Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cologne

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After we dropped Kelly off at the airport, we didn't have much time before we returned ourselves. In the interest of our bank account, we booked the red eye to Cologne, which meant we were lucky enough to be on the 3:50am flight. Yup, you read that right.  3:50 am.  I didn't even know airports were open then.

Anyways, we dropped Kelly off at the airport and went home and packed.  The metro stops running at midnight, so we left around 10:30 from our house. When we got to the airport, the airline attendants weren't even there, so we couldn't check in.  Instead, we napped next to a HUGE group travelling to Mecca.  There must have been 50 people in this group.  After an hour long nap on an airport bench (not my best sleep), we were able to check in, check our bag and get through security.  Once we were through security, we headed to the airport lounge.  We have the American Express Platinum credit card which comes with all sorts of perks for travelling, including free entry to the airport lounges. The lounges are nice, mainly for the fact that they are quiet.  They also have free wifi, which the Izmir airport does not.

We finally boarded the plane and took off right on time.  Thank you German efficiency!! It was something that we have missed and would enjoy over our 11 days in Deutschland.  We arrived in Germany around 7:00am and headed to the hotel.   We stayed at The Art of Comfort Hotel which advertised it's easy access to the city center and proximity to the airport.  We took a cab to the hotel and were hoping to be able to check in and nap, but were disappointed because our room wouldn't be ready until 11:00 or so.  Because of this, we decided to head into town and come back later for a nap.  We quickly realized that, while it was close to the airport like they advertised, it was not easy to get into town.  After catching a bus and then the metro, we finally made it into town.

This is where I fell in love with a little town called Cologne.




The entire city was just one big, organized, green, rule following fairy tale.   Don't get me wrong, there are great things about Turkey and it's chaos, but the order and structure in Cologne (and all of Germany) had me wide eyed and smiling.

Our first stop was the Cologne Dom, which is this beautiful Gothic church in the city center.  We made it there right after the morning mass let out, which was a bummer.  It would have been incredible to go to mass in this church.  Instead, we went in and admired the Dom from both the inside and out.





















Continuing our tour of historical landmarks under construction....nice scaffolding.  But really, this church is incredible.


 After we got over our amazement of this landmark, we walked around the city for a little while.   We were severely underdressed for the weather.  I guess when you spend almost three months in 95 degree heat with no break for even a thunderstorm, you forget what 65 degrees feels like.  As we were walking around, I was wearing my JMU sweatshirt that I brought on the plane and had a woman yell out "Go Dukes!" as she passed us on a tour!  It's always exciting to meet fellow JMU enthusiasts, but it was especially uplifting to find one halfway around the world!! Go Dukes!!


I mean, can this city get any prettier?




locks on the bridge

We strolled along the Rein and took in the fresh and cool air.  It started to warm up as the morning progressed and we definitely were grateful for a break from the Turkish heat.




Mike and I are avid TripAdvisors and use that, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites to plan almost every trip.  By this point, we had pretty much covered all of the UNESCO Sites in Cologne, so we checked TripAdvisor to see what they recommended.  One of the top recommendations was the zoo, which wouldn't normally be on my list of things to do when traveling, but this got rave reviews, so we figured we should check it out.

I'm so glad we did!!  The animals were super active and the zoo itself was gorgeous.  Plus, it was the perfect size to do in an afternoon without being too overwhelming.









This little Red Panda ran laps around his little area.  I've never seen a zoo animal so active!



A distant relative Karen?


 The bird cage kind of creeps me out usually, but this one had a few interesting birds.








I could have stood and watched these guys swing around all day!!




I was very glad there was glass separating the two of us, although I kept thinking about Harry Potter, which didn't help my nerves!







After we broke ourselves away from the monkeys and chimpanzees swinging about, we were shocked to see how many elephants there were!! I think we counted nine total, but there could have been more for sure.









These little guys were dancing around because they had just been fed and were happy as a clam (or should I say penguin?).



The giraffes are always one of my favorites and this zoo didn't disappoint. They're stunning and I just imagine them being friendly to the other animals in the wilderness.







 As we were walking out, these guys were by the door to say goodbye.  At this point, that's how I felt too.  We headed back to the hotel and took a very long nap.


By the time we were ready to head back out, it was dinner time.  We grabbed dinner at a beerhaus where Mike had good German beer.  I'm not sure if I've seen him that happy since we moved to Turkey.

We had heard that there was a great jazz bar in Cologne and Mike was determined to find it.  Sure enough, we walked in and it was like a little taste of New Orleans.  We sat on the balcony upstairs and enjoyed some beer and jazz music.  A group of women in their 50s sat behind us and we perked up when we realized that they were speaking American English! Words we understand!  We introduced ourselves and were quickly making friends with this group of women.  They wanted to hear all about the Olmsted Scholarship, Turkey and our trip to Germany.  They even bought us a beer! We were just happy to hear English and were grateful for their company.

Despite the fact that we had a two hour nap earlier that day, we were exhausted and called it a night after the jazz bar.  We grabbed what ended up being an extremely expensive cab and headed back to the hotel.

Side note: I have a fitbit and am an avid step tracker.  I'm going to post the number of steps we took every day so you can see how much we walked.

Step count: 34,952 steps