Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cologne – Koln – A city with character

Cologne has always been one of the most important cities in Germany and today it ranks number 2 after Berlin. Honestly having been to both, I believe Cologne can hold its own when compared to Berlin and makes an ideal base when exploring Western Germany and surroundings.

Cologne is modern yet ancient. Everytime a construction activity is undertaken and they start to dig the ground, they come across remnants from the Roman era.

Must do in Cologne –

• The all imposing Dom. It is the law that no other building can be higher than the Dom. You must also climb up the bell tower from where you get an awesome view of the city.
• Museums
• Churches
• Eau de Cologne museum
• The bridge across the river where lovers place locks on the fence to seal their love.
• The Botanical gardens which is a quiet spot in the busy city.
• The Beach club where for 6 Euros one can relax and have a drink while watching the world go by.
• Shop along the Schildergasse which has many top end brands, malls and arcades.
• The thermal baths which is a legacy from the Roman times.
• The Christmas markets which is all about food and drink and making merry. The Gluwein is a must try.

Day trips from Cologne –

Bonn which is a sister city to Cologne and was the former capital of West Germany. Has a museum mile and lots of historical buildings including the home of Beethoven.
Koblenz to see the horticultural show and explore the pretty town.
Trier, an ancient Roman city, with a lot of history, culture and religious significance.
Cochem, a quaint town, where one can do river cruises on the Moselle and vineyard tours.
• Dusseldorf which is a financial centre and has top end shopping and lots of different world class restaurants.
Essen where one can tour the famous coal mine of the Ruhr – Zollverein. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and has the famous Red Dot Design Museum dedicated to contemporary designs.
Konigswinter, which used to be the popular holiday destination for the locals during the period post the war when they could not afford to travel abroad.
Bruhl to see its beautiful palace and explore its quaint town.

Getting around –
• The tram network is very convenient and is relatively cheap compared to taxis.

The Rhine

Lovers' locks

The imposing Cathedral

The Beach Club

The stained glass window in the cathedral

The imposing interiors of the cathedral

The view from the top of the cathedral tower

The famous DOM or Cathedral

Exquisite facade

The Botanical gardens had a wide variety of flowers

A view from the cable car

The outdoor part of the spa where you can spend hours pampering yourself.

Eurovision Song Contest Finals 2011 in Dusseldorf

I first heard about the Eurovision Song contest some months ago when I received an invitation to attend the same. Later, having spoken with some friends and colleagues in Europe, most of them admit that this is an important event that they have grown up with and continue to watch and support.

This year’s contest was held in Dusseldorf in the football arena of the home team. It is a tradition that the contest will be held in the country of the previous year’s winner. Lena, a German singer, was last year’s winner and Dusseldorf was shortlisted after a panel selected it from other German cities as the final venue.

The set was brilliantly designed and am sure it made a super impact on the television audiences who it was specifically meant for. It is supposed to be Europe's favourite TV show with 43 countries voting and over 150 million people watching it.

Honestly, I was amazed at the talent of the contestants and the fervour with which the spectators were cheering their favourites. I didn't particularly like the voting concept as I felt it was skewed in Eastern Europe's favour. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am glad I made the effort to attend it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Essen – the economic powerhouse in Germany

My friend Chi Mee recommended that I visit Essen and in particular the Zollverein coal mine which is not only a UNESCO world heritage site but also touted as the “world’s prettiest coal mine”. This got me intrigued and so I had to satisfy my curiosity.

I hopped onto a train and then a tram and reached the mine which was nothing like I had imagined it would be. I expected it to be open and dusty and underground but it was all above ground and covered and neat. It was spread over a huge area and is divided into 3 sections – the main mine, the coking section and Shaft 1/2/8.

It also has a museum with permanent and temporary exhibits ranging from the history of coal mining to the industrialization and development of modern day Germany. Another museum has a panorama movie theatre which had an interesting seating layout (360 degree swivel chairs) and a film which was very absorbing. It is essential to buy a ticket to this museum as it gives you access to the terrace from where you can see and appreciate the entire mining complex from above.

The Red Dot Design Museum is also located on the premises. It houses the largest exhibit of contemporary design in the setting of an old coal mine. Very interesting to see how each object is displayed.