Despite only arriving in Cologne yesterday afternoon, we’ll be leaving the city tomorrow morning giving us one full day here.

I had some things to do that I had noted but I had kept the day wide open meaning I’ll do what I feel like doing and kind of plan it on the fly as the day goes on.

I may explore a park, I may go to a zoo, or cross the river in a cable car.   Hell, I may even go to a circus!

By the way, spoiler alert, I did none of those things.

But I could have…

Anyway, the one definite thing on the agenda was a walking tour at noon.

Free Walking Tour

After grabbing breakfast, we headed into the old town to the walking tour’s meeting point.

Unlike other tours that start at 10am or 11am or even 12pm, this one started at 12:11pm.

Weird time to start a tour, right?

Turns out, as we found out later on the tour, that the number eleven has quite a bit of significance when it comes to Cologne.

So, let’s talk about some stuff we learned on tour…

Number 11

According to legend, Saint Ursula went on a pilgrimage to Rome along with her 11 virgin friends and they returned to find the Huns had besieged the city.

The leader of the Huns, Attila, was willing to stop the massacre if Ursula would consent to marry him.

She refused and instead offered herself up as a sacrifice to save the city.

Attila, who was all for sacrifices to please the Gods, accepted this deal but also demanded that her 11 virgin friends also be sacrificed.

So, they were sacrificed and Saint Ursula saved the city and became a martyr.

Of course Attila said he was okay with this arrangement until a time down the road when he may return and demand another 11 virgins to be sacrificed.

That day never happened though as Attila died before he ever returned and the people took that as a sign from God that the city was saved.

Ever since, the number 11, has plays a major part in planning and story telling in Cologne.

In fact, the walking tour started not at 12:00 today but at 12:11.

I asked why it wasn’t at 11:11 and my guide said all the guides were too hungover to be up that early.

Fair enough.


As you could imagine, the 11th day of the 11th month plays a huge part in Cologne as well.

Of course, in North America and other places, November 11th is Memorial or Remembrance day.

In Cologne, it’s the start of Karneval.

Basically their version of Brazil’s Carnival celebrations.

This Karneval lasts for basically the entire winter and ends on Ash Wednesday.

Yeah, it’s a long party and there’s alot of drinking and fun going on.

Blame it on Nubbel

When Karneval is over, the residents must answer for their sins in church.

The priest will ask if anyone had been drinking and, while swigging back a beer, you could defiantly say “not me.   I have not had a drop!   But that guy Nubbel?   Oh my, he drank everything!”

A puppet you can find in many bars, Nubbel is basically the whipping boy for all your sins.

Did something wrong?   No, you didn’t!   It was Nubbel!

After Nubbel takes all the blame, the puppet is dragged to the square and set on fire.

Into a pile of ashes.

Perfect for Ash Wednesday!

Cologne Cathedral

The Cologne Cathedral is the tallest two spire building in Europe.

Construction on the Cathedral started in 1320 and, after more than 500 years, it was finally completed in 1880.

During it’s long construction phase, Napoleon came to visit the Cathedral with plans to demolish it.

When he saw it, however, in it’s every lasting state of construction, he deemed it too ugly to waste his time destroying it.

So, basically laziness kept the Cathedral from being destroyed.

The last building standing

In fact, the Cathedral has never been destroyed.   Even during WW2 when basically all of Cologne was flattened to the ground, the Cologne Cathedral was the only building left standing.

This wasn’t mere luck or divine intervention though.

You see, the Allied Forces, didn’t destroy the tall and obvious landmarks in Germany for one simple reason.

They used them as navigation guide points for when they were flying into enemy territory.

The Cologne constitution

There is an “unofficial” constitution that the city of Cologne drafted up many years ago.

If you’re ever in doubt on how to proceed when doing something, all you have to do is consult the constitution to get your answer.

Here are the 11 commandments:

1) It is like it is.
2) Whatever will be, will be.
3) It has always worked out.
4) Whatever is gone, is gone.
5) Nothing remains as it was.
6) What we don’t know, we don’t need, be gone.
7) Whaddaya gonna do against it?
8) Fare well but not too often.
9) What the heck is that?
10) Join in! Let’s have a drink!

Stumbling blocks

Throughout Germany, including here in Cologne, you’ll come across little brass plaques in the sidewalks randomly.

The plaques have the name and life of a person who used to live at that location and died in the holocaust.

In total there are over 70,000 stones places throughout Germany.

They are called stumbling blocks because as you walk across them you can feel the difference of footing.   In fact, some cities have them raised up a little so you literally stumble over them.

It’s a way for people to look down and, in turn, bow while remembering a person who suffered during Germany’s dark times.

HH and 88

Displaying a swastika, doing a Nazi salute, or doing anything that relates to Nazism is highly prohibited in Germany and is a punishable crime.

This includes grouping of numbers and letters as well.

HH is a big no no because it’s short for Heil Hitler.

In turn, 88 is also not allowed because 88 is a sneaky way of saying HH because H is the eighth letter in the alphabet.

What does this mean?

Well, you can’t get a personalized licence plate with any of those numbers or letters grouped together.

The same for 420 which was Hitler’s birthday.

Kiosk hopping

In Cologne you’ll find many kiosks.

And when I say many, I mean many.

You’ll find one, if not more than one, on almost every street.

They are basically convenience stores that sell all the little things you’d be accustomed to seeing in such a store along with alcohol.

There’s a game you play called “Kiosk Hopping” and it only has one rule.

Every time you pass a kiosk you must finish the beer in your hand and get another.

Now, remember how I said the kiosks were all over the city?

Yeah, well, it can be a very dangerous (and fun) game.

No empty beers

And speaking of beer…

Our guide told us of a very unusual way people drink beers in the restaurants or bars here.

Back home, if you finish your beer, you get your waiter’s attention, order another one, and he’ll soon bring it to you.

In Cologne they do away with all that middle stuff.

The waiters have walk around with trays of beer and if they see you have an empty one, they automatically replace with a fresh one.

If you don’t want any more you put a coaster on top of you empty to let them know.

A little later on at dinner, we got to see this in action as everyone around us was drinking beers.

Dinner with locals

When I said everyone around us was drinking beers, I wasn’t kidding.

Shawn and I went back to the restaurant we were turned away from last night but this time we were armed with a 7pm reservation.

The tiny restaurant we were in was like a miniature beer hall as it had long tables of Germans sitting there eating and drinking beer.

Well, mostly drinking beer.

Anyway, we were shown to our spot in the middle of a communal table seating 16 people.

Right in the middle.

Germans to the left.   Germans to the right.

And beers everywhere!

Which kind of made it awkward when I ordered a glass of Reisling but, hey, what can I tell ya, I can’t drink beer.

Sorry Germany.   Please forgive me.

I ended up buying a round of Jager shots for myself and a couple of guys next to me who I had been chatting with.

In this place, by the way, a shot of Jager was only €1.90 ($3) so, yeah, booze was cheap here.

Dinner was a pretty good price too.   I had the Ochsenbrust which was a brisket of beef served with beetroot and potato salad for €15.90 ($24) which, compared to other meals I’ve had, was pretty reasonably priced.

And that was the day.

Another cool walking tour with all kinds of cool stories about Cologne’s history.

Tomorrow we head off to Düsseldorf for just the afternoon and evening before we trek our way south getting closer and closer to the Black Forest.

Let’s see what adventures await…

Germany Trip 2024, Trip Journal, Cologne, Germany
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