Cologne is, by surface, the third-biggest city of Germany and as well as the biggest town of North Rhine-Westphalia. By inhabitants, it is fourth largest after Munich, Hamburg and Berlin. The town is known for its 2000-year-old history, its cultural and architectural inheritance as well as for its international events.
Beside its quality as a seat of worldly and ecclesiastical power the situation on the Rhine as well as in the intersection of important west east trade routes also contributed to the meaning of Cologne. The town became thus an important commercial location and a linchpin in the automotive, traffic and industrial sector.
As an economic and cultural metropolis, Cologne inherits international significance and is one of the leading centers for worldwide art trade. Moreover, the â€œcarnival strongholdâ€ is a seat of many associations and media enterprises with numerous television broadcasting stations, record companies and publishing houses. Moreover, Cologne is home to several industry and software companies, like Microsoft, Etrium, the Deutz AG (name giver of the Deutz district) and Ford.
Cologne also has the highest density of breweries in Germany. The local breweries only brew a specific kind of beer, which is named "Kölsch" , a clear beer with a bright straw-yellow hue, and it has a prominent, but not extreme, hoppiness. It is less bitter than the standard German lager beer, Pilsner. Furthermore, Kölsch is top-fermented at a relatively warm temperature and then cold-conditioned, or lagered.
Last but not least, there is to know, that the "Hohe Straße" is the most frequented shopping street in Europe. At least one million people make use of the numerous shops and beautiques every day. During the Christmas time, the amount is, at least, doubled. Sometimes, there actually is a cue prior entering the Hohe Strasse, in order to minimize the risk of being trampled to death.
The Cologne Cathedral
The Cologne Cathedral is a monumental building of the roman catholic church in the city-center of Cologne. It is the third largest church in the world, and the second largest church in Germany. However, it is the artificial landmark with the highest touristic value in Germany. Each year the Cathedral is populated by at least eight million pilgrims, visitors, nuns and monks from all over the world. Eleven church-bells, the heaviest is 24 Megatons, four organs (one of them floating) , a seating capacity of 1200 seats and 2100 standing places are just small figures of this superlative. During the second world war, whole Cologne was destroyed by more then 90%. Even the area around the cathedral was scattered to the ground, but like the "Rock of Ages" the Cathedral defied the destruction of the allied machinery of war. According to Scientists, the Cathedral will still stand thousand of years, even without maintenance.
The Cologne Carneval
Cologne Carnival has a very long tradition, the oldest evidence of its existence dates back to the 14th century. In this context, one should point out the strong roots of Cologne Carnival in Christianity. Until this very day the schedule of the carnival season follows the Christian calendar and its most important rule is: â€œAm Aschermittwoch ist alles vorbeiâ€ (â€œOn Ash Wednesday itâ€™s all overâ€). In addition, carnival symbolises the peaceful resistance of the people of Cologne against the authoritarian Prussian regime. Today, the tradition of Cologne Carnival is primarily maintained and continued by the Rose Monday Procession, the Cologne Trifolium (Kölner Dreigestirn) and the 160 carnival societies (including 110 organisation committee societies) in Cologne. In total, around 20,000 people (i.e. 2% of Cologneâ€™s population) are involved in the organised carnival festivities and another 10,000 people in societies and clubs that are not associated with the organisation committee. So the maintaining the tradition is the backbone function of Cologne Carnival.
Carnival in Cologne itself dates back 2000 years to the roman times, where the Saturn festivities where held. The most famous element was some kind of wheelbarrow, with a mounted handcrafted ship. The so called Carrus Narvalis. Although officially the Saturn ceremony was not a Cologne tradition, Cologne is considered as the city, where this celebration is held the longest. New historic evidence to that tradition dates back 600 years and is well documented.
Cologne and Düsseldorf
Only a stone's throw away is the capitol of North Rhine Westphalia. Düsseldorf and Cologne are well known for their rivalries, which date back to the middle ages and continue to the modern times. In the olden days, Cologne was the economic power in this area. As city state, Cologne was able to deduct a slack from every shipping, that came across the Rhine. Düsseldorf though, as a small village, as its name states, didn't have those rights. Therefore the inhabitants of Düsseldorf become envious to the Colognians. The Worringen War was part of that dispute, where the forces of the Düsseldorf area, actually successfully fought the Bishop's Army. Nowadays however, the conflict is still in their memory- However, the most inhabitants don't know anymore, why they actually fight against each other. It is common believe, that it is all about Carnival and beer.
"Rievkooche" or "Reibekuchen" is one of the most served dish in Germany. It consists of grinded potatoes, eggs and flour. "Deep fried Potato pancake" freely translated, explains best what you get. Usually served with apple pudding, sugar beet molasses or "naked" (without side-orders). A greasy, culinary delight. We highly recommend having some extra napkins.
Now to something completely different. "Half-a-chicken" freely translated has nothing to do with poultry. Much more, it is a rye bun with old Gouda cheese, served with butter, salt, cucumber and mustard. Not what you expect, here is the story. According to a waiter in Cologne's most frequented brewery, it dates back to a wedding in the middle ages. According to him, the host ordered "En halven hahn för uns all" which meant a half chicken for everyone. However, the host's money host was sufficient for a bun with cheese only. The name "Half-a-chicken" was born.