Cologne vs Dusseldorf: Part #1

Cologne vs Dusseldorf: Part #1

For some reason I had a positive image of Cologne built up in my mind. Maybe it was because I’d known several very attractive girls from there who’d all raved about what a fine place it was – though regrettably none of them were in town to show me why. It also seemed like a convenient way to get a small taste of Germany given how close it was to Amsterdam – where I’d just been visiting.  But in the end, why the hell I chose to spend 3 nights in Cologne I’ll never know. It’s not that it’s a bad place but A). I couldn’t have picked worse days and B). the weather was even worse than what I’d seen in Brussels and Amsterdam. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.

After saying goodbye to my friends in Amsterdam I caught the high speed Sunday afternoon train to Cologne. The journey was supposed to take 2 hours, but in fact it took over 4.It was pissing down like no ones business and apparently several trees and telephone poles had fallen on the tracks, necessitating their removal and delaying every train in Western Germany. In Italy a delay would have surprised no one, but this was Germany – where everything ez organized und on time ja, and a man bearing resemblance to the Monopoly guy was getting visibly frustrated in my carriage. Arriving into Köln central station is quite an impressive spectacle though. You cross one of the famous iron bridges spanning the Rhine and pull into a platform directly alongside its revered gothic Cathedral.Kölner Dom is absolutely impressive, it took from 1248 to 1880 (with periods of inactivity) to finish construction but its final form has plenty of ‘wow’ factor and it did extremely well to remain mostly intact given the seventy aerial hits it took during WWII. Especially so when you consider the rest of the city was leveled.

But it was getting dark as I departed from the station, the wind promptly eviscerated by brand new €2 umbrella and it was also bloody cold. Lacking a map of the city – I got a cab to take me to my hostel which was a little outside the main city centre and checked in. At first impression Weltempfänger Backpacker Hostel seemed pretty good, there was a large (deserted) bar on the ground floor which doubled as reception  and the cheerful staff member who checked me in was more than happy to offer me tips on everything to see in the city, though also quick to concede that this was a particularly dead part of town, and unsurprisingly even deader on a Sunday night.Why would you open a hostel here then? I thought.

I took my bag upstairs to check out my room, the facilities and see who else was around. Talk about a fucking ghost town. The ‘common room’/kitchen area looked as though it hadn’t been used in months and practically had cobwebs on it. In fact the entire complex was so disturbingly quiet that I half expected the undead Grady twins from The Shining to suddenly appear in front of me in the long corridor as I went to my room. Thankfully the 4 person room itself was fairly modern, and had a good view of the main street in front though there was nothing interesting outside. I was also relieved to see someone else’s luggage in the room, proof that I wasn’t the only life in the entire hostel. Normally I’m stoked to get a room to myself but this place was creepy.

Next in order was to check out the surrounding area. It couldn’t have been duller. It was only 6:30, but there was virtually nothing open anywhere but for a few Pakistani general stores, a kebab place and then, a McDonalds. Having been walking down the deserted, featureless road for 20 minutes I was practically excited to see a McDonalds with people inside of it. It was also dinner time and having seen no enticing alternatives, made a meal out of it before drudgingly returning to the Hostel and contemplating just going to sleep to get the day over with. It couldn’t have been in starker contrast to the previous night and I was already kicking myself for not staying longer in Amsterdam. At least my room mates were friendly and polite; 2 older guys there on business for a tradeshow from Lithuania and France. They seemed equally dismayed with the areas offerings as no sooner had I turned the light out on my top bunk and they’d followed suit. It was 8pm, I hadn’t been to bed this early since I was ten.

Köln Dom
Köln Dom

Monday morning. More wind and greyness outside. I got a crepe on the street outside for breakfast and caught the metro for the three stops it took to get back to the city centre. For a Monday morning it was still pretty quiet, the interesting looking archeological museum was closed but a tourist information booth provided me with some  options of things to do. Though when I pressed for nightlife options on a Monday and Tuesday night, the women gave me a grave look. I figured I may as well do one of those double-decker tourist bus tours which supposedly show off all the cities most interesting sights. Too bad I’d already seen all one of them. After the Dom, nothing else in the city rouses much interest, and although I tried to be enthused by my audio guide and its avid commentary on non-descript buildings, the 2.5 hour circuit of the city was pretty boring. I considered getting off at the Zoo but by that stage I was so lethargized that I just couldn’t be assed. I’d seen enough zoos anyway.

Back at the city centre I checked out the so-called ‘old town’. It was pleasant with lots of people bustling around, but also much more modern than its name would have you believe. For a city which promotes itself as one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world it has very little to show for it. Goes to show why you shouldn’t start global conflicts. This time it was KFC for lunch. Köln Fried Chicken I thought to myself lamely. I was still bored though, the old town was mostly just modern retail and eatery places and I felt as if I could have been in Anywheresville. I then proceeded to walk around the Dom another 3 times before ascending its 500+ stairs for a nice, but predictable view of the city.

I really don’t know what else to say at this point. The next 1.5 days were just dull, dull and duller. My hostel maintained its attic like ambience, the weather remained awful, I walked around for ages but never saw anything interesting. I met virtually no one within my own age bracket and the bars in the evenings  were inhabited by pensioners. Jesus Christ, I could have sworn everyone had said this was a student town. I did enjoyably find myself chatting up a beautiful Italian girl who was hanging around the Dom, but then her boyfriend showed up. I think what was most disappointing is that I’d met so many Germans in Italy and always found them to be good company, but here there were none. On my last night I tried to cheer myself up by going to the Hard Rock Cafe, an occasional tradition for my last night in a city. It sort of worked, and when I got back to the Hostel there was actually another person drinking at the bar, an Australian who – like myself – had come across from Amsterdam to get a feel for Germany only to have realized he’d picked the wrong  time and town. At least I had someone to join for a beer while loudly lamenting our boredom and swapping Amsterdam stories. The bartender implored us both to return in the summer on a weekend so that we might actually see the city at its best. I for one wouldn’t be doing this though. Tomorrow morning I’d be going to Dusseldorf (mainly because it was my point of exit via Ryanair to Milan), and many people had told already said that Cologne was the better of the two cities. Schiesser.

 

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