The twin cities of Cologne and Bonn

When I lived in France I had a good car, a Renault Safran which was ideal for long distance driving. However, we drove at a steady pace and stopped twice on the way to Cologne, Germany, once in Metz (in France) where fierce fighting took place during World War II between American and German forces. This battle lasted 3 months, and being a WWII history buff, I wanted to see some of the battlefield sites. The other stop was inside Germany, I can't remember exactly where, to fill up on gas.

Although I had printed out driving directions we had some trouble finding Grazyna's house in Cologne, and had to stop somewhere outside the city to ask her street address from a group of German teenagers. Luckily, they spoke reasonably good English. We finally found her place and both she and her husband welcomed us with open arms. It was already late afternoon and we were both exhausted from the long drive. Grazyna prepared dinner for us, and after the meal we went to bed in their guestroom.

The next morning they took us in their car to show us around their city. Grazyna is actually a native of Poland, and became a German citizen after she married Alfred. Anyway, we had a busy time exploring, first Cologne which is a beautiful city with 2,000 years of history. We started with the Dom cathedral which is the landmark and symbol of Cologne, not to mention it being the pride of the local people. It is a very impressive church with its Gothic architecture. With a height of 160 meters (525 feet) it can be seen from nearly every point in the city, and is also a World Heritage site. It is reputed to be first built in 1248, but only completed in 1880.

Cologne is one of Germany's oldest cities, and although about 75% of the city was destroyed in the Second world war by American and British air bombing, the Dom cathedral was somehow miraculously spared, and left more or less intact, perhaps due to sensitve feelings of the Allied air pilots.

Just a stone's throw away from the cathedral is the famous Rhine, which is Germany's longest river. We walked over to the riverside, and even though summer was still some time away the outdoor restaurants and cafes had aready set up shop. Actually the weather was quite nice, and we enjoyed our snacks and drinks on the banks of the Rhine river, along with crowds of other people.

Next we went to the Old Town historic center which is also close by. The City Hall of Cologne is located there, and the building dates back to 1153 which makes it the oldest city hall in the country. I was told that the bells in the tower of the Hall chime four times a day with different melodies, but we never heard it ring while we were there! By the way, Grazyna told me that the very well known 4711 brand original Eau de Cologne perfume was first created in Cologne during the 18th century, and I believe it is still made there. And I had always thought that Eau de Cologne was a French invention!

From Cologne we went to Bonn the former capital of Germany. It took us less than half an hour by car as Bonn is practically next door to Cologne. We spent some time walking around the market square of Bonn and saw the historic Town Hall there too, another old building which was built in 1737. Oh, I should mention that the highlight of our Bonn visit was seeing the house where Beethoven was born and raised. It is now a museum and memorial site in honor of the world famous composer.

After our full one day tour of Cologne and Bonn we went back to Grazyna's house, where after dinner we just chatted about our lives and events. She showed us a DVD of her trip to Myanmar which she took the previous year with her husband. The next morning after a hearty breakfast, (including a packed lunch filled with Polish sausages which she had bought from a recent visit to Poland) we left for our return trip back home to France.