10.3.2022: Alex’s Summer Trip to Germany (Part 4)
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I traveled all over Germany this summer and this is the tail-end of my travels. From Trier, I took two trains that were cram packed to Cologne. Right as I exited the main train station, the Kölner Dom, the second tallest church in Europe, was towering over me. It really is breathtaking. I spent a whole week in Cologne with two one-day trips, one to Bonn and the other to Düsseldorf. I went to Bonn because it was the capital of West Berlin and I wanted to see all the fancy government buildings. I loved going to the Hetjens ceramic museum in Düsseldorf. I wish I could say I enjoyed Cologne, but it was actually my least favorite city. It was dirty, especially in comparison to the other cities I had been around the last four and a half weeks. The public policy nerd in me constantly was complaining about how poorly the urban planning was in the city, which caused there to be a general lack of public transit infrastructure. I was also constantly subjected to street harassment, which did not happen to me in other cities. However, I still enjoyed my time.
Some of the best food I had while in Germany was in Cologne. The breakfast was always top-notch no matter what cafe I went to. German breakfast is not that different from American breakfast, but it is so much better. Bread is an essential part of the meal, and it is nothing like American bread. It is always freshly baked in the morning and comes in hundreds of varieties. My favorite is dark rye bread. Typically, breakfast includes butter or tomato-vegetable spread for vegans, ham or salami, and cheese. A soft-boiled egg is also common to see on a breakfast plate. It also may come with sliced tomato and cucumber. I like to take the ingredients listed and make a sandwich out of them. It’s different from the sweet breakfast foods many people eat in the US, like sweetened cereals, doughnuts or in my case oatmeal. And of course, Nutella is an essential part of the breakfast.
Cologne’s architecture was also incredibly cool. There is no real unified style, and neighboring buildings often do not look similar. It definitely adds to the uniqueness of Cologne. The botanical garden was huge and well-maintained. Cologne is along the Rhein river, so many evenings were spent walking along the river with some vegan gelato. My favorite tourist activity was going to the Farina Perfume Museum. I am not a perfume person, but it was recommended to me. I learned a lot and smelled so many fragrances. I had been to so many art and culture museums, so it was a nice change.
My day trips to Bonn and Düsseldorf were very nice. Both of the cities left positive impressions on me, especially Düsseldorf. Bonn is kind of what you would expect from a city that has been a governmental city for decades. There are random government buildings everywhere and the architecture is old and detailed. I was always shocked at how beautiful just normal apartment buildings look. Even in the gloomy weather that I experienced while there, the beauty shone through. I excitedly visited the Haribo store because Bonn is the birthplace of Haribo, and I have done multiple presentations on Haribo throughout my schooling. The store was packed with tourists, and many children. I bought a bunch of different types of Haribo, including my favorite: the sour gummy bears.
I loved Düsseldorf, but I don’t really know why. It just had such a nice vibe. I stumbled upon a market in the middle of the old part of town, called Markt am Carlplatz. There were vendors with food from all over the world. This is pretty common in city centers, but this one was permanent. It reminds me almost of a permanent farmers market. It created such a comfortable atmosphere. I walked 10 miles around the city. Whenever I visited a city, I really tried to find the residential parts to see what living there was like. I would see if there were a lot of grocery stores or kiosks, how many restaurants were around, and most importantly the closeness to public transit stops.
After my week in Cologne, I went to Koblenz. It is famous for the “Deutsches Eck” which means German Corner and is where the River Mosel joins the River Rhein. It is very much a tourist spot, but not in an annoying way. It is incredibly beautiful. I walked along the rivers a lot as I did in Cologne. It was very peaceful and quiet in the evenings. After the hustle and bustle of Cologne, it was a wonderful change of pace. I mostly spent my couple of days there wandering around the city center looking at the beautiful buildings and relaxing.
I spent my last two days in Mainz, a small city near Frankfurt, with a family friend before I had to fly back to the USA. It was really interesting staying with family and hearing about the typical home life and family dynamics in German. I learned a lot in the two days I was there. The term that will stick in my mind forever is “Aufklärung”. I knew the term only as the Enlightenment Period, but it has a double meaning. It also means the time in your life when you learn sex education. Having funny learning moments like that made me so excited to continue learning German. Overall, I loved my trip and had so much fun. I am so very grateful to everyone, especially the Jacobson Family, who has helped me finally visit Germany because it truly was a wonderful trip that I will never forget.