Hotel breakfasts in Germany—at least at the hotels in which we stayed—are all identical: a selection of bread/rolls, cold cuts, cheeses, hard- and soft-boiled eggs, yogurt, a variety of cereal grains, butter, jam, two to three varieties of fruit juice, and tea. We ate our sixth and final such breakfast at the Hotel Topas, packed our things, and waved goodbye to a Frankfurt we hardly knew (we’ll always remember it for its tiny packets of gummy bears).
Ivo mentioned to us several times that Köln was worth seeing for its massive Roman Catholic cathedral. Because we trusted his opinion—and because we are fans of symmetry—we thought that seeing another historic cathedral would be a fitting end to our German adventure. The drive to Köln was painless and we were able to switch off the TomTom almost immediately after arriving within the city limits. “Do you think we’ll be able to find the Dom?” I glanced out the window and saw two massive blackened spires dominating the Köln skyline. ”Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to have a problem.” The Kölner Dom is absolutely massive; the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. At one point in the 19th century, it was the tallest building in the world. Once a clean, cool gray color, chemical reactions in the stone have permanently weathered much of the exterior to make it almost black, further adding to its imposing appearance. “Holy crap,” I said. “I think I understand why Ivo wanted us to stop here.”
Our plan was to take an official tour of the interior at 14:30. There was some time to kill, so we ate a quick pizza lunch and embarked on Rick Steves’ quick self-guided walking tour of the city. We discovered that Köln was once a bustling major city of the Roman Empire, and still held dozens of artifacts from that period. We saw the ruins of a Roman archway and an original tile floor—presented exactly as it was discovered—around which a major museum was erected. Our walking tour also took us past the busiest train bridge in the world, City Hall (where a wedding was happening), and a statue of some tough-looking historical figure who may or may not have been Kaiser Wilhelm II. Back inside the cathedral, we discovered that the tour had been canceled, so we used Rick Steves once again to do our own self-guided tour. Among many beautiful and impressive religious things, the Kölner Dom houses what are widely believed to be the remains of The Three Magi (as in the actual gold-frankincense-and-myrrh Three Kings of “We Three Kings” fame). As my father-in-law might say, “HOW COOL IS THAT?!” Answer: Pretty damned cool.
Alas, as all good things must, our trip through Germany was about to end. Once we had seen our fill of Roman Catholic grandeur and Christian history, we loaded our things back into the car and entered our final destination, Ivo’s home address, into the TomTom. A little more than two hours later, we passed our last “Ausfahrt” sign and crossed back over into the Netherlands. That evening, we would devour fresh poffertjes, regale Ivo with our stories, drink some smokebeer, and fall fast asleep in a familiar bed.
Tomorrow: “We Amsterdam … Again”