Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Day 1 of Cologne, Germany!

I forgot how wonderful the buzz feels when you put on your rucksack all geared up and ready to go on what you know will be a great adventure regardless of mishaps or disasters. Everything is an experience, positive or negative it’s something I want to remember!

The saddest thing about travelling alone is not having anyone to get really excited for the trip with! I was stood at the station so happy I wanted to do a little dance and yell about how much I love new places… However, being alone, I figured that was a little too weird, even for my standards!

I’ll be honest, when I got to London it didn’t start off too well! Stupid district and Victoria line… I don’t think I’ve ever got on the wrong tube till now, I therefore ended up in white chapel thus quickly panicked trying to work out how to get to Victoria station to then find the coach station - whoops! I left at 9:30pm and boarded the ferry at 2am, desperately trying to get some sleep! 

Arriving at 9am on some very random street in Cologne, I decided to opt for the random stroll instead of the tram/ train system. There is nothing better than exploring a city by foot! (Even if a backpack is a pain to carry around). I sat on the riverside for a while, watching the early morning rush. Cologne is totally beautiful, there is very little traffic, everybody travels by bicycle. It has a really quaint and beautiful feel to it. It's full of character with a buzzing and welcoming atmosphere.
I walked over to the hostel but got very lost along the way, it took me about an hour and a half to find it after meeting some helpful women along the way who gave me a map to the city. After I checked in at Meininger Hostel, it was €11 a stay, so it was a great value, the staff were wonderful but the atmosphere in the hostel rooms were pretty naff. There was nobody around to talk to or to party with! 

As I wasn't allowed to check in till 3pm, I rented a bicycle for €12 from the front desk. It was fairly difficult to ride at first, but because Cologne is so bicycle friendly it wasn't much of a problem. They have cycle lanes on basically every road so you don't have to worry about crashing into any pedestrians or cars/ going up the wrong side of the road!

I cycled to the Cathedral, known to locals as the 'Dom'. It's a very impressive structure, inside the stain glass windows are beautiful and the ceilings seem to stretch up forever.

Afterwards I decided I'd give the Roman-Germanic Museum a visit, I paid €2.50 entry as a student, then €0.50 to store my bag away (compulsory). I must say, I don't have a lot of positive things to say about this place because I struggled to understand most of it. The only descriptions they had (if any), were tiny one liners that didn't help you to fully understand what you were looking at in the slightest! I ended up rushing round rather quickly with boredom and did the whole place in about 15 minutes. If you can read German, then I suppose the museum would be far better!

From here, I cycled over Hohenzollern Bridge which is also known as 'Lovers lock' bridge. Similar to the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris, lovers from all over the world places thousands of locks onto the bridge and then throw away the key into the river Rhine to preserve their memories forever. It's a very cute idea and I was amazed by how many there were there!

Just over the river was the Koln Triangle Viewing Platform, it was €3 entry, and basically just a chance for a great photo, but it was beautiful nonetheless. The platform was quiet and the sky was bright, it was around 24 degrees at this time and so it was wonderful weather to capture the perfect photograph.

Since I had my bike, after a quick stop at McDonalds (simply because it was easy to get to and I was in a rush), I decided to make the most of it and visit the Museum El-De Haus where the former HQ of the Nazi secret police (Gestapo) reside. As a student it was €2 entry. I visited the upstairs of the venue first and I was very angered by the museum and was ready to walk out in a strop. I had looked forward to the museum as I am doing a History degree and find it fascinating, however, again, nothing was written in English! The entire 3 upper levels were all in German, not a hint of English, so I left and decided to try my luck on the lower floors. To my surprise, everything here was translated into English properly. They showed the prison cells they kept people in, and you could still see the etchings on the wall of those later murdered by the Gestapo. It was very saddening, as are most places connected to genocide! In the courtyard around 400 people were murdered. It's haunting to know you're standing where several lost their lives often to fabricated claims imposed upon them by the Nazis. I think it was good of the council to allow the place to be opened as it serves to remind people the dangers of tyranny.

I had debated going to the Modern Art Museum, however I decided for €10 entry, it probably wasn't worth it as I'm not awfully interested in modern art. Therefore, after I'd finished at the El-De Haus, I went back to the hostel to check in. My room still wasn't ready which was a pain, however 40 minutes later I could check-in and have a shower (surprisingly good!) and then relax in bed for a bit after a tiring day. I read some of 'Looking for Alaska' which I was instantly hooked to and then went for a stroll to find some food. I ended up walking for 20 minutes and finding a chocolate milkshake instead of food, had that and eventually wound up back at the hostel getting ready for the night out.

[[[Broken photo connection]]]
Central station

Cologne Cathedral, morning view! 

Lovers locks.

My bike ride.

One section of the view from the tower.

'Path to the courtyard where more than 400 inmates were executed in 1944/5'

Inside the Dom Cathedral. 

I began to worry when my hostel seemed dead, I couldn't find any students, and nobody in my room was interested in coming out. However, I wasn't about to have my first night in Cologne spent in bed! I therefore went to where the student nightlife is supposed to be and found two men talking English outside a bar and asked them where the good clubs were. Lucky as I am, they offered to take me to the club they were going to! They were exchange students, one was American (Thomas) and the other was Portuguese (Antonio).

We first went into a bar that sold 300 random shots, but they wouldn't tell you what was in them, you just had to pick off the board. Antonio and I got a Sweet Sour Puss and then a Ghetto booty, the first being delicious and the second being totally vile! From here, we went to Flanagan's, a Irish nightclub where all the exchange students go and we met about another 10 of their friends. It was only 9pm but the queue was ridiculous and some of their friends that had already been inside said it wasn't worth it as it was too hot and crowded inside as it was an underground club. In the end, I got a fanta, poured a hipflask of vodka into it, and then drank it on the tram as we went to an Irish pub by my hostel where the student nightlife is. We just sat round, all chatted and then played a game of darts. I was actually far better than I thought I would be! It was a fun time just getting to know everyone. Eventually, closing time came, and the boys needed to get trams back to their accommodation so they walked me home first, then left.

It was a pleasant night out and I'm pleased by how friendly everyone in Cologne is along with how pretty it is!

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