Cologne, Germany

I’ve been wanting to visit the Cologne Cathedral since I caught a glimpse of it from the train when we visited my sister-in-law Rachel in southern Germany last year. The first thing I noticed when I saw it was how black it is. In fact, I immediately contrasted it in my mind with the Duomo in Milan, which impressed me with its sheer whiteness when we visited a million years ago when Raj was just a toddler.

Raj Milan

One could draw some kind of metaphorical religious inference from the relative coloring of the two cathedrals. However, the truth has less to do with the religiosity of the respective congregations, and more with that train station next to the cathedral, and all the coal that was burned in the vicinity for a hundred years.

In any case, the color lends a certain gravity to the cathedral, which like all cathedrals is ridiculously difficult to photograph. Here’s my sun-drenched first impression:

Cathedral

Even with all the cathedrals we’ve seen lately, this one was something special. Looking up as you walk in the door, it feels like it goes up forever.

doorway

My favourite views in the cathedral were from the tower. There’s nothing quite like soaring gothic architecture glimpsed through a gothic window.

Inside

About halfway up was the bell tower, where they actually rang the gigantic bells when we were there. Lovely, but loud.

Bell

Here’s the very top of the tower, still unreachable even after so many steps.

the top

Of course, there were also spectacular views of Cologne from the top of the tower.

View

After we descended the many stairs back down, we descended even farther into the treasure vault beneath the cathedral. Dramatic was an understatement. It was like Indiana Jones down there.

Ark of the Covenant

The gold was amazing, but it’s strange how quickly the eye becomes accustomed to it, and successive rooms full of treasure make less and less of an impression. I did love the tapestries, though.

tapestry

It was Pampa’s birthday, so after we left the cathedral we popped in to Cafe Reichard across the plaza for some cake. True to all the online reviews I’d read when planning, the cake was fabulous, and the service was terrible. We had to wander around for several minutes looking for a free table. It was very atmospheric, although the giant stock photos on the walls were a weird contrast to the live Strauss and old-world opulence of the place.

Cafe

I am not a huge fan of cake in general, but this cake was the best I’d ever tasted. Just the right combination of sweet and sour (the beautiful red currants that are so popular here were used to great advantage). The reason I had to take the photo at such a strange angle is that I’d already eaten half my cake by the time I thought of photographing it.

Cake

Pampa said he had a good birthday, and the rest of us had a wonderful day too.