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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in cologne
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Cologne Cathedral with railway bridge
Cologne (German: Koln, Cologne dialect: Kolle, Kolsche) is the fourth largest city in Germany, with about 1,000,000 inhabitants. It is renowned in Germany as the media capital, with a number of private TV stations being situated in Cologne, as well as the gay capital (though Berlin is a contender for this title). Cologne is situated in Northrhine-Westphalia, along the river Rhine, pretty much in the middle of Germany.
Cologne is one German city that has a very distinctive flavor to it. Most inhabitants take an exorbitant amount of pride in their city and the local language, resulting in sayings like Wo mir sin, is Koelle (Cologne is where we are). Cologne is a very friendly place, and the people are in general very friendly and open.
The biggest festivity in Cologne is carnival (or Fastelovend) in February. In Cologne, Carneval is a huge party that starts on Thursday (Weiberfasnacht) and ends on Tuesday night (Veilchendienstag) with the Nubbelverbrennung (burning the spirit of carnival to atone for the sins committed during the carnival session). It sometimes seems that because the people of Cologne regularly go mad once a year for five days, they are much saner the rest of time.
Cologne has a very good subway and bus network; one- and three-day-passes are available. The tickets are valid for subway, tram and regional train within the VRS-network. A map of the network should be found at any station.
Cologne's subway and tram-system is a mixture between both systems: A subway line can go on street-level and end up as a tram or vice versa. There are vending machines or ticket-offices at larger stations The trains and busses also have vending-machines. See here 1 (http://www.kvb-koeln.de/german/fahrplan/linienplan.html) for printable maps of the subway/tram system.
Regional Trains are known as "S-Bahn", "Regional-Bahn" and "Regional Express". Not all the trains have ticket vending-machines so remember to buy a ticket at the station.
Cologne has, like Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, a Call A Bike - System. After you signed up to the system, using your cr-card to pay per minute, you can pick up or drop off one of the silver-red bikes anywhere in the city. See here 2 (http://www.callabike.de/-S:4OBx49:dn@1wdNNaVeGnNNNNOhM/konzern/holding/db_rent/dbag_60_cab_engl.shtml) for details.
But, on the whole, the center of Cologne is not that big for a city of one million. It is entirely feasible to walk from one end of the center, say, the Rudolfplatz, to the other end, say, the Dom, on foot.
- Dom (cathedral), Am Domkloster 4 (just outside central station). The Dom in Cologne is the first sight you will notice when taking the main exit from the central station. (If you can't see it, you've taken the back exit.) Metro: Dom / Hauptbahnhof
- The synagogue, on Roonstrasse, near Rathenauplatz, is notable for its architecture that looks, well, right out of Gotham City. In summer, there is a beer garden at Rathenauplatz that is very pleasant. Metro: Zülpicher Platz
- 12 Romanesque Churches: St. Kunibert (with wonderful stained glass windows), St. Severin, St. Maria Lyskirchen, St. Andreas, St. Aposteln, St. Gereon, St. Ursula, St. Pantaleon, St. Maria im Capitol, Groß-St. Martin, St. Georg and St. Cacilien
- Museum Ludwig, museum of modern art, near central station and the dome hosts a worthy regular exhibition, as well as temporary exhibitions. Metro: Dom/Hauptbahnhof
- Museum für angewandte Kunst, Museum of Applied Art, also near the dome, has a collection of popular design items, as well as temporary exhibitions. Metro: Dom/Hauptbahnhof
- Cologne has a number of other Museums (http://www.museenkoeln.de) to offer.
- A whole quarter crowded with Turkish restaurants, barbers, shops, travel agencies and cafes you'll find at Keupstraße. Metro: Keupstraße
- Stay away from the expensive guided City-Tours! Everything that will be shown to you can be mostly visited for free (if you have to pay for anything you would have to pay for it on a guided tour). Make sure that you're not paying 20 Euro for being bored by someone talking to you for an hour about the Dom while you're in front of it. (You can read everything inside as well). Be careful about buying City-Guidebooks at the local bookstores, as they can be quite ot ouf date. You should visit the Tourist information which is located right next to the Dom, they have some free, new and intresting ones. Metro: DOM/Hbf.
Cologne strong side is its cultural live, see the "StadtRevue" (2 Euro), "Kolner" (1 Euro) and the "Live" (Free) for information what is happening around in town. See also Kolner (http://www.koelner.de/)
The Zoo: www.zoo-koeln.de
Cologne was for many years considered the 'art capital' of the country, and although much has moved to Berlin, there are still many worthwhile galleries with large international-quality collections, and many international art fares.
Spa and Massage
It's not Budapest but...
- Neptunbad (http://www.neptunbad.de) located in the popular area of Ehrenfeld in an old renovated Bath
- Claudius Therme (http://www.claudiustherme.de) very big place with lots of different saunas next to the river
- Ananda Massage Therapy (http://www.tantramassage.de) popular practice for alternative massages
There is an abundance of record stores in Cologne, but most are hidden in non-tourist quarters.
- For a mainstream record store, go to Saturn, which hosts the "world's largest CD collection", as they quote on their store windows. It's huge, and to pre-listen a record, you just have to hold it under one of the many scanners spread throughout the shop. Always worth a visit. Subway and Regional Train from central station: Hansaring
- Independent record stores are spread around Saturn: Cross the street for 2nd hand and punk, follow the "Ring" (boulevard) north, and you will find Jazz, Electro and HipHop at Schallschock record store. Famous alternative music-store Normal is south of Saturn, as well as Underdog Record Store (specialized in Alternative Rock, Emo, Garage and related matters) Subway and Regional Train from central station: Hansaring
- For electronic music, get off at Friesenplatz, and go to groove attack in Maastrichter street. Also famous is Kompakt record store. Both are connected to a label sharing the name, and putting out fine German electronic music. Subway: Friesenplatz
- For mainstream shops, go to metro station Neumarkt or Heumarkt, and search for "Schildergasse". More expensive shops are found on "Hohe Straße".
- A mix of freaky 2nd hand stores and places selling hip label clothes head to "Friesenplatz" and go to Ehrenstraße.
- "Mayersche" and "Thalia" at Neumarkt are the biggest bookstores, you will find anything you want.
- On "Ehrenstraße", you will find cheap and arty books, take a look at "Buchhandlung Konig" at the eastern end, buy at "Taschen" at the western...
- Travel books are bought best at "Gleumes", between Zülpicher Platz and Rudolfplatz. They have only maps and travel books, but these from around the world.
Cologne has a wide variety of restaurants, both German and otherwise, as a glance in the coloured pages of the local telephone book will illustrate.
One can eat pretty well in most traditional-style Kolsch restaurants: the Brewer-pubs are particularly worth taking note of. If you are looking for a snack, you can either head for one of the Turkish, Arabic or Asian places, or you can make use of the traditional fast food places like Mc Donalds, Burger King etc. Italian restaurants in Cologne seem to attempt to aim for a higher quality than in the UK, though it is debatable whether they achieve it, and whether their prices (often 150-200% of UK prices) are justified. There are several Indian restaurants across the city, which serve a fair fare, though the visiting Brit may be slightly disappointed to find that German 'curry culture' is rather akin to that of the UK in the 1960s: menus are neither large and varied, nor regionalised and specialist, and although ingredients are fresh, the food without exception appears to be tamed-down for the conservative German palette.
- Falafel Habibi located on Zülpicher Straße. They have two stores, which should serve the same food. Generally a lot of Turkish snack bar-style places around Zülpicher Platz and in the Belgisches Viertel.
- There is an abundance of Doner Kebap places around the town. Probably best now (though expensive) is Oruc Doner on Kyffhauserstraße (near Barbarossaplatz). There are lots of these within Kalk, Mülheim and all over downtown especially in the Belgisches Viertel
- Borsalino an Italian-style restaurant located on Zülpicher Straße close to Zülpicher Platz. Very affordable prices. http://www.restaurant-borsalino.de/
- Don Camillo (not sure about the name) a small italian tabula calde style restaurant. Coming from Hohenzollenrring, head into Breite Straße/Ehrenstraße and take the first road to the left.
- El Inca, Gorresstrasse 2, near Rathenauplatz. Latin-american restaurant, open 1800-2400. http://www.el-inca.de/
Typical Cologne beer is called "Kolsch" and served in bars around town in small glasses of 0.2l (so that the beer can be drunk while it is still very cool), so-called "Stangen" - but waiters will be fast to bring you a new one, once your old one is finished. In some bars, the waiter will put a new glass in front of you without being asked when he sees an empty glass, so it is easy to lose track of how much you drank. If you buy it bottled, take either "Reissdorf", "Früh" or "Mühlen", which are rated highest by Cologne citizens.
- For traditional breweries, head to the Altstadt around the Dome, where the "Früh Kolsch" brewery is the most authentic place, famous both with visitors and locals. You will find a younger crowd at "Hellers Brauhaus" on Roonstraße, near metro station Zülpicher Platz. Furthermore the "Paffgen", close to the Friesenplatz, is a rather traditional brewerie but less touristy than the "Früh"
- There are a lot of modern bars and lounges all around town. More mainstream ones are on Zülpicher Straße. For something more independent and funky on this street, try Umbruch (funky) or Stiefel (punky).
- A lot of stylish places are in the so-called Belgian quarter, e.g. famous M20 or the Hallmackenreuther.
- For a comprehensive list, see cologne-in.de (http://www.cologne-in.de/kneipen/), bars listed on the right.
- Blue Lounge Party (http://www.blue-lounge.com/party/party.html), every third Saturday, at the Bürgerhaus Stollwerck in Dreikonigenstrasse 23. Starts at 2200, tickets EUR5. Percussion-, brazil-, balearic- and deep house, techno, trance. A must for people who like this kind of music.
- Bodycheck Party (http://www.bodycheckparty.de/), every second Saturday at the Filmhaus Koln on Maybachstrasse 111, metro station Hansaring. House, techno, always very good video projections.
- 3Klang (http://www.artheater.de/) on Ehrenfeldgürtel 127, metro station Venloer Str./Gürtel. Every third Friday, 2200--0500.
- Neuschwanstein (http://www.neu-schwanstein.de/), on Mittelstrasse 12-24, near Friesenplatz. Open Wednesday (2200--), Friday, Saturday (2300--)
- H90 (http://www.kings-und-queens.de/), on Hohenzollernring 90, metro station Friesenplatz. Every Saturday, 2300--0500.
- Blue Lounge Bar (http://www.blue-lounge.com/), on Mathiasstrasse, lesbian bar. Off-shoot of the very successful party mentioned above.
- Basswerk Session (http://www.basswerk.de), bi-monthly, the second Saturday at GEBaUDE 9 (http://www.gebaeude9.de), Deutz-Mülheimer Strasse 127-129 (tram 3 or 4, stop at KolnMesse/Osthallen), 2300--0500. Long-running and popular drum 'n' bass format in a defunct funky factory hall. Often with renowned guest DJs from the international d'n'b fringe. Alternates bi-monthly with the similar "Phonogenic" party at the same venue.
Cologne is, like the rest of Germany, a rather safe place. In the area around the Dome and the central station, watch out for pocket-picking children.