Just some short thoughts on Cologne. I've only been here for two full days, but I feel I made the most out of that time by just being out and experiencing it.
Beer, there is beer everywhere here. Beer in the local stores, the bakeries, just everywhere. It's really interesting to walk into a place and see it like that. In fact there is hardly any soft drinks in the stores, there is more beer. I've had a few glass of the stuff now and it is nice. I still prefer my English Bitter, but it's still pretty bloody pleasant. When ordering Kölsch too, the glass of choice here is a thin glass that only holds 0.2l. It's a bit civilized. I had three of these over dinner on the first night and one with lunch every day.
Speaking food. Boy are the proportions big. For lunch yesterday I had schnitzel with mushroom sauce and chips. It was a huge pile of chips. Last night was a Bratwurst in curry with chips. Another huge pile. I think it would be easy to get quite substational if you ate out. All that said, it's bloody nice food and goes down well with that beer. There is a bakery 3 doors down from me and I will admit to having developed something of a liking for their sausage meet in pastry.... Yum! Last night, I actually went with Mexican just to get away from the meat heavy fare. I still had Kölsch of course.
God bless the Germans, English is not a problem here. People easily switch into it and so it is a much easier country to exist in as an English speaker. In fact they apologise for their English, which I immediately follow up with a comment on their superiority to my German. It always gets a laugh. In general I have found the people here to be very pleasant and polite. It's actually a lovely place to be a visitor in.
So Cologne is pretty much closed on Sunday's apart from museums, food establishments and bars. Certainly no shopping. I walked along the Rhine with hundreds of others just taking in the day, and stopping for a pretzel. It was actually very pleasant. This did provide the perfect opportunity to go through cultural institutions and the like. I went through the Dom (Cathedral) and up its bell tower. Also, I spent a few hours in the Museum Ludwig which is a world class museum of modern art. It was an astonishing good museum and collection which has just been totally redone by its new director. A brilliant collection of Warhol and Lichenstein.
There are some similarities between the Rhine and the Thames I think. Both are big, swift rivers which are a silty brown. Both are worked by small boats all day long. Both split the city and seem at once to be like an artery and a divide. The cities are quite different, but the first time I saw the Rhine, it reminded me of the Thames.
I have just really been chilling out in Cologne and so have not kept the same frenetic pace as I have in the earlier cities. It has been a nice place to do that in.