just lying there - mixed feelings going around in
my head, feeling nervous and excited at the same time. I was just about to
travel to a city in a country to which I had never been before, having not
travelled for quite a while – that is what made my adventure all the more intriguing and appealing. I was also
apprehensive as, even though I am not in a wheelchair, I have got cerebral
palsy, which led me to wonder how disability friendly Cologne was. I need not
have worried however, as both the journey by Eurostar and getting around
Cologne was easy to navigate. There are steps up to the city centre when you
first arrive on the platform, but they have got handrails either side.
hear of holidays advertised to Germany, they are mostly to Berlin. However, there’s an underrated city –
Cologne. Compared to Berlin, the most visited city in Germany with 24.9 million
tourists, and Munich with 12.4 million, Cologne has 5 million. Not only is it a great city, it is the warmest
place in Germany with mild winters and moderate summers – the Winter
temperature is normally between 10 and 11 degrees. Cologne can hold its own by any measure. Unlike
Berlin, Cologne is an intimate City – if
you do get lost, follow the cathedral spires to get back to the station or
Hauptbahnof. This station is the busiest
in Europe, serving about 280,000 passengers a day and running approximately
1,400 trains. There are also links to other places in Europe, such as Berlin,
which is 3 hours away, plus Bonn and Brussels, to name but a few. The station
is also an attractive shopping centre with cafes and restaurants.
One of the
first things I noticed when I walked up the steps leading out of the station, was
exactly how compact Cologne is, and whichever exit you choose, you are a
stone’s throw away from the city centre.
However, if you’re a first time visitor, you may want to ask someone for
directions. Almost everybody speaks English so do not worry if you cannot speak
and awe inspiring cathedral is a must for any tourist. It has been listed on
UNESCO World Heritage, and has 10,000 visitors every day. The interior space
has a ground area of more than 6,000 square metres and can hold 12,000 people.
Just the roof area alone covers 12,500 square metres. The height of the
cathedral is immense and inspiring – the nave has a length of about 160 metres and
a height of 43.5 metres. The first time
visitor could easily spend several hours just taking in the sheer magnitude of
the architecture and, as I have already mentioned, it is a landmark for miles
around and can be seen from just about anywhere in the city!
In the main
city square, apart from the cathedral, there is a vast array of shops to
explore, together with cafes and restaurants for that welcome post-architectural
I stayed in
the Hyatt Regency hotel, which is about 10 minutes walk from the station (or
about a 10 minute taxi ride from the airport). "There is something for
everyone in Cologne, lots of things to see and do, and we would like to welcome
more British tourists to the Hyatt" says Stefan the hotel concierge
The hotel is
extremely welcoming, with breathtaking views of the cathedral with a restaurant
and beer garden overlooking the Rhine. There are lots of wonderful things on
offer – including a reinvigorating spa, gym, sauna, Jacuzzi and swimming
situated in a perfect location, and anywhere in the city is just a short walk
To reach the
hotel on foot from the station, you need to cross what is described as ‘the
most travelled railroad bridge of the world.’ – it contains two railroad
bridges and one pedestrian bridge. Since 2008, lovers have charmingly used the
bridge for attaching lovelocks to show their love for each other for eternity.
the hotel, walking over the bridge, turn left just before you get to the main
city square, down some steps, with a ramp for people with disabilities, you
will be walking along the banks of the Rhine, the main river flowing through Cologne,
and the second largest river in Central and Western Europe.
minutes walk this way following the river, you will find Cologne’s ‘guilty
pleasure’, the Chocolate Museum, an indulgent and luxurious way to spend a
couple of hours. Once inside, you will
be able to explore the history of chocolate through interactive displays; you
can even watch commercials for chocolate in the Chocolate Cinema! You will also be able to stroll through the
greenhouse, which contains trees from which cocoa beans grow and the process
the beans go through to become a chocolate bar. After all this, the chocolate
fountain awaits where wafers are distributed and dipped into the glorious
confection. Finally, there is a
dangerous chocolate shop and cafe where temptation becomes reality.
planning to take a festive trip to Cologne, you’ve got to experience the wonder
of the Christmas markets. The best way to see them is to board the Christmas
Market Express. These magical mini-trains run every 15 minutes from specially
marked stops outside each one. Wandering round the markets is a lovely way to
spend an afternoon – the mulled wine is fantastic! However, they are crowded
and can be a bit overwhelming if you’re unsteady on your feet like I am!
Depending on how weary you are after markets and mulled wine! Take the
weight off your feet by sampling some of the fantastic restaurants Cologne has
to offer – Indian, English, Chinese, you name it, they’ve got it!
One of the
main attractions is Cologne Zoo, possibly the oldest, and most modern, in the
world. Home to more than 7000 animals, including 700 species from all over the
world both territorial and aquatic, the latter being housed in an amazing
aquarium! At over 20 hectares, it will easily take an afternoon to see everything,
but it is well worth it!
For a part
of my walk back to the hotel, I became caught up in the Cologne Triathlon! As a
result of that, the bridge that I normally walk over to get to the hotel was
closed, and so were the next two! I walked about 8 miles that day, and I was
grateful for relaxation when I got back to the hotel!
I have been
to Cologne four times and every time I return I find something or somewhere new
to explore. Whether you are caught up in a big race or not, it is a beautiful
city. The delights of the Chocolate Museum, the splendour of the cathedral, the
sheer magnitude of the zoo, the sights and smells of the Christmas markets,
there is something for everyone. If you have a disability, it is very
accessible and welcoming. If you want a city break, you won’t regret it!