High Lane Logo Cologne, April 2007
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German Group
On April 25th we set off on our latest venture into the German-speaking world when we flew to Cologne, Germany’s 4th largest city, famous for its cathedral, its trade fairs and its “eau”. Arriving quite late in the evening, we sped off in our taxis to Das Kleine Stapelhaeuschen, the most romantic hotel in Cologne, according to “The Independent”, and we quickly realised that we were in the “in” place to be. The whole area was a mass of bars and restaurants near the Rhine, where the merriment continued into the early hours of the morning, causing some problems in getting off to sleep to those guests who were not deaf.
Still the pluses outweighed the minuses. The hotel dates back to the 13th century and was one of the few buildings in the old town that escaped the wartime bombing. It is a very narrow building as wider buildings were taxed quite heavily in the Middle Ages. Because of this, there is a spiral staircase in the main restaurant area which some of us had to use to get to our rooms.(There was also a lift for the majority of guests).
Our first day was spent in getting to know Cologne. We visited the cathedral (no entrance charge), took a coach tour and visited the only chocolate museum in the world -  not such a good idea on such a hot day. We were able to get more hot and sticky by entering a greenhouse representing the South American rain forest where the chocolate beans grow.   We decided on a more relaxed day on Friday, cruising down the Rhine to Koenigswinter where we could take a cog railway up the Drachenfels from where we had wonderful views of the Rhine and the surrounding Siebengebirge. Those of us energetic enough climbed further to the ruined castle at the top.

Our hotel The view from our window River traffic A foreign visitor to Cologne (temporary)
By the Rhine In the Chocolate Museum Cruising on the Rhine One of the stops on our Rhine cruise
The view from the Drachenfels
Saturday was another full day. We visited the 4711 house where eau-de-cologne was first produced and sold. When the French army occupied Cologne in 1796, they insisted on numbering all the houses and that’s the origin of that particular brand. To commemorate that event the Glockenspiel at the top of the house plays the Marseillaise on the hour throughout the day -  something that never happens in France! We then visited the Documentation Centre where we saw an exhibition about the Nazi period in Cologne. We were particularly moved by the Gestapo cells in the cellar and the story of their inmates. The afternoon took us on the short trip to Bonn where we enjoyed Kaffee und Kuchen in the market square, admired the architecture and finally visited Beethoven’s childhood home.

The most famous "eau" The 4711 House The origin of 4711 June and Margaret with the 4711 lady
The town hall in Bonn Evening meal al fresco
On Sunday, we went our separate ways: 6 went off to the zoo, 2 on another boat trip and 2 to the mediaeval walled town of Zons on the Lower Rhine. We left our shopping until Monday and most of us managed to get a few bargains in the very lively shopping centre, followed by a very welcome ice cream sundae in one of the many attractive squares in the city. We were sad to leave Cologne but glad to experience cooler temperatures on our return.
Our lasting impression is of a vibrant, modern city where the locals really know how to enjoy themselves. The fine weather brought them out in their thousands to enjoy the food and drink, have fun and yet not get drunk or cause any problems. Everything was so good-natured. We were happy to have been a part of this, even though we needed a rest when we got home. 

A visit to Cologne Zoo (June Gibbs)

Cologne Zoo is the third oldest in Germany, created in 1860, housing over 700 species of animals (7000 in total) in an area of 48 acres. It was virtually destroyed in World War II but reopened in 1947. The enclosures give the animals plenty of space and provide them with conditions  they may encounter in the wild with natural looking boundaries.
The collection of birds, reptiles and mammals is so large it is impossible to write about all of them. The first animals we met were the meercats and several species of bear from around the globe. We eventually found the Rain Forest enclosure and house where we met our near relatives, the Lowland Gorillas and Orang utans along with the cheeky chimps.
The  highlight of the zoo is the Elephant Park and House which has about 20 elephants. This last year has seen the birth of 3 baby elephants, all of which have survived. The elephants were absolutely delightful and left a lasting impression on us. The babies were well protected by the mothers and other females in the herd. The babies looked a little hairy but I expect their mothers thought they were beautiful and we spent a lot of time watching them. The gestation period is about 18 months to 2 years and the calf weighs approx. 220 lbs at birth. Whilst the females are family orientated, the bull is a solitary animal.
There’s so much to see: the Aquarium with its fish and corals, the Terrarium with a variety of reptiles – Nile crocodiles, boas, chameleons and poison dart frogs.
As ever, all good things come to an end and so did our visit to the zoo, and my lasting memory has to be those elephants………….

(No digital pictures available but there are pictures of the baby elephants on the Cologne Zoo website)
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