Originally Written: January 20, 2017
It has been an embarrassingly long time since Alex and I ventured out into the country and explored a bit, so we set aside yesterday to spend some time in Cologne. Originally, we had planned to visit here for my birthday, but the balloon fest and Pig Fest fell on those dates, and we chose to experience those instead. So, better 5 months late than never.
We left the house at 8:47 a.m. and arrived at our destination at 10:40 a.m. Factoring in traffic and getting our bearings, Alex and I were pretty pleased with the time we made.
Europeans tend to be late risers compared to my family, so Alex and I always try and get to our destination mid morning. This ensures the kids are more cooperative and guarantees us good parking. The latter proved true yesterday; we ended up finding an open spot right next to the garage’s exit. We couldn’t have asked for a better spot if we tried.
Alex chose the Dom parking garage to use, because it was literally right underneath where we wanted to go first. All we had to do was unload the kids (and get them dressed in their one million layers of clothing) use the wash closets that were located right outside. (Spending the 50 cents is kind of a given when you’ve got a mom who drinks coffee like water and a 3 year with no concept of “going before you leave.”) and we walked up some steps and were right in the Cathedral Square.
The Cologne Cathedral was beautifully intimidating. It rose high into the sky and boasted sharp spires, gargoyles, and ornate archways.
If you were to look up GOTHIC STYLE on Google, the Cologne Dom would be the number one search result. I don’t know this for sure, but if I were Google, and I were needing to give someone a perfect example of Gothic architecture, this sure as heck would be the cathedral I’d use.
I had a hard time photographing the building due to its enormous size. The best I got were the ones pictured above. In all honesty, this church is one you have to see in person to fully grasp the scale and grandeur.
In my opinion, some of the other ones I have seen (like Westminster Abbey and Trier) blend seamlessly in with the surrounding city. They look like they belong. Cologne Cathedral doesn’t just draw your attention, it demands it. It’s a fierce kind of beautiful. Lightning on an ocean. A vision you’re drawn to despite it weighing and measuring you and finding you wanting.
One heck of a sight.
After getting our fill of the cathedral and lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, we went back to our car at that point so we could change Evie and drive closer to the Chocolate Museum. Parking at the garage from 10:40 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. was 8 Euros. (Ouch, city parking.)
Finding where we needed to go was an adventure. Mistaken roads, half a dozen U turns, and 2 parking garage entrances were made before we finally settled on a garage about 5 minutes down the road from the museum. Took us 25 minutes.
Entry cost was 18 Euro. (9 for adults. Kids 6 and under were free.)
The first part of the museum focused on where chocolate derived from and how the beans were extracted from their plants, etc etc. Alex and I kind of hustled through this area because Landon was really bored by the displays.
We came to a kid’s area with face painting stations and interactive machines. For example, there were blocks with names of European countries on them and when you lifted the blocks up they gave an approximate amount of chocolate each place consumed in a year.
Germany had the highest amount.
There was also a room for a “chocolate school.” I couldn’t tell you what happened in there, but Alex walked in and scored a sample. We each took a bite and it was really rich.
Next up was a Rainforest Room, where you could go into an enclosed room that simulated the weather where cocoa beans grow. (It reminded me a little of Living with the Land.) I loved going through there, because it was like a trip back home. Warm and muggy, my favorite.
The next part of the museum was the best. It was a Lindt chocolate factory, where they had functioning machines that let you see each part of the process that goes into making chocolate bars. It was really interesting watching the chocolate turn in a giant mixture, get poured into square molds, dropped onto a line by a robot, wrapped in foil by another mechanism, and finally put into a box by an employee.
The final part of the museum consisted of the cultural importance of chocolate throughout the years. It covered everyone from the Aztecs to 12th Century doctors, to the last century. Apparently, chocolate was good for all four humors, especially when you had headaches.
Sounds accurate to me.
There were lots of antiques on display, like old pots that were used to serve hot chocolate and old fashioned candy bar wrappers. 1900 vending machines dedicated solely to chocolate… Even recreations of sweet stores.
And what exhibit wouldn’t be complete without a gift shop right at the exit? This one was full of Lindt goodies, including fresh truffles and cupcakes and bars.
Overall, it was an enjoyable place. I had a hard time looking at all the information placards because of the kids, but I still learned a few new pieces of information. The factory machines were, hands down, the best part, and I think it was definitely worth the visit to see once while we are here.
I want to say we exited around 4:20 p.m., a little over an hour after we arrived.
I wish Cologne was just a tad bit closer, because I’d really like to go back and explore some other hot spots, like the zoo and botanical gardens, but we have to really plan for that trek, because it’s a whole day outing. Although, in the end, we saw more of Cologne than we had had we sat at home and done nothing.