Cologne, Germany

In case you’re curious, here’s a little report on our roadtrip to Germany (via a Belgium waffle tour). Our destination was Cologne. Fun fact: in German the city is called Köln. Which reminds me, do you remember that phase, I think it was the early nineties, where hip new startups would add two dots over any random vowel in their company name because those two dots are so darn cool? I’m glad that phase is over, but I still think the two dots are awesome.

For this report, I think I’ll start backwards. The very last thing we did, before we jumped in the van to drive home, was add a lock to the the Hohenzollern bridge, which spans the river Rhine.

From what I understand, the locks are for lovers. They scratch their names into the locks (or have them engraved) and then add the lock to the bridge. But we adapted the tradition for our family, since all the kids wanted in on it too. Ben Blair scratched a B into our little red lock. Then we each took turns holding the lock and making a wish for 2012. Then we attached it to the bridge.

And then, since we’re no good at secrets, on the drive home, every one shared their wishes. : ) We all felt like it was a wonderful way to mark the new year.

Other things we loved about our visit to Cologne:

– Climbing to the top of the Dom Cathedral. 509 steps! Ben Blair and I took turns carrying June. We heard the Dom is the 2nd largest cathedral in Europe, and truly, it was massive. (Does anyone know what the biggest is? Fill us in, please.)

– Buying Cologne in Cologne. Bottles of the “Eau de Cologne No 4711” were sold in every touristy spot. I have no idea if Cologne actually originated in Cologne, but we got a kick out of buying a bottle anyway.

– Seeing lots of Picassos, and one of my favorite cut-paper works by Matisse, at Museum Ludwig. And watching Oscar accurately point out any art that qualified as “cubism”.

– Eating dinner at Früh am Dom, the local touristy beer hall that was just right for our crazy family.

– Touring the Chocolate Museum — which included dipping wafers in their famous chocolate fountain and enjoying mugs of incredible hot cocoa at the museum café.

– Yummy German food! Schnitzel and potatoes at every meal. Hearty breakfasts. Some kind of pastry called Butter Cake that was so yummy we went back to the bakery for more as soon as we’d had one bite. I loved the food. I thought it felt especially perfect for a winter trip.

– Lots of reviews on travel sites said the Cologne Christmas Markets are the best in Europe. Bummer for us, they closed on December 23rd and we didn’t arrive till the 27th, so we missed them. But they were being taken down on the 28th and we got a glimpse of how charming they must be. Made me want to make a goal of spending a future Christmas there.

– People were so friendly and kind — and broke into English as soon as we opened our mouths — very helpful!

– I think the thing I found most charming, is that every where we ate in Germany, we were served drinks in happy little bottles. Water, soda, juice (I assume beer too). I loved that! It made me smile every time the bottles arrived on our table.

Here’s a little slideshow of our adventures in Germany (click prev/next):


Germany has so much to see and I realize we only had a peek of one (terrific) city, but we sure loved our trip. How about you? Have you ever been to Germany? Which part was your favorite?

93 thoughts on “Cologne, Germany”

  1. I can’t tell you how many times I have been to Germany and have not had butter cake. I am going to have a serious talk with my mother-in-law. I need to try some of that because it looks so good. The dots over the o in words represent the letter e. Didn’t know of you knew that. The Dom in Koeln is beautiful, but southern Germany is so much prettier. Hope you will have a chance to bait some time soon.

  2. Ooooh, you were in Cologne? I live in Cologne and I’m glad you liked it :) So funny to read about all these familiar places on Design Mom.

  3. SO FUN. We saw padlocks like this on the Great Wall in China last October. Had no idea what it was all about but someone left a comment on my blog to tell me about the tradition and how it’s done all over the world (where was I?). So wish we would have known so we could have left our own padlock. I love that you left one for the whole family, very nice :)

  4. I haven’t been very good at commenting lately. I seem to read in between daily tasks and run off to the next thing. I had to say today though- not sure if I’m overly emotional today but- this post made me tear up a bit. I love that your family isn’t good at keeping secrets and that you all shared your wishes for 2012 with each other. I’ve seen photos of that place before – how cool that you and your family were THERE! Your family photos at Christmstime were priceless. So creative and wonderful! Thanks for sharing all that you do.

  5. I love the lock idea! What a lovely way to start the year.

    I started reading your blog about a year ago and I have to say that it has been an influence in my life like few other things have been. Your thoughtfulness in all things ranging from parenting to beauty to vision has been an inspiration during a very difficult year. Thank you for sharing.

  6. The Ludwig in koln. my favorite by far. when in highschool we used to get the cheap tickets on the weekend to the slow train just to go to the museum. i wish i had seen the other place too, but I love art. and i was like 16 so therefore dumb and single minded.

  7. Welcome to Germany! Great blog post! Next time you come for a visit, head south to Bavaria! Everyone seems to overlook German food and the wonderful bakeries here. I think we have the best bakeries in Europe, but I’m a little bias! I’m not a fan of the extra 10lbs ;) Safe travels.

  8. When I was in Cologne I was told that after fastening the lock to the bridge you were supposed to throw the key into the water so that you were forever bound by the lock.

  9. As everyone seems to recommend the south of Germany, I’d like to take up the cudgels for the north. Hamburg is gorgeous, there’s so much to see there, the people and the food are awesome – and if you’ll have the tiniest little bit of time, I’d head for the coast, meet the people there, go for a walk through the Wadden Sea (and maybe be brave enough to eat a lugworm too as the guides will test the bravest visitors ;)), watch the beautiful landscape, enjoy the fresh breeze and of course a good cup of hot tea or a “Grog”. It’s not as cozy and stereotyped German as Bavaria may be, but lovely as can be.

    (I don’t know if it was mentioned here and I missed it, but the locks are put to the bridges by couples and their keys are thrown into the river to let the love lasts as long as the lock will stay at the bridge – forever *sigh* :-))

  10. Looks like an amazing trip! We have not been to Cologne but did take a trip to the Garmisch area last year, with a day trip to Munich. It was one of our best holidays. And the Germans were so helpful – we got lost on a train ride once and even the people who could not speak English were going out of their way to help us and show us how to get back. I cannot wait to explore more of Germany – bookmarking Cologne!

    (Also, I think maybe you should have a Travel tab that lists all your wonderful trips, from places around Normandy to other countries. I know I keep coming back to your posts for inspiration!)

  11. Germany is wonderful. It is my first home and although I grew up in Southern Germany, I must say that Berlin is my favorite city! So much history and diversity. If you travel to the German capital please try donner, curry wurst and of course you can’t go to Germany without getting a Pretzel with butter.
    You can’t go wrong with Baveria though. Munich and Garmisch Partenkirchen are some of my favorite places as well.
    I am so envious of all of your travels, but enjoy reading and seeing pictures.

  12. Since you mention “largest” cathedral vs tallest…I’m wondering if that would be Duomo di Milano…obviously in Milan. It. Is. Stunning. You can go all the way to the top and literally walk on the roof for a panoramic view of Milan. My oldest son has been stationed in Germany for over 9 years. For my spring trip this year, my daughter and her then 14 month old son also went. The best way to travel throughout Germany (and Europe!) is with someone who knows the language(s) (son is multilingual) and is used to driving there! I’ve had a blast every time and LOVE Germany. I’m glad you took the trip!

  13. Your post made me smile. Funny: One of the first things my father told us about the English and Americans is their different concept of thinking names. They would say “The name of the city IS Cologne, but the people living there call it Köln” (–> “fun fact” :)
    Whereas our European way of thinking is “The name of the city is Köln, but many people from other countries call it Cologne”
    I’m glad you enjoyed your time there. Wishing you many more happy adventures for your next months!

  14. I was so intrigued by your post. I love the stories about the locks. We leave for a river cruise down the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.. I plan to take a couple of locks with us to add to the collection. Such a clever idea. Thanks for your post.

  15. St. Peter’s in Rome is the largest cathedral in Europe, or the world for that matter. Not the tallest, but the largest, by volume and the square footage of it’s footprint. The cathedral in Seville, Spain is second. Cologne’s cathedral is a bit farther down the list, hovering somewhere around 10th. Now, if you wanna talk height, then the Cathedral in Ulm is tallest, with Cologne’s being the tallest Catholic church.

  16. I adore your blog and your travel experiences with the whole family! One idea for upcoming travel plans: If you’re into christmas markets, I’d recommend you to spend some pre-christmas time (in Germany we call it “Adventszeit”) in Nürnberg. The city even has the two dots you’re in love with. ;-)
    The Christkindlesmarkt in Nürnberg is the most traditional and most beautiful German christmas market. And that’s not only my private opinion: It’s opening ceremony is broadcasted live in German TV. The franconian (aka North Bavarian) specialities like Bratwürste, Lebkuchen, Heidelbeerglühwein are totally from another world a perfect winter-delights….
    Here you can check some pictures of the Christkindelsmarkt:

  17. I stumbled upon your blog via the painted piano (we are about to get a older console, I am considering painting it, love the green piano).
    I am from Cologne, but now live in the US. Thanks for sharing photos. I miss the food the most!
    Cologne is a great city. Another good city to visit would be Hamburg. I agree with another poster try Bavaria, it is very different, but beautiful.
    Enjoy your time in Europe, and keep on traveling.

  18. I have just stumbled upon your blog researching travelling to Cologne with kids. I was just wondering which hotel did you stay at during your Cologne visit? I have two children 4yrs and 9mths and am trying to find a hotel suitable.

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