The weather has been consistently warm and I got my first official visitor (shout out to Connie for coming over from England!) so we spent our weekend doing what we always did together on study abroad: getting out of town and exploring.
Connie’s flight was arriving in Köln (known to Americans as Cologne and super hard to say properly in German) on Friday, so I decided to brave the German train system and meet her up there. I’ve always found public transportation overwhelming and confusing, and that was in English! But I must say, Germans are right in bragging about how efficient their trains are because I had no issues getting around and the 2-hour ride was quite comfortable. My only complaint is that the roundtrip ticket cost more than Connie’s roundtrip airfare from London!
Köln’s main attraction is its gothic cathedral that you can see immediately when you’re coming into the city. Its construction started in 1248, but a lot of it had to be rebuilt after World War II. It’s definitely a sight towering over the small surrounding buildings and is so big that I can only fit the whole thing into a picture if I use my clip-on wide angle lens.
We walked around the shopping area of downtown and had some cheese and bacon pastries for lunch, and then I treated myself to a cheese-covered pretzel as a snack. If I gain weight while living here, cheesy baked goods will certainly be the reason.
Like Mainz and Wiesbaden, Köln is also on the Rhein River, just farther north. Across the river from downtown is an observation deck with nice views of the city. There are museums and other places to visit, but the weather was so warm, around 60 degrees, so we grabbed a beer from a little cafe on the river and sat outside people-watching and looking across the water at the cathedral.
The weather forecast was looking great again so Mom drove us about two and a half hours west to Luxembourg. I’m still highly amused by the fact that we can easily go for day trips to other countries (the French border is about a two-hour drive).
The drive was super scenic, winding past vineyards and old ruins of castles. Emphasis on “winding” because at some points we were going through the sharpest of turns and the road was definitely not wide enough for the two-way traffic it allowed.
Luxembourg City sits high above a gorge and has dramatic steps leading to paths and buildings below. Like all the cities we’ve visited so far, it had a beautiful cathedral and a downtown bustling with people sipping coffee, walking dogs and shopping, but the highlight of the trip was the casemates.
The fortress was built into the face of a cliff in the year 963, and we walked all through the system of rooms and tunnels. Exploring the ruins was spooky and mysterious in a sense as the tunnels were fairly narrow and dark.
Usually towns in Germany are fairly dead on Sundays, but it seems when the weather is warm, everyone gets outside. Our last day trip of the weekend was to Cochem, along the same route west as Luxembourg, just a little closer to home. Cochem definitely had the most stereotypical German charm out of all the places we’ve visited so far with its wood-trimmed colorful buildings.
In the morning, we got to see the inside of the castle, which overlooks the town from the top of a hill. The tour was in German but our guide had handouts of English translations so we could still follow along. It reminded me of my childhood trips to Colonial Williamsburg and touring the buildings there, but the furniture and decorations inside were obviously more European-looking and the views of the river valley from the castle were spectacular. Also worth mentioning is the random cat sleeping in the sun on the castle steps that made me overly excited.
We had lunch on the marktplatz where I had a schnitzel sandwich and Mom and Connie had flammkuchen, basically the German version of a super thin crust pizza. The town was busy but I personally like to see people taking advantage of nice weather. There was even a bar called “Kelsey’s Eck” (eck means corner) and I was shocked because I’ve been told Kelsey is a very American name. Maybe an American owns the bar?
If there was one thing we learned from the past few rainy weekends, it was to get out when the sun’s out. I was so glad to have beautiful spring weather for Connie’s visit and we saw so much in a short period of time. I hope the weather will stay like this; I’m used to Maryland’s inconsistent spring season but let’s hope the German seasons work differently.