An Interrail Adventure – Blog 12: Cologne

The train from Bonn to Cologne was the shortest journey I’ve had in a long time – only 30 minutes! It didn’t feel like a travel day at all, but there I was in a new city ready to start afresh. After checking into the hostel, it was time to get my bearings. Walking down to the river Rhine seemed like my best option, so that’s where I headed. On the way, I came across what appeared to be a free museum detailing the history of Cologne, so I went in. It turns out it was all in German, so I quickly turned around and left – better luck next time!

Looking out over the River Rhine

After sheltering from the rain in Cologne cathedral, I grabbed a U-bahn back to the hostel. On my return, I met two of my roommates, two Australians called Simon and Abby. After chatting and food, I remembered that the Englishman I met in Bonn (at the pub holding the dance meet) told me there was a salsa dancing event at the chocolate museum (not a phrase I ever thought I’d say). So, out of curiosity the three of us headed down. Now, we arrived pretty much as it ended but people were sticking around to enjoy the music. As Simon and Abby paired off to dance, I found myself dancing with a German local, which started of as fun but quickly got a tad awkward especially as I didn’t really know how to salsa dance. Eventually my German dance partner had to leave, so the three of us headed back to the hostel for a few drinks. There, I met a German high school music class that were staying at the hostel. It was nice chatting to them, however when they cracked out the acoustic guitar (wherever you go, there’s always an acoustic guitar) I made my excuse to leave. I’m glad I did because it wasn’t long before I heard ‘Hey Jude’ being wailed from the common room.

The next morning, five of us from the room (the two Australians, two American girls who had appeared and myself) headed off to the local walking tour. Quite a long one this, with a length of about two and a half hours. As with the others, it covered a whole manner of things including the history of the city, certain cultural curiosities and particular bars of note. After, I split off from the five to head to the Gestapo museum which had appeared on the tour. A house which had been rented by the Gestapo during WWII, it served as their Cologne headquarters and had a basement where prisoners were held. Of particular interest were the writings of the prisoners on the cell walls, most of whom didn’t know why they were being held. A pretty heavy museum, it certainly took a bit of a toll on you and when you left you felt a bit sombre.

I decided I needed a bit more of a light-heartened experience, so I made my way to the chocolate museum by the river. A whole museum dedicated to the cultivation of the cocoa bean, the production of chocolate and its history, it was a pretty unique place. Now, while the historical and cultural impacts of the cocoa bean and chocolate were interesting, my favourite part was definitely seeing all the machines in action. These were the same machines used on the main production lines, albeit the whole thing was somewhat downsized I imagine. With all of the robotic arms waving about, the whir of the machines and the flowing of chocolate, I was transfixed. Eventually I did need to return to the hostel, so I tore myself away from the machines.

The colourful buildings of Cologne

This morning came my time to leave Cologne, so after bidding farewell to the German music class, the American girls from the room and Abby, I checked out and started to make my way to the train station. I was joined on my walk by Simon who also had a train to catch, albeit later in the afternoon. On our walk, I kept my eye on the time and it soon became apparent that we may have miscalculated the distance to the station. We kept walking and the time kept ticking down, with me getting notably more anxious with every minute. Realising we’d never make it the station on time by walking, we grabbed a tram – which took its time in arriving and also in actually getting to the main station. Now, I needed to get this particular train from Cologne as I needed to change in Brussels at a set time, for a train I had to reserve in advance. If I missed this train, I’d certainly miss the one in Brussels. Thankfully we made to Cologne main station with 10 minutes to spare! I said my goodbye to Simon and grabbed my train, which is where I sit now. I’m on the way to Brussels, then from there to Lille, my final stop!

James Jackman will be sharing stories from his Interrail trip every few days throughout June and July – follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch his updates as soon as they’re posted!