10 facts you didn’t know about Cologne

  1. Looks Aren’t All that Matters

Cologne is not the most picturesque city one can imagine. We admit it lacks the sprawling old town and magnificent castles that many acquaint with Germany. But whilst much of the city was destroyed during WW2, the area surrounding the banks of the Rhine immediately by the Dom (Cathedral) still boasts various beautiful buildings. Besides, as we all know, it’s what’s on the inside that counts and you would be hard-pressed to find a friendlier city in Germany!

  1. Kölner Dom

The one huge exception from the above-mentioned rule, is Cologne’s crown jewel; the Dom. As Germany’s most visited landmark, this magnificent cathedral has drawn people to the city for decades. At 157m, it is the tallest twin-spired church in the world and attracts between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors a day.

  1. Three Wise Men

According to legend, the relics of the Three Wise Men are housed in the golden Shrine of the Three Kings in the Cologne Cathedral.  They were transferred there by Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1164. To honor the Three Kings, the coat of arms of Cologne prominently incorporates three golden crowns.

  1. Universität zu Köln

Founded in 1388, the University of Cologne missed out on the title of oldest German University by just two years to Heidelberg. It is nevertheless one of the oldest universities in all of Europe and boasts over 50,000 students, making it the second largest university in Germany.

  1. Chandeliers in the Sewers

One of the most absurd attractions of this wonderfully crazy city is the chandelier chamber hidden away in the sewers of Cologne. Seven meters under the earth’s surface one can admire two chandeliers which were hung up in honor of Kaiser Wilhelm II who attended the inauguration of the modernized sewer system in 1890. Today, you can book tours to go see them or even purchase tickets to exclusive concerts which take place down there.

  1. Karneval

Ask anyone in Germany which words they would associate with Cologne and one of them will be “Karneval”. Celebrated as the “fifth season”, it sees grown men dressed like princesses dancing arm in arm with frogs and ninjas and has everyone going crazy for Kamelle (candy) and Strüßje (flowers).

Fun Fact: Kölsche Karneval starts on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:11am. This is to symbolize the unity in Karneval. One stands next to one, meaning that everyone is the same.

  1. Nubbel-Burning

After all the frivolities that are Karneval follows a more macabre tradition; the burning of the nubbel. A nubbel is a life-size straw doll which hangs above bars and pubs during the Karneval week. It is said to be the reason that people sin during Karneval. To make it pay for this, a trial is held for all the nubbel of the city on Shrove Tuesday, after which they are pronounced guilty. As a punishment for enticing good people to sin, they are then burned on pyres in the street. This marks the end of the Karneval season.

  1. Kölschsorten

An integral part of Cologne culture (and Karneval) is its celebration of local beer (Kölsch). There are around 25 different types of Kölsch and each type has its loyal fans. Kölsch may only be called Kölsch if it is brewed in an area in which the Kölsche language is spoken.

Fun Fact: Germans are very adept at opening beer bottles. They can get them open with almost anything; a lighter, a fork or even the edge of a table!

  1. Halve Hahn

Ordering a “halve Hahn” in Cologne is sure to cause confusion among tourists and Germans alike. Translated this means “half a rooster”, therefore one could think it safe to assume some form of poultry dish. You would be wrong however. A “halve Hahn” is in fact a simple bread roll with cheese.

  1. Kölnisch Wasser

German cities are not the first thing one thinks of when getting ready in the morning. One is however featured prominently in most bathrooms; Cologne. The men’s perfume was invented over 300 years ago by Johann Maria Farina and named after his hometown; Cologne. The most well-known brand is „Echt Kölnisch Wasser 4711“. 4711 is the house number of the factory where the “Eau de Cologne” was traditionally produced.

By Julia Martens, German Embassy

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