Chocolate museum opposite hotel – big enough Max?


The last destination of our trip! We arrived in Cologne mid-afternoon to grey skies and pouring rain. Our hotel, the Art’otel on the river bank was a pleasant surprise, a bright modern hotel and a big airy room. Despite the weather we decided to head into town for dinner, we needed some fresh air and a chance to stretch our legs after a day travelling. Some online research suggested we try the Brauerei zur Malzmuehle, a local brewery restaurant serving traditional German cuisine, best of all it was only 400m away, we put up our hoods and headed out in to the rain. When we reached the restaurant, we pushed through a big wooden revolving door, and then through some heavy woollen curtains emerging into a dining room with scrubbed wooden tables and waiters in long blue aprons, it looked like it hadn’t changed since it opened 150 years ago. Having found a table, the waiter asked how many beers we wanted, not whether we wanted beer, or which beer we wanted just how many, as it was a brewery pub we decided to go with it and asked for two. The beers, a local brew called Kolsch, exclusive to Cologne, arrived in small glasses which seems to be how it is served here, just as well because it is quite strong. Using the weather as a good excuse to indulge in some hearty German cooking we ordered potato soup to start, I had meatloaf with fried potatoes and red cabbage to follow and Mark had spicy polish sausage with potatoes and sauerkraut, it was all delicious but very filling so we had to pass on the applestreudel.

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Next morning it was still raining so we lingered over breakfast and set out mid-morning to explore the old town, we were lucky, it drizzled on and off but the heavy rain didn’t return so we enjoyed walking along the river and through the old streets to the Cathedral. We went in to the cathedral to have a look around, the stained glass was beautiful and there were some interesting artefacts, we saw the oldest wooden crucifix in the western world, the Gero-Crucifix donated in 976; there was also an amazing reliquary which appeared to be made of solid gold and studded with precious stones, it was the size of two small coffins stacked one on top of the other and every side was decorated with scenes and figures from the old and new testaments. Beautiful. After further wandering it started to get quite cold and dark so we decided to find another Brauhaus for a Kolsch and a meal (not sure if it was a very late lunch of an early dinner), Peters Brauhaus fitted the bill, it was very similar to Malzmuehle and we tucked in to more potato soup and pork schnitzel, again no room for dessert. On the way back to the hotel we passed a bakery selling chocolate/nut pretzels and donuts, we bought some to take back with us and had them with coffee later that evening.

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Friday, the last full day of our whole trip, dawned cloudy but dry so, after sorting out some domestic details, not least car insurance so we can collect the car from storage next week, we set off across the river to visit the Koln Triangle, a tall building with an observation deck on the 28th floor. We hadn’t done it on Thursday because the cloud was so low we wouldn’t have seen anything but conditions were improving all the time so we thought we would risk the 3 entry fee and have a look. By the time we reached the top the clouds had cleared and we had brilliant clear spring sunshine giving us views across the Rhine Valley to the far horizons. Walking through the old town in the sunshine was a completely different experience and as we walked back to the hotel along the riverside we saw the river cruise boats mooring up and starting to prepare for the new season. We had originally planned to travel back across Europe on one of these boats but they don’t start cruising until early April, in hindsight we are glad we did it by train, it has been a great experience and we have had much more time to explore the cities we have visited.

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The hotel restaurant here is highly rated so we decided to celebrate the last night of our trip with a(nother) good meal and a bottle of wine. We took the chance to think back over the things we have seen, the places we have been and the people we have met; we have memories to last a lifetime. It has been a fantastic adventure but now we are ready to head back home to catch up with everybody and start the next adventure. Tomorrow we complete the last leg of our journey, Eurostar here we come.

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