Cologne is a city located in the western part of Germany, in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It sprawls over both banks of the Rhine, with the two sides connected via seven bridges. A temperate oceanic climate prevails here, making it one of Germany’s warmest cities, with relatively mild winters and very warm summers. During February you can visit churches and tour museums, but there are also some unmissable sights in Cologne. Here are just a few of them...
Famous Cologne Cathedral
One of Germany’s most famous and most visited buildings is Cologne Cathedral. This incredible edifice, with twin spires reaching a height of 157 metres, is a trademark of the city, which is also home to 12 Romanesque churches. Cologne’s most interesting basilica is the Basilica of St. Ursula, which houses the Golden Chamber, the walls of which are decorated with a huge mosaic composed of tens of thousands of human bones and skulls. According to legend, these bones belonged to 11,000 virgins who were murdered after refusing to marry Huns, and thus represent a monument to human cruelty. In the immediate vicinity of the city’s busiest shopping street, Schildergasse, stands the Gothic St. Peter’s Church, which is decorated with a painting of imposing dimensions by Rubens…
Chocolate Museum in Cologne
The Cologne Chocolate Museum is one of the ten most visited museums in Germany. Three floors of the building are utilised to present an entire chocolate world, where the visitor can travel through the three-thousand-year history of chocolate: from the “ambrosia” of the Aztecs to modern industrial products. The journey begins with the cacao tree, which carries the botanical name "Theobroma cacao" (Greek for food of the gods). Visitors can see how cocoa is produced and how its path to chocolate looks. A particularly interesting part of the museum complex is the so-called “tropical house” – a glasshouse where you can see an original cacao tree and experience a climate that’s tropical in the true sense of the word.
The tour continues to the small chocolate factory. Here visitors can experience the complete production process first-hand, as all machines are equipped with transparent protective frames enabling observation. However, the Cologne Chocolate museum’s main attraction is a three-metre-high “chocolate fountain”. It is always manned by a museum worker, who stands next to the fountain and dips biscuits in the chocolate that are then distributed to visitors. Everyone can count on receiving a fresh chocolate biscuit, though the Museum staff won’t be too thrilled if they notice some visitors “wandering” back to the chocolate fountain on multiple occasions.
Visitors head to the second floor of the museum to learn more about the beginnings of the cultural history of chocolate, dating back 3,000 years. The first people to use cocoa and its beans to produce drinking chocolate were the ancient Olmecs, while the same beverage was later produced by tribes of the Maya and Aztecs. Following the discovery of America, the Spaniards brought cocoa back to the Old Continent. Despite initially representing a luxury product that was only consumed in the courts of Europe’s ruling families, cocoa gradually became accessible to everyone and it’s today almost impossible to imagine a household that doesn’t use chocolate.
Everything on the top floor revolves around chocolate products. A small cinema screens various commercials for chocolate products, dating from 1926 to the present day, which testify to the changing fashion and the spirit of the times.
House of 4711
4711 is a classic German fragrance that has been popular among both men and women since the 18th century. You will adore this cologne not merely due to its pleasant notes, but also because of the nostalgia for bygone times that it inspires. Trends in fragrances come and go, but 4711 remains. Here are some interesting details about the house of fragrance in Cologne…
The oldest Eau de Cologne was created in October 1792, when Wilhelm Mülhens received a secret recipe as a wedding gift. He opened a workshop in the Glockengasse area of Cologne and sold his miraculous water as a health drink. The name and number of the house are a consequence of the French military occupation – when one general, who was frustrated by the disorganised layout of the city, chose to number all houses in order, and Mülhens’ received the number 4711, which has stayed with the brand ever since. It was in 1810 that Napoleon ordered that the ingredients for all medicinal recipes be listed publicly, and in response Mülhens, who didn’t want to reveal his secret recipe, began selling his “miraculous water” as a fragrance.
Between 9am and 7pm, a total of as many as 20 bells of the House of 4711 play three melodies every hour, on the hour. These always include the two melodies “Le Marseillaise” and “The Faithful Hussar”, while the third melody varies from carnival hits to Christmas compositions, depending on the season.
The name of the fragrance known popularly as “Eau de Cologne” leaves you in doubt as to where it originated - yes, here in Cologne. For many people, this can mean only one thing: the “4711 Original Eau de Cologne” is an icon among colognes. Little wonder, then, that it has been proclaimed brand of the century on multiple occasions. Interestingly, the description “Eau de Cologne” is an umbrella term for a special form of fragrance, while the “Original” prefix merely indicates that the basic production processes take place in Cologne.
Art in books
When it comes to books dedicated to fine arts, in Cologne you simply must visit the unique Buchhandlung Walther König bookshop. It sprawls over an area of three floors, which provides an opportunity to spend hours checking out thousands of books that cover topics like architecture, film, design, fashion and other artistic fields. The bookshop’s window display is also rearranged constantly, with the contribution of artists who use their ideas to provide it with a new shine again and again.
Crazy Carnival days
The Cologne Carnival season, which locals traditionally call the “fifth season”, officially begins at 11 minutes past 11 o’clock on 11th November, but the main event, the so-called “Crazy Days”, only start on 24th February and run until 2nd March. The best carnival in Germany is still set to be staged this year despite the pandemic (for now at least), albeit with fewer entertainers and contents due to those who’ve opted not to participate because of covid, and you can attend provided you’re either vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. If you find yourself in the city in February, and if it hasn’t been cancelled in the meantime, be sure to enjoy this celebration that’s said to be even crazier than Oktoberfest! The whole of Cologne catches carnival fever for six days ever year before the start of Lent. This is the period of the year when the city relaxes, dresses up, sings from the heart and dances through the night.
The Cologne Carnival is almost as old as the city itself. Celebrated since medieval times, it has maintained its current form for around 190 years. It all began with Germanic tribes who celebrated the winter solstice, worshipped their gods and drove away evil winter demons. These customs were later adopted by Christians, who gave them Christian significance. The motto and typical greeting of the Cologne Carnival is “Kölle Alaaf!”, meaning “Cologne above all”, which dates back to 1550, when it was first pronounced as a toast.
During the “Crazy Days”, happy Germans stroll the streets of Cologne wearing the craziest costumes. So, costumes are a must if you want to join the party, but the good news is that anything and everything can pass as appropriate carnival clothing – and the more off-the-wall your carnival costume, the better! Music is an integral part of the Cologne Carnival, with cheerful German melodies emanating from speakers installed across the city.
Book flights from Niš to Cologne and get to the city with the largest number of pubs per person in Germany.
Source: ELEVATE, Air Serbia Inflight magazine