Köln is the German name for the city, and Cologne is the French and English name for the city. Yeah, after Napoleon flexed his muscles in Germany, Köln became Cologne and officially part of France. Obviously Germany eventually got it back. That happened in 1815.
The "thing" to see in Köln is the Cologne Cathedral, or Kölner Dom. And when I say it's the thing to see, it really is THE THING to see. It is the most visited spot in all of Germany.
And this is why. It is ginormous. I couldn't even fit the whole thing in my camera viewfinder. It has the largest facade of any church in the world and the second tallest spires of any church in Europe. That's why 20,000 people a day visit it.
Well, if 20,000 people a day are going to visit it, we better too.
Construction started in 1248, but it stopped 1473 with only the nave (main body of church) completed. In the 1800's, Germany went through this romantic fascination for the Middle Ages and a desire to have the cathedral finished swept through the country. Kölner Dom was completed in 1880, 632 years after it was begun.
The Cologne Cathedral is immense and fantastic and a great box to check off on your travel list. But there really isn't too much more to see in Köln. That's because after World War II, Köln looked like this.
Köln was one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany and was virtually destroyed. Major projects took place to restore sections of the city along with large areas of new construction. The mix of the restored old and the newly built give Köln special and unique look and feel.
Even though most of the areas of Köln are restored and not original, they are still cute and quaint and provide an idea of what life was like here in the Middle Ages. The church in this picture, the Great St. Martin church, dates from 1150 AD.
There is also a chocolate factory located in Köln that is worth seeing. We didn't include it in our travel itinerary. Our visit to Köln was during the World Cup 2014 and Germany was playing that night. Matt wanted to book it home so he could scream and yell in excitement or terror as Germany played. (Germany went on to win the World Cup that year. Go Germany!)
A quick fun fact about this beautiful city is that this is where the original Eau de Cologne or as it is known in German, Kölnisch Wasser, was developed. Cologne (the stuff that smells good that people wear, not the city) was invented 1709 by an Italian immigrant. People went freaking nuts over the stuff it smelled so good. Probably because nobody really bathed except for once a year back then, but eventually every royal house in Europe had a stock of Eau de Cologne. The name cologne stuck around and is now used to describe mainly men's scents. But, it all started here!
As we hurried back to our car (can't miss any of the World Cup, heaven forbid), we turned a corner and came upon this excavation site of ancient Roman ruins dating to 2,000 years ago. They weren't even looking for Roman ruins. A construction company was tearing down an old building that had sustained damage clear back in World War II and when they got down to the foundation, they found all these Roman ovens, and rooms, and stone pathways. I love that about Europe! There is so much history here that they can't even stop from finding it when they are just cleaning up an old building. It's everywhere. It's in the basements, and the fields, and in old castles on the hill. Everywhere has a story. I could have spent hours sitting at this site imagining a life in Köln 2,000 years ago. BUT. Matt had to get home for the World Cup. (If you are picking up a little annoyance in my post about having to get back, believe me, the annoyance was intended.) Good bye, Köln!