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Published: November 9th 2007
The Rhine River.
We head out early, planning to spend the day in Cologne, or Köln, as it’s known in Germany. There is little traffic so we make it there in two hours, much quicker than anticipated. Our first goal is to see the Lindt Chocolate Museum, or Schokoladenmuseum, but it’s not open yet so we spend some time exploring the bank of the Rhine River and enjoying the breeze.
The Chocolate Museum is located just off the mainland and in the Rhine River at the Rheinau Port. It’s a historical view of chocolate, with descriptions in both German and English, and, of course, they show how modern day chocolate is produced and let you taste the fresh product. In the museum we find everything from decades-old bottles of Nigerian chocolate wine to 18th century hot chocolate pots and porcelain statues. They show you the history of chocolate back to the ancient cultures of the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec tribes who used chocolate to make beverages, foods, medicines and used it for currency. For example, if you had lived back then, you could have purchased a male slave for 100 cocoa beans. Also, there is evidence of multiple seventh century Guatemalan emperors who
The Lindt Chocolate Museum.
used the name Cocoa. There are many displays showing the development of chocolate marketing over the past few centuries, and how it went from an elitist’s decadent delight to an everyday treat. We take a seat at the outside café of the museum, and have coffee and cake on the edge of the river. We visit the gift shop as well, which I was quite excited about until we were there and I realized I could purchase all of the candy on display just about anywhere in Germany.
Next was a pleasant walk along the Rhine towards the Cologne Cathedral. It’s a spectacular sight, an intricate working of High Gothic architecture. They know mass was celebrated in this spot as early as 313 AD, and the Old Cathedral is known to have been destroyed in a fire, so the current Cathedral was not begun until 1248. This Cathedral was mostly finished by 1509, but not entirely finished until 1880, after interest groups took matters into their own hands and paid for the repairs and finished the construction. The Cathedral is 359 feet high overall and 142 feet high inside. The interior is covered in stained glass, which allows the
Part of the Chocolate Museum.
low winter sun to douse the cathedral with colored light.
Directly to the South of the Cathedral, mere steps away, is the Roman-Germanic Museum, or Römisch-Germanischen Museum. One of the first things you encounter is the detailed and vivid Dionysos Mosaic . It was discovered on this spot while a bomb shelter was being constructed in 1941, and they built the museum around it. There were many artifacts from tombs and much jewelry on display that were in perfectly good condition considering they were at least 1500 years old, or older. Not to mention plenty of Roman artifacts to include columns, gravestones, statues, more wall and floor mosaics, plenty of pottery, and even a reconstructed carriage. There are also collections on display of Stone, Bronze, and Iron Age artifacts discovered in the Rhine River valley nearby. One of the reasons there is so much history in the museum is because there is so much history in Cologne. It started with a Germanic tribe settling in this area two thousand years ago. A young lady named Agrippina was born here, and when she later married the Roman Emperor Claudius, she asked him to make her hometown a Roman colony. Thus
These are chocolate wines from Nigeria, produced in the 1980s when there was an abundance of chocolate.
was created: Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, or CCAA, which stood for “the city established under Claudius on the site of the altar according to the wish of Agrippina,” though the translation can vary a bit. A tour guide said this was the first Roman colony named for a woman. And sometime between 50 AD and today, Colonia became Cologne, a very diverse and unique place which is claimed to be Germany’s oldest major city.
After the museum, we take a walk through town. We visit the City Hall, which consists of a 200 foot Tower and a Renaissance Portico. It was all constructed between the 14th and 16th centuries, but after substantial damage in WWII, it was reconstructed in the 1950s. We couldn’t go in to explore because of a wedding taking place.
We also took stroll past the Romanesque Church of Great St. Martin, where another wedding was taking place. So we didn’t go inside the church either. Again, this church replaced one that had been destroyed by a fire, and was built from 1150 to 1240. The excavated foundations of the church reveal the remains of a first century Roman sport complex and swimming pool, but
Here I am on the upper balcony of the "Tropics Hall" of the museum, which is home to cacao trees with a few vanilla, coffee, and banana trees mixed in.
with the wedding taking place we were unable to see for ourselves.
We found the Hard Rock Café just off of the Heumarkt and had an early dinner, including some Kölsch beer. Kölsch can be used as a general term to describe things that inherently represent Cologne (Köln), but when referring to beer, it describes an ale that by local laws may only be brewed within Cologne. After dinner we trekked back towards the Chocolate Museum, where our car was parked, and enjoyed the remnants of the early evening sun playing on the surface of the Rhine.
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