What if I’ve landed in Germany, and I wanted to find less-explored aspects in one of her cities? The word “gems” might be overused, but I’ve turned the word into a handy list of “G-E-M-S”, representing a Green space (Grünanlange), a place to Eat (Essen gehen), a Museum, and something a little out of the ordinary or a Special tip (Sondertipp).
They’re not only recommendations, but I’d like the interested reader to consider places where locals go to relax, eat, and enjoy themselves.
In Cologne, the people know how to party and have a good time; the annual “Karneval” is proof of this fact. But is there more to Cologne than Karneval?
Of course, I’m going to visit the world-famous Dom (Cathedral). I’ll learn something about the Roman Empire’s northern reach and their influence on “Colonia”. I’ll stop by the place where “Eau de Cologne” got its name. I’ll drink the local beer, the sharp yet refreshing Kölsch served in small thin 0.2-Litre glasses. But a city of over one million people has more than Dom, Roman relics, perfume, and beer.
Green space : Aachener Weiher (Gürtel)
In addition to peaceful spaces along the river Rhein, the “Grüngürtel” or “green rings” provide ample park spaces throughout the city. With a length of seven kilometres and width of about 200 metres, the Innerer Grüngürtel (Inner Green Ring) is one of the largest urban parks in Cologne. The pond at Aachener Strasse, also known as the Aaachener Weiher, sits near the midpoint of the Inner Green Ring. The pond is easy to reach with city transport or Stadtbahn from the downtown area. On warm sunny days, city residents and university students alike come to play, barbeque and unwind (“grillen und chillen”) with family and friends. There’s even a beer garden at Aachener Weiher. Wait, this is Germany; of course, there’s a beer garden here!
Details: Aachener Weiher.
Transit stop/station: U-Bahn Universitätsstrasse, or U-Bahn Moltkestrasse.
Eat : Mangal
With over 6 percent of the population, Turks make up the largest non-German group in the city. There are a couple of neighbourhoods where you’ll see strong influences by way of shopping, clothing, and the food. A short walk northwest from the Hauptbahnhof or a quick train puts you in the Hansaring area, where the flow of visitors or tourists subsides. Mangal is what awaits: a large open grill; Döner wraps or pitas for takeaway; or Döner or grilled-meat platters delivered fresh to your table. You’ll hear conversations mostly in Turkish, some of it heavily flavoured in Turkish-German slang. But your attention will be focused solely on the food.
Transit stop/station: S-/U-Bahn Hansaring.
Museum : Museum Ludwig
Staff at the Museum Ludwig focus on works of contemporary art from the 20th-century forward to the present day. They’re also looking at various kinds of media, particularly technology, used to create art. The Museum has the world’s third largest collection of Picasso’s work, behind only Paris and Barcelona. Their permanent collection includes works of European Expressionism, Classical Modernism, American Pop Art, Abstract works, and a large collection of photography. Sometimes, fortune truly favours the brave, or the ones who’re looking. I’m now in the habit of seeking “photographic moments,” and often, they find me.
Details: Museum Ludwig.
Transit stop/station: S-/U-Bahn Dom-Hauptbahnhof.
Special : Zülpi Strasse
Bars, clubs, cafes, and restos line Zülpicher Strasse just southwest of the downtown core. When I was introduced to Shamrock Irish Pub, I expressed skepticism. Why would I go to an Irish pub in Cologne? My patient friend said to me (over beer): this is the kind of place where residents and university students come to unwind. Shamrock’s multilingual staff is friendly, serving Kölsch beer as well as Kilkenny stout, and they’re also stocked with your favourite hard stuff to guzzle down. Fact is after a steady night of drinking and solving the world’s problems in the process, there’s an excellent correlation between drinking at Shamrock and eating Döner around the corner at Oruç.
Mapping the G-E-M-S
Naturally, Cologne is not limited to these four highlights, but they provide a good start which makes me feel welcome and at home. Along with the location of the city’s primary train station, the map below shows the following G-E-M-S in Cologne:
- G: Green Space (Grünanlagen) – Aachener Weiher,
- E: place to Eat (Essen gehen) – Mangal,
- M: Museum Ludwig,
- S: Special (Sondertipp) – Zülpicher Strasse.
By train, travel times to Köln are: just under 3 hours from Amsterdam, 5.5 hours from Berlin, 1 hour from Frankfurt am Main, 4 hours from Hamburg, 4.5 hours from München, and 3 to 5 hours from Paris.
Germany’s Urban G-E-M-S
- Frankfurt am Main, 0.7 million
- Köln (Cologne), 1 million
- München (Munich), 1.4 million
- Hamburg, 1.8 million
- Berlin, 3.5 million
I made all of the photos above, and this post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.