Sunday, January 22, 2017

Cologne, Germany - January 2017

Cologne Cathedral and Chocolate Museum

It has been an embarrassingly long time since Alex and I ventured out into the country and explored a bit, so we set aside yesterday to spend some time in Cologne.
Originally, we had planned to visit here for my birthday, but the balloon fest and Pig Fest fell on those dates, and we chose to experience those instead.
So, better 5 months late than never.

We left the house at 8:47am and arrived at our destination at 10:40am. Factoring in traffic and getting our bearings, Alex and I were pretty pleased with the time we made.

Europeans tend to be late risers compared to my family, so Alex and I always try and get to our destination mid morning. This ensures the kids are more cooperative and guarantees us good parking. The latter proved true yesterday; we ended up finding an open spot right next to the garage's exit. We couldn't have asked for a better spot if we tried.


Alex chose the Dom parking garage to use, because it was literally right underneath where we wanted to go first. All we had to do was unload the kids (and get them dressed in their one million layers of clothing) use the wash closets that were located right outside. (Spending the 50 cents is kind of a given when you've got a mom who drinks coffee like water and a 3 year with no concept of "going before you leave.") and we walked up some steps and were right in the Cathedral Square.

The Cologne Cathedral was beautifully intimidating. It rose high into the sky and boasted sharp spires, gargoyles, and ornate archways.

If you were to look up GOTHIC STYLE on google, the Cologne Dom would be the number one search result.

I don't know this for sure, but if I were Google, and I were needing to give someone a perfect example of Gothic architecture, this sure as heck would be the cathedral I'd use.

I had a hard time photographing the building, because it was so enormous. The best I got were the ones pictured above. In all honesty, this church is one you have to see in person to fully grasp the scale and grandeur.
In my opinion, some of the other ones I have seen (like Westminster Abbey and Trier) blend seamlessly in with the surrounding city. They look like they belong.

Cologne Cathedral doesn't just draw your attention, it demands it. It's a fierce kind of beautiful. Lightning on an ocean. A vision you're drawn to despite it weighing and measuring you and finding you wanting.
One heck of a sight.

The square was blissfully empty that morning, so Evie had the opportunity to walk around while I took in what I could in that short amount of time.

Naturally, Alex and I wanted to go inside the cathedral.
Landon was having a morning, though, and his emotions were on high. He fought us tooth and nail to enter, which was unusual for him because he tends to love churches. And then when we were inside we were informed there was a service about to begin and we couldn't go past the first pew we encountered.

That was a bit of a bummer, but as we were leaving we did get to see a long procession of men in kilts and carrying bagpipes and drums walk past and were told we might have luck entering around 1 o'clock.

We took Landon and Evie back outside where we had a lovely 3 year old meltdown occur.
The joy of traveling with a toddler...

Alex tried to get Landon to go up to the treasure room and do the Tower's Climb with him, which was located on the side of the church for 4 Euro a person, but when Landon's in his fits there's no stopping him. It was frustrating, because normally 533 steps is a challenge the kid would have loved to try. He's typically full of energy and curiosity.
But that morning Alex and I just had to face the facts that some of our To-Dos were not going to be hit.

We walked over to a Roman museum:

Unfortunately, it was close to 11:30 and now both kids were becoming loud. Alex and I didn't feel like spending 9 Euro apiece only to have them protest the entire time.


We did the only thing parents could do to tame the beasts.

We went to lunch.

There was a small meltdown at the table when we ordered Landon water, thinking there wouldn't be milk available, but the waitress was kind enough to bring some out for him and all was semi-smooth sailing after that.

We finished lunch around 1:15pm (it cost us 50 Euro total) and headed back to the cathedral to see if it was open to the public yet. Unfortunately, it wasn't, but we did get to hear the organ play Amazing Grace.

Oh my, it was beautiful.
Even Landon stopped his squirming to listen.

We went back to our car at that point so we could change Evie and drive closer to the Chocolate Museum.

Parking at the garage from 10:40am to 1:45pm was 8 Euros. (Ouch, city parking.)

Finding where we needed to go was an adventure. Mistaken roads, half a dozen U turns, and 2 parking garage entrances were made before we finally settled on a garage about 5 minutes down the road from the museum.
Took us 25 minutes.
Which was just enough time for both kids to fall asleep.

Fortunately, Landon woke up easy (it's amazing what the word chocolate will do to a kid's cooperation) and Alex just tossed Evie in the Tula to let her finish out her nap.

Entry cost was 18 Euro. (9 for adults. Kids 6 and under were free.)

The first part of the museum focused on where chocolate derived from and how the beans were extracted from their plants, etc etc. Alex and I kind of hustled through this area because Landon was really bored by the displays.

We came to a kid's area with face painting stations and interactive machines. For example, there were blocks with names of European countries on them and when you lifted the blocks up they gave an approximate amount of chocolate each place consumed in a year.

Germany had the highest amount.

There was also a room for a "chocolate school." I couldn't tell you what happened in there, but Alex walked in and scored a sample. We each took a bite and it was really rich.

Next up was a Rainforest Room, where you could go into an enclosed room that simulated the weather where cocoa beans grow. (It reminded me a little of Living with the Land.) I loved going through there, because it was like a trip back home.

Warm and muggy.

My favorite.

The next part of the museum was the best. It was a Lindt chocolate factory, where they had functioning machines that let you see each part of the process that goes into making chocolate bars.
It was really interesting watching the chocolate turn in a giant mixture, get poured into square molds, dropped onto a line by a robot, wrapped in foil by another mechanism, and finally put into a box by an employee.

 They even had an example of a mixer from 1879 that fascinated Landon.

At the far end of the room was a chocolate fountain:

Where an employee handed out samples of the stuff on wafers.
And oh my oh my. I had a bite. One teensy, tiny bite and it was already too rich for me.

Chocolate in its purest form.
Alex claimed it was the best chocolate he'd ever tasted.

Next to the fountain was a display made entirely of chocolate.

And a great view of the city of Cologne.

The final part of the museum consisted of the cultural importance of chocolate throughout the years. It covered everyone from the Aztecs to 12th Century doctors, to the last century.
Apparently, chocolate was good for all four humors, especially when you had headaches.
Sounds accurate to me.

There were lots of antiques on display, like old pots that were used to serve hot chocolate and old fashioned candy bar wrappers.
1900 vending machines dedicated solely to chocolate...
Even recreations of sweet stores.

And what exhibit wouldn't be complete without a gift shop right at the exit. This one was full of Lindt goodies, including fresh truffles and cupcakes and bars.

We bought a bag.

To embrace the spirit of the day, of course.

Overall, it was an enjoyable place. I had a hard time looking at all the information placards because of the kids, but I still learned a few new pieces of information. The factory machines were, hands down, the best part, and I think it was definitely worth the visit to see once while we are here.

I want to say we exited around 4:20pm, a little over an hour after we arrived.

Parking so far away, while a pain, ended up being a blessing in disguise, because the kids used the wide walkway to burn off a lot of energy. There was a canal to our right and both little ones enjoyed looking at all the sailboats parked at the docks, and several people walked by with dogs they were able to admire.

The half mile stroll was really pleasant, and I felt like I got to enjoy the actual city a bit before having to leave.
Believe it or not, it was my favorite part of the day.

The second garage cost about 7 Euro (for two hours...gulp); we left the city around 4:45pm. It was a quiet ride back home seeing as both kids fell asleep.

Alex and I mostly just enjoyed the German countryside out the windshield.

We were back at our house by 6:15pm and were up with the kids until 9:30 that night thanks to such late naps.

I wish Cologne was just a tad bit closer, because I'd really like to go back and explore some other hot spots, like the zoo and botanical gardens, but we have to really plan for that trek, because it's a whole day outing.
Not to mention with two little kids, Alex and I can't plan more than one or two things to do in a day, because they can't handle any more than that.
And with Landon's temperament even that doesn't always pan out. (Like his attitude at the church on this day.) It can be frustrating, but we've gotten good at learning to let the kids lead the way and accept we won't get to do everything.

In the end, we saw more of Cologne than we had had we sat at home and done nothing.
Gotta take what we can get.

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